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, February 27, 2017

The Little Book by Selden Edwards


Wheeler Burden, an exiled member of the famous old Boston Burden family, grew up in San Francisco on a farm with his Jewish mother.  His father, a living legend at the schools he went to and during the war, where he was captured by the Nazis while working with the French resistance, but died being tortured to death for information he would not give them.  His grandfather Burden is a hard anti-Semite and therefore, Wheeler's mom had nothing to do with him.  His grandmother, on the other hand is a sweet and wonderful woman that he gets to know once his grandfather dies and his mother agrees to send him to St. Gregory's private school, where the Burdens had gone to and like his father, he makes his mark there in baseball and academics.  One of the professors, known as Hage teaches certain students about his time in Austria before the turn of the century, when everything was perfect.  He takes Wheeler under his wing, as he did his father before him.

Wheeler grows up to be a rock musician who was at Woodstock and got stabbed at Altamont.  In the mid-seventies he gave it all up for seemingly no reason.  Around this time he inherits the work of his professor and sets about to make it into a book.  This takes about fifteen years of hard work and it becomes a hit.  When he is walking home from a book signing in the mid-eighties, he suddenly finds himself in a strangely familiar place.  It is 1897 in the fin de siècle Vienna.  He has no idea how he got here, but he quickly steals a suit and some money from an American. 

In this amazing city, the cultural center of Europe, he meets famous thinkers and creators of the time in the coffee houses, he goes and visits Freud, before he becomes famous and has just come up with his Oedipus Complex.  He tries to help Freud make his theories more clear and understandable.  His mother was part of a group that helped Freud escape to London during the war and they spent lots of time trying to decipher Freud's work. 

He also meets the love of his life, a girl named Emily James from Amherst, Massachusetts.  When they kiss for the first time, she becomes frightened of her feelings for him and disappears for a while.  Then he finds out she is his grandmother Burden.  But she isn't the only one he meets.  His father appears as well.  On the real time line, he has just been tortured by the Nazis and left for dead and in his last moments of life he thinks of this place that the Hage told him about and then he is there.  His father, Dilly, tells him a few family secrets and how important his grandmother will be in the future and how he must not interfere with her marrying Burden, who is also in Vienna.

Wheeler finds it hard to let her go and in the end, the decision  is made for him.  But he is grateful to have gotten a chance to meet and get to know the mythical father who is now shown to be quite human and to fall in love with one of the most wonderful women of the century.  He keeps a diary that comes back to haunt him in a way and passes through many hands, until Wheeler's mother gets it at the end of the book.

This was a fabulous book that really made you feel you were in the Ringstrasse in Vienna, a time of great political turmoil, where the rise of anti-Semitism is predicting the future of the 400,000 Jews in the city at that time, that will diminish to 124 after World War II.  Mahler is there directing the symphony to Wagner in amazing ways, right before he becomes famous.  Famous artists and thinkers of that time are there and you can really feel yourself there.  I knew little about Austria before reading this book, but now I feel like I have lived there at the height of its existence.  This is a tremendously good book written over the course of forty years by the author who started it in college as a short paper and then over the years added more and more as information became available about that special place in time.  It was well worth the wait and I hope to find more books from this author without the long wait.

Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Little-Book-Novel-Selden-Edwards-ebook/dp/B0017SWQN8/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1488204523&sr=8-1&keywords=the+little+book

Friday, February 24, 2017

Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet Book One by Ta-Nehisi Coates and Brian Stelfreeze


As Ayo, King T'Challa's sister puts it "Wakanda is in chaos...roads are infested with robbers. Farmers are cut down in their own fields. Villainy rules. Justice is a slave. Your daughter Shuri, our Queen has vanished. Our returned King rules from a shaky throne. This house has fallen. No one is coming to save us. And so we must save ourselves." Ayo's lover, Aneka is being sentenced to die for killing a Chieftan who was mistreating women and girls in a village and would not stop even after she had spoken to him about it. Ayo's mother is insisting that she be put to death as that is the punishment.  Ayo, however, has other plans and breaks her out of prison using a prototype called Midnight Angel that gives the wearer protection as armor.  She brings the other one that they have with her too for Aneka to wear and the two go on a hunting spree to rescue the women and children from evil Chieftans.

Meanwhile, T'Challa is dealing with the fact that his countrymen are turning against him and part of this is due to a deceiver who has somehow managed to bring out the hate and anger in his people.  T'Challa, the Black Panter, can track anyone down, but this deceiver is proving difficult.  The deceiver is working with the Nigandians who border Wakanda and want to take over.  They need to topple the King to do this. The Black Panter goes up against the deceiver and has to walk away because she fights inside his head working on his darkest fears.

T'Challa is also trying to find a way to bring his sister back. She rests in a chamber in one of the labs.  While she rests, she goes on a visit to Djalia, the plane of ancient memory with the Mother of all things. In this vision, she finds out her true purpose.

This book is very complex, plot-wise.  There is a lot more going on than I am listing here and so many twists and turns you'll get whiplash.  It's almost too hard to follow. Almost, but not quite. The colors are very vivid and leap off of the page. They are mostly dark which suits the mood of the book. The drawing of the scene when the Black Panther faces the deceiver for the first time is stunning.  Overall this is an amazing comic and I can't wait to read volume two.

Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Black-Panther-Nation-Under-2016-ebook/dp/B01JT4A2DW/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1487944966&sr=1-1&keywords=black+panther+a+nation+under+our+feet+book+1

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Best State Ever: A Florida Man Defends His Homeland by Dave Barry


Dave Barry in his latest book feels the need to defend his state because it has been picked on a bit too much.  After the 2000 election debacle, the rest of the nation jumped on the chance to point out anything crazy that happened in Florida as proof of their being the idiot state.  What people don't take into account, he argues, is that the people this involves come from other states, mainly their states. People move to Florida and those with the higher I.Q's move away.  The dumb ones can't figure out how to leave.  There is also a scientific explanation for what happens in Florida and that is the weirdness factor. For example, a tractor-trailer blows its tire out on Interstate 95 and the only fatality was a shark.  The tractor-trailer was carrying sharks to New York City when it had its accident and one of the sharks was thrown during the crash, hitting no one, but still leaving Florida with a flying shark story.  Or the woman who was shaving her privates while driving and having her ex-husband handle the steering as she motored to Key West to meet her boyfriend.  The car in front of them stopped to make a turn and of course, they ran into them. Her licence was expired of course. She was from Indiana.

Barry insists that there are many wonderful things about Florida such as the weather is warm. In the middle of winter, it is still warm in Florida. He has never had to scrape frost off of his windshield. Also, the taxes are low. The government is incompetent and corrupt, but so is most ever other state and they have high taxes. Another reason is the women are amazing. For example, in Miami, the women do not leave the house unless they are completely put together and they wear skin tight clothing and heels and that's just to the grocery store.  And of course, it's never boring.

In this book, Barry takes us on a tour of Florida through some of its oddball places.  One such place is Weeki Wachee "which is the deepest natural spring in the United States, producing 117 million gallons of fresh water every day."  There is an underwater theater here for mermaids that began in 1947. In 1959 when American Broadcasting Company bought the place they fixed up everything. This was the golden age of the theater.  The mermaids were famous.  And then in the seventies Disney World opened and the crowds became fewer and fewer.  The mermaids in 2001 pulled together to save it. And now it's a historical site and the mermaids are government employees.  While underwater they do various things such as eat food or do synchronized dances.  There's also a Weeki Wachee Wilderness Cruise. Think Magic Kingdom's Jungle Cruise only with real animals. Of course, the only animals they see are some fish and one manatee.  But it's still a nice ride.  He sees an out of order Mold-O-Matic machine which when you put money in gives you a fresh plastic toy that represents the place you are at.  So he decides to use that as a rating system. He gives the Weeki Wachee three and a half Mold-O-Matic out of order machines out of five.

Cassadaga, Florida was founded in 1894 by George Colby who was a member of the Spiritualist Movement.  Today it is still filled with spiritualists, and psychics, and any number of supernatural beings.  Dave goes to a spiritualist first off, named Judy.  She doesn't use any props such as tarot cards; just a piece of paper.  She appears to be talking to a person over his shoulder and asks him about things that she "sees" but they mean nothing to him and he feels as though he is failing this reading.  Until finally she stumbles on something and they both grasp it.  Then she asks if he wants to talk to his mother and father and she pulls out a spirit box.  She tells him what she hears from it, but all he hears is static that could be anything. He also has a reading done of his dog via a picture.

Dave Barry explores the myth of the Skunk Ape and the retirement community of The Villages as well as the gun culture by going to a gun range and shooting machine guns and getting into the exclusive dance club LIV in Miami.  He also visits Spongorama and Gatorland and the wild and wonderful Key West.  Through it all, he shows that Florida is a unique place with lots to offer besides being a punchline.

Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Best-State-Ever-Florida-Homeland-ebook/dp/B01BS7N74E/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1487771990&sr=1-1&keywords=best+state+ever+dave+barry

  

Monday, February 20, 2017

Anatomy of a Song: The Oral History of 45 Iconic Hits That Changed Rock, R&B and Pop By Marc Myers


On Friday, September 23, 2011, Myers was emailed by the Wall Street Journal's music editor with an idea for a series of stories to be done on songs, "An Anatomy of a Song", looking at classic songs that "resonate today and have backstories behind them, anecdotes surrounding them, huge histories of what happened to them after they came out. They're like people and we could profile them."  He decided to pepper the article with quotes from the songwriters and the artists who sung them and anyone else involved in making the song.  For years this process was quite fruitful.  In this book, he has collected forty-five of the songs which represent a collection representing the range of music from rock to R&B to pop.

The Kinks came along in the Sixties as part of the British Invasion and their sound was one of rawness.  When it came time to record "You Got Me" they wanted it to be dirty like they do it live, not clean. The record company cleaned it up and put an echo on it. They demanded to be allowed to recut it and the record company lets them if they paid for it, so they borrowed the money from their manager.  When Ray Davies wrote the song he was inspired by an ash colored hair beauty with a bee hive at a gig who he saw from the stage but couldn't find later on. She really got him.  To get the distorted sound with an echo effect he punched holes in bass player Pete Quaife's bass with knitting needles.  Guitarist Dave Davies had bought an Elpico amp and used a razor to slash the amp's speaker cone to get a raucous sound for when they played in the clubs.  Dave Davies used "bar chords--holding down three strings and strumming hard and then shifting my fingers to a different place on the neck...hitting the bottom three notes...I could do that and not worry about fifths and sixths and things I didn't know yet."  Shel Talmy the producer put twelve mikes instead of the usual four on the drums and three mikes on Dave to pick up all the different sounds.  They didn't have a drummer so session drummer Bobby Graham sat in.  The secret to the song was the key shift from G to A. "The more natural and melodic place for the song to go was from G to C or D. But I wanted it to go to A, which was quite revolutionary then. There's something about that full step up that feels like acceleration and raises the excitement level. The progression actually made me shudder when I originally came up with it." He never did see that girl again but he likes to think that she knows the song is about her.

 While Steppenwolf wasn't the first to use distortion and feedback on an album they were the first to take it to a new level when they opened "Magic Carpet Ride" with the twenty-second passage of it.  When they went into the studio to record their second album they didn't have enough stuff. Then one day, Mars, drummer Jeffy Edmonton's brother came in to show them a song he had written while bassist Rushton Moreve was goofing around with this bouncy beat he'd been playing with. Mars heard it and started playing chords on his guitar.  When organist Goldy McJohn heard it he started playing organ chords.  Then Jerry jumped in too. The guys in the booth stepped out and said "Hey, keep doing that. That's really good." Mars suggested they add a musical interlude for which John Kay later wrote the lyrics "Close your eyes, girl/Look inside girl/Let the sound take you away."  Michael Monarch the lead guitarist loved distorted guitar sounds. Kay told Monarch that "whenever I hear something approaching a note I'll contrast that with a high-pitched single note on my guitar. They will be these slow-moving pinging sounds that are the opposite of what you'll be doing." Now they had a riff and a breakdown but no opening. Monarch fixed that by going in and holding his guitar up to his amp for twenty seconds and bending the strings and hitting the strings hard.  The second time he did it he hit the string rapidly against the pickup. They mixed the two and that's the sound you hear.  Now for the lyrics. Kay was just getting royalty money from the first album so he and his girlfriend had just bought this incredible stereo that took up most of the living room. When Kay took home the tape to listen to it at home and write the lyrics the first ones to come to his head were "I like to dream/ Yes-yes, right between my sound machine/On a cloud of sound I drift in the night/Any place it goes is right/Goes far, flies near, to the stars away from here." The rumors that he was on acid are false. He might have smoked a little grass, but Kay has achromatopsia. Which means he is completely color blind. Any acid trip he took would be in complete black and white--a pretty boring trip, which wouldn't have helped him or the song much.

On August 8, 1970, Janis Joplin didn't want to be performing in Port Chester, New York. She didn't think the audience would get her music. Her friend Bob Neuwirth was with her and to give her a pleasant surprise he invited Rip Torn and his wife Geraldine Page whom she really liked.  While they were sitting in a bar drinking and talking waiting for Janis to go on, Janis exclaims "Oh Lord, won't you buy me a Mercedes-Benz." It was part of a lyric she half remembered by Michael McClure and it stuck with her. Pretty soon she is coming up with lyrics to go with it and Bob is writing them down on cocktail napkins and inserting words himself, including the part about buying me a night on the town and another round. He thought they were just showing off for Rip and Geraldine. When Janis went on she sang two songs then decided to sing her new song, which was a surprise to her band The Full Tilt Boogie who tried to keep up with her considering there was no key to the song.  In this version and in the Harvard Stadium concert later she doesn't use the "Dialing for Dollars" line. That was added at a later date.  She called McClure to let him know that she was performing his song and he said that it was okay.  On October 1, 1970, she went into the studio to record Pearl when something happened to the tape recorder. Everything stopped. As the producer, Paul Rothchild tried to fix it the band was getting bored. Janis was still in the vocal booth and to kill time began singing "Mercedes Benz".  She beat off the time with her foot.  When the song ended she said "That's it" followed by a cackle.  The problem was with a two-inch tape recorder the needed to readjusted.  Paul, however, always had a safety reel going as a backup in case something happened in between takes when the main recorder was off.  This safety recorder caught "Mercedes Benz".  It was the last song she recorded. Three days later she died of a heroin overdose.  The rest of the band worked on the songs to fill in the vocals for the rest of the songs but they left "Mercedes Benz" the way it was. Neuwirth still has those cocktail napkins in his house somewhere.

When Cyndi Lauper was putting together her She's So Unusual album she needed one more song for the album so she and keyboardist Rob Hyman into the studio to write one.  Lauper was flipping through a TV Guide and saw the title of a sci-fi film called Time After Time and decided to use that as a placeholder title for the song to give her some inspiration.  Hyman began playing a repetitive melodic piece of four chords that had a bouncy reggae beat and they sang "time after time". This would become the chorus.  He started off playing it fast.  Lauper began dancing around the studio which helps her figure out a song.  "I started thinking about up and down, lost and found: "If you fall I will catch you, I will be waiting/Time after time" and "If you're lost you can look and you will find me/Time after time." The words sounded odd at first, but when I sang them, I realized that what I was talking about were pieces of my personal life.  Hyman could see this was becoming a darker song and slowed it down but kept the clipped calypso-type melody.   Both of them had been going through relationship troubles and it came out in the song.  The part about the "clock tick/and I think of you" came from a favorite clock Lauper had that her boyfriend and manager, Dave Wolff had knocked over and broken. He brought over a clock from his mother's house that was annoying and so loud that even when she put it in the bathtub you could still hear it ticking.  The part about "the second hand unwinds" came from the producer Rick Chertoff. His watch somehow became demagnetized and the second hand started going backward and he said: "Look, look, my second hand is unwinding." Hyman plugged his Roland Juno-60 synthesizer to the board and added a drum machine and real drums were added later. Eric Brazilan was the one who was in charge of the drum programming and he also added some guitar later.  One thing you may not notice is that there is no bass until the chorus and it is added there to give the song some lift.  Lauper's repeating of "time after time" as a fading whisper was just happenstance.  "I had fallen into a trance and came out of it like that singing softly. I wanted it to sound hushed, like my voice was trailing off into the distance."  The biggest compliment to her was when the next year, Miles Davis recorded a version of this song because his then wife Cicely Tyson had insisted he listen to the song as she had fallen in love with the album and then, he too had fallen in love with the song.

These are just a sampling of the many stories in this book. Inside you can also find out about how John Densmore was inspired by "The Girl From Ipanema" and based his rhythm drumming on "Light My Fire" on it and Jim Morrison played Frank Sinatra's album Strangers In the Night for inspiration. Or how John Fogerty based the opening of "Proud Mary" on Beethoven's Fifth Symphony.  Or how "Midnight Train to Georgia" came about when the songwriter heard that Farrah Fawcett was taking a midnight flight to Houston.  The original name of the song was "Midnight Plane to Houston."  The second person to record it changed it because "my [Cissy Houston] people are originally from Georgia, and they didn't take planes to Houston or anywhere else. They took trains."  Gladys Knight would be the third person to record the song and would make her own changes to the song.  This book is a treasure trove of these rare gems.  It's fascinating to read the real account of what happened from those who were really there and involved. This book is important in that it gets these stories down before they are lost forever. One example of this is Mere Haggard who is in this book but passed away last year.  The story of his song Big City is down here and gotten before he died.  I cannot recommend this book enough.

Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Anatomy-Song-History-Iconic-Changed-ebook/dp/B01HLNGBME/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1487606162&sr=8-1&keywords=anatomy+of+a+song+the+oral+history+of+45+iconic+hits
 

 

Friday, February 17, 2017

Doctor Strange Vol. 2: The Last Days of Magic by Jason Aaron and Chris Bachalo


At the beginning of this comic, the world is under attack from the Empirikul under the leadership of the Imperator. The Imperator was given over to a group of his kind and ferreted away on a starship in an effort to save him from death by his parents who were about to die for their beliefs in science over magic in the harsh world they lived on serving under the creature known as Shuma-Gorath.  Even Doctor Strange has fought against him, though that means nothing to the Imperator who has made it his life-long mission to rid the universe of magic, world by world. And the earth is next on the list.

Doctor Strange pulls every bit of magic from the earth that he can and it is not enough to defeat them.  He is tied up to the tree outside when Monako comes up with his magic cane and uses it to release him into the catacombs below where there are others waiting.  It will cost Monako his life but teach the rest a lesson that there is still magic left in the world in small pockets of magical items that they need to find.  So they split up to find these objects.

What they discover as they criss-cross the globe is that lots of them are gone or don't work anymore and the ones that do are in poor shape. They aren't left with much to fight off the hardened Empirikuls and are pretty disheartened.  While this is going on, Doctor Strange's assistant who is in charge of organizing his library, Zelma Stanton has managed to rescue one book from the collection and hide inside a refrigerator and remain undetected by the Empirikuls so far. But that changes and she runs for cover and is rescued by Wong, the librarian in Tibet who takes her there using a magical item, where she tells him the Empirikuls have just opened the cellar door, which is bad news because something evil lurks down there. Something that should never be released.  Will the wielders of magic be able to defeat the Empirikuls with their weak weaponry and what about the monster under the cellar?

The coloring in this book is very stark and visceral.  When there are the few moments of happiness or hope the colors light up like a sunrise.  The drawings are very harshly drawn for it is a harsh storyline about the end of magic in the world for which the characters is like having their souls ripped out of them, so the hard lines show this and the fight they are doing to get it back.  Overall this is a very well written and well drawn comic and I can't wait for volume two to come out so I can find out what happens next.

Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Doctor-Strange-Vol-Magic-2015-ebook/dp/B01LWABJ1D/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1487339253&sr=1-1&keywords=doctor+strange+the+and+of+magic

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Kathy Griffin's Celebrity Run-In's: My A-Z Index by Kathy Griffin


In this book by comedian and celebrity chaser, Kathy Griffin, she lists from A to Z encounters with various celebrities she has had over the years from Donald Trump to Salman Rushdie and from Tupac to Nancy Pelosi.  She is never shy about going up and talking to someone or in getting a friend to set her up with another celebrity introduction.  Her friendship with Cher is quite legendary and is also included with stuff she hasn't mentioned in any of her shows.

With Simon Cowell she is quick to point out that he is "smart, honest, funny, and dare I say, inspiring." He took her poking at him and gave back just as hard, which she can respect. The reason audiences watched American Idol in the first place was to hear what Cowell had to say.  He could be harsh, but he was honest and his advice was always spot-on as Kathy would find out when she ran into him once and was in trouble for something she had done and was at the same time up for a gig and was worried about repercussions.  He told her, "Here's the thing, Kathy. What's unique about you, and what's going to keep you unique, is that you never hold back. And you must never hold back, ever....you should only ever take jobs where you can be 100 percent yourself. I never want to see you watered down in any way...Keep being fearless, and don't worry about being in trouble, because the people who are successful are always in trouble."  He could have just as easily given her a "You get 'em girl" blind talk that means nothing, instead, he gave her a nuanced and meaningful talk that left its mark.

You'll never convince her to like Jon Hamm. She's known him since before he became famous and he has always been cold and somewhat disrespectful towards her.  "He's one of those hot guys who's mildly funny but actually thinks he's comedian-level funny."  At a dinner party she went to he got very drunk during the coffee portion and when she sat down to dinner she was sitting with Jon Hamm on her left and the legendary Jack Nicholson on her right. So she's pretty psyched to get to spend time getting to know the great Nicholson when Hamm starts boozily whispering in her ear that she is "soooo ooooold" and that her Emmy wasn't a real Emmy.  All this is going on while she is trying to listen to Jack tell a story.  Finally, she turned around and told him "You can't keep up. You're outclassed. Now zip it; Jack's talking".  She will never forgive him for stealing her moment with Jack Nicholson.

She has many cherished memories with Joan Rivers but one, in particular, stands out: the time Joan had her come as her plus one to a royal two-night event, with the first at Windsor Castle and the second at Buckingham.  Joan was a personal friend of "Chuck" and Camilla's.  They got adjoining rooms at the Ritz so they could make it a girlfriend's weekend.  She made sure to tell Kathy to take home the menu from Buckingham as it is handpainted. And she welcomed her into this part of her life where Joan minded her manners for once and was a special part of her life, which made it a rare treat.  Afterward, they went to visit a dying friend in the hospital that she cheered up with laughter.  She was in her element that weekend, "funny, friendly, supportive, enlightening, and oh so energetic."  It's a nice memory to hold on to now that Joan has passed.

This book is full of stories even better than these that Kathy Griffin has collected in this book.  It will definitely make you laugh but it will also surprise you and make you a bit sad at times and make you think twice about some of these celebrities in high-profile and the lives they lead.

Quotes
That day she [Jackie Collins] told me, “You can’t have your heart broken by one man—darling, there’s a man for every occasion!  There’s not a void that can’t be filled with one or more. Don’t feel you ever have to fall in love with just one person again.  Fall in love with two, or three, or four people!  Have boyfriends for different occasions. You could have a traveling boyfriend!”
-Kathy Griffin (Kathy Griffin’s Celebrity Run-In’s: My A-Z Index p 28)
Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Kathy-Griffins-Celebrity-Run-Ins-Z-ebook/dp/B01GNYVPOQ/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1487253722&sr=1-1&keywords=kathy+griffin%27s+celebrity+run-ins

 

Monday, February 13, 2017

Much Ado About You by Eloisa James


This is the first book in a quartet about four Scottish sisters, set in 1816, whose father, a poor "horse-mad" Viscount", has died and left them in the care of the tipsy Duke of Holbrook, a man he met years ago.  None-the-less, the Duke takes this responsibility seriously and sets up a nursery for the four girls and hires each a nanny. Both the girls and the Duke are rather shocked by each other.  Tess, Annabel, and Imogen are all in their twenties and Josie is fifteen.  Their father had promised them over and over that when this horse or that horse came through in the races, he would take them to London for their Season and find them, husbands.  Their papa had rather horrible luck with his horses, though fine animals they are.  The Duke received one for taking the girls in and each girl has one for a dowry.  It's a very odd dowry, but the horses are worth something, but cannot be sold for at least a year. Tess had made plans to sacrifice herself and marry someone so she could use her husband's money and position in society to help her sisters, but that would prove to be unnecessary.

Annabel has her heart set on marrying a title, or someone with a great deal of money.  She is the practical one of the family.  Her father had her do the accounts for the household and that may have affected her outlook on the whole thing.  She does not seem to really believe in marriage, even though her mother loved her father and left a position in society to run off with him to Scotland.  Her and Tess are the only ones who really remember her, though.

Imogen is madly in love with Lord Maitland who visited Scotland on his travels for derby races and looking for horses to try to buy with the money his mother tightly controls.  He has made it quite clear to her that he is already engaged to Miss Pythian-Adams.  At this point, they have been engaged for two years, and Imogen has not given up hope, especially when she has discovered that the Duke's next door neighbor is the Maitlands and that Lady Maitland will be coming over to stay for a few days as chaperon until a more permanent, and likable one (she is hellbent on marrying the Duke, but no matter how much he drinks, he has never gotten drunk enough to marry her).

Josie is a bookworm who adores her father.  The rest of the sisters try to protect her from the truth about some of the things he did.  Except for Annabel, of course.  Sometimes she is too blunt for her own good.  The Duke hires a governess for Josie who disapproves of her reading and Josie, of course, hates what the governess is making her learn, but a compromise will be met.

The Duke has two other friends besides Maitland: Garret Langham, the Earl of Mayne, who is recovering from a heart broken by a married Countess, and Lucius Felton, one of the richest men in England (he's very successful on the stock market) who claims to be incapable of having deep emotional feelings toward anyone.  And yes, they all have horse stables and race them. (Horses are a character in this book themselves.) The Earl has a widowed sister and it is quickly agreed that she should be the chaperone so they can get rid of Lady Clarice.

Tess and Rafe (the Duke) hit it off immediately--as a brother and sister would.  Rafe's parents are long gone and his older brother, whom he considers the Duke, died five years ago, which is when his drinking started. He does not need to marry and produce and heir like Mayne and other noblemen do because he has a distant relative who can inherit.  He has no interest in marrying.  In fact, up until they entered his life, he has had little interest in much of anything but horses and the bottle.

When a group of them go to see some old Roman ruins, Tess meets Miss Pythian-Adams and finds that she likes her very much and that puts her in a difficult situation for a different reason.  While there, Lucius kisses her and immediately proposes marriage, which Tess turns down.  That is not the kind of marriage she wants; one built upon an obligation of an imagined threat to her virtue. Besides, Mayne is actively pursuing her, mostly because of the horse that is part of her dowry.

Mayne has seduced most of the married women in London and when he tries to use his wiles on Tess they fail miserably. He is now forced to just be himself, and oddly enough, that seems to work.  When he sees her ride her horse, a Thoroughbred that threw a seasoned man off its back once, with utter control, he has forgotten why he wanted to marry her in the first place and has become interested in her.  It's a bit of a whirlwind courtship, but before he proposes Tess gives Lucius another chance, because she feels something special with him, even though she knows she can have a happy life with Mayne and come to care for him.  But Lucius passes, so Tess accepts Mayne's proposal.

And then one of her sisters heads off to Gretna Green to elope with a man which will bring disaster on the rest of them.  To save her sisters Tess goes ahead and decides to have her wedding immediately, while Lucius rides off to try to stop her sister.  Luckily Mayne has an uncle who is a Bishop, who is quickly sent for.  Vows are said and at least one sister gets married, but is it to the right man?

At the beginning of this book, the sisters seem intent on not marrying "horse-mad" men like their father, but that is just the men they seem to meet right away and be pushed toward marrying.  When Tess decides to let Mayne court her, Anabel goes after Lucius, who also has quite a stable and races them at the derby, as does Rafe.  I grew up in Lexington, Kentucky where all the horse farms were and where Secretariat is buried.  This book brought back so many fond memories.

Each sister is different in temperament, looks, and interests. Tess, though beautiful, has never felt so because she has always stood next to Anabel and Imogen who have a beauty that is more striking and not subtle, like hers.  She also feels a bit lacking in other areas such as education.  The girls would read the books in their father's library but only got to the letter H.  It will take a certain type of man to see how special Tess truly is.

Quotes
The first thing Teresa noticed was that the Englishmen were playing with toys. Toys! That fit with everything they’d heard about Englishmen: thin, puny types they were, who never grew up and shivered with cold during a stiff breeze.
--Eloisa James (Much Ado About You p 7)
There was nothing more to Annabel’s taste than a man in possession of all his limbs and a title.
--Eloisa James (Much Ado About You p 11)
Perhaps—just perhaps—all men weren’t mad in the same ways.
--Eloisa James (Much Ado About You p 17)
I’m not being immodest. I’m simply being practical. One of us must marry, and I have the attributes that make most men dazed enough to overlook lack of dowry. I’m not going to pretend to posses ladylike virtues that I don’t have in front of you three.  It’s too late for that.  If Papa truly wanted us to think like ladies, he wouldn’t have trained us to do exactly the opposite.
--Eloisa James (Much Ado About You p 22)
Miss Pythian-Adams is quite, quite charming. Any woman with five thousand pounds a year is, by definition, a dazzler.
--Eloisa James (Much Ado About You p 61)
You never paid enough attention to gossip in the village, Tess.  But from everything I learned, one would wish one’s husband to be experienced  and yet not so energetic  that he cannot be pleased at home.  A tired rake is precisely the best sort of spouse.
-Eloisa James (Much Ado About You p 132)
Oh no. There’s no reading minds about it.  Horses are affectionate creatures, after all, but just creatures.  They’re not like humans.  They don’t betray, and they don’t hide their motives.
--Eloisa James (Much Ado About You p 156)
Now Tess looked at the little spark in her husband’s eyes and had no doubt that if ripping clothing was a prelude that indicated interest he was likely to start ripping.  She had never felt stupider in her life.  How does one say: please do not destroy my clothing until I have more?
--Eloisa James (Much Ado About You p 260)
Why didn’t he ever show any signs of wishing to make love to her other than after twilight? Was he on a schedule of some sort?
--Eloisa James (Much Ado About You p 297)
Link to Amazon:  https://www.amazon.com/Much-About-Essex-Sisters-Book-ebook/dp/B000FCKL48/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1486996175&sr=1-1&keywords=much+ado+about+you

Friday, February 10, 2017

Haunted by Kay Hooper


This thriller is one of the Bishop/ Special Crimes Unit series.  The Special Crimes Unit is a group of FBI agents with paranormal abilities who hunt down the true monsters in this world that the regular cops cannot find or handle.  This one is the technically fifth book involving Samuel, a charismatic psychic leader that they fought and killed in the trilogy Blood Dreams, Blood Sins, and Blood Ties, but sort of returns in Haven and now in Hostage, for hopefully the finally time.  Bishop, a touch telepath, precog, with extra-sensory abilities is the leader of the group.  This book has Hollis Templeton, a medium, healer, and some other interesting abilities that pop up during stressful periods of time.  She is constantly evolving and may become one of the strongest members yet.   Reese DeMarco, her partner who is ex-military, is an open telepath, able to read a variety of people, can tell if a gun is pointed at him from any direction, and has a double shield that he can use to protect others in his vicinity from psychic attacks.  Deacon James is an empath who senses the emotions of others and is the brother of one of the townspeople in this book.

In the Blue Ridge Mountains, there is a killer stalking girls and brutally killing them and dumping them.  Hollis and Reese are first sent down there to investigate that, but after a month, when a strange killing about a hundred miles away in Sociable, Georgia happens and the sheriff, Trinity Nichols, who knows Bishop, calls him in for this investigation.  A man is found with his spinal cord severed at the neck, but no signs of trauma on the body.  His apartment is spotless and he is left in a locked bedroom that they easily find a key to.  Trinity doesn't tell anyone at first, but she learned about the body from her dog, Braden, a pit bull mix, who has unexplainable abilities and who pulls on her arm while she is driving to lead her to the apartment.

The town has a group of thirtysomethings who all hang out together.  The first victim was one of them and Deacon's sister Melanie is another one, who also has latent psychic abilities, which she refuses to believe in, but is worried enough to call in her brother.  The next killing is much more brutal and the body is found in front of the old church, which it and the parsonage are said to be haunted.  So, now there is a serial killer working close by in the mountains and one in Sociable and soon, Hollis realizes Samuel has taken possession of a body of one of the group and is killing off members of it.  But his real goal is to get back at Hollis for destroying him and stopping him in Haven.

This book, though part of a series, is pretty easy to read without having read all the books, but I do recommend reading the Samuel books first, just to get an idea of who he is, but you don't have to, as a lot is explained in this book.  I really love this series.  It has many twists and turns and the evil is so dark you cannot wait to discover who it is and how they are hopefully going to destroy it.  It's also a joy to read the books with Hollis since she keeps coming up with new abilities every time she goes in the field.  The added bonus of a psychic dog was really nice.  I cannot recommend these books enough.  I have read them more than once over the years and absolutely enjoyed each and every one.

Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Haunted-Bishop-Special-Crimes-Novel-ebook/dp/B00IOE4LZE/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1486743351&sr=1-1&keywords=haunted+kay+hooper

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

The Scar Boys by Len Vlhos


Set in the early 1980s, this book starts off, when Harbinger "Henry" Francis Jones was eight-years-old and was tied to a tree and left there during a thunderstorm.  The lightening tore through the tree and the limb caught fire and landed on him, burning him.  His mother came and got him and saved his life.  He had a long road to recovery as he had a broken body with nerve damage and a half of his face and neck burned.  He would need to wear a wig to cover the patch of hair that would never grow back.  Two people really helped him come out of his funk over what happened: Lucky and Dr. Kenny. Lucky was a guy from the region who had survived a lightning strike and offered some words of advice: even the tiniest little event, something that can happen so quickly that you would miss if were you to blink your eyes, can have long-lasting, far-reaching consequences.  One little thing can cause so many other things to happen.  And here is the secret.  All these things that happen, if you don't control them, they will control you.   Dr. Kenny is a cool rock n' roll child therapist with whom he sees for years to help him through the trials of life as someone who is very different.

And life wasn't easy. He became an easy target for the bullies and no one wanted to be his friend.  Or at least he couldn't see it because he was so obsessed with being invisible and introverted that he overlooked any kindness or overtures.  Until Johnny McKenna waltzed into his life one afternoon saving him from a beating.  Johnny was one of the most popular kids in school.  And he had taken an interest in Harry.  He introduced Harry around to other kids and soon Harry was making more friends.  He was still getting beat up on occasion. Nothing was going to stop that. But when Johnny invites Harry over to his house for Halloween to dress as hobos and go trick or treating with a group of kids and he's set up Harry with a pretty girl things go well that night. Then when the girl sees Harry without the soot on his face she won't have anything to do with him. To make him feel better Johnny decides to start a band even though Harry can't play guitar and their friend Ritchie can't play drums and then their bass player flakes out. They hold auditions for a bass player and wind up taking on a knock-out of a girl Cheyanne whom Johnny tells them all that none of them can date, but is, of course, the first one to break that rule.

Playing becomes everything for Harry and so does Cheyanne with whom he is falling in love with.  They work at getting gigs including playing at CBGBs.  This book follows what happens to a group of kids whose goals might not all be the same and when there is more than one person in love with the same girl and who she will choose.  Will the band survive these bumps in the road or will there be something else in store for Harry who only wants to play guitar not go to college like all the other kids in his High School?

Note: A cool feature about this book is that each chapter title is the name of a song that fits that chapter. For example, the chapter titled "Hello, I Love You", a song by the Doors (he lists who wrote the song and then who performed the song) is when Harry meets the girl at Halloween whom he believes likes him, and who does until she sees his face without the soot.  All of the songs are songs they would listen to and don't go before the time period.  It's a very interesting and nifty creative device.

Quotes:
Childhood for all it’s good press, is a time when the human animal explores the dark side of the Force, pushing  the limit of the pain it’s willing to inflict on bugs, squirrels, and little neighborhood boys.  Most kids outgrow the darker impulses by high school. The ones that don’t spend their teenage years playing football, lacrosse, and dating the prom queen. (It doesn’t seem fair to me, either, but hey, I don’t make the rules.)
-Len Vlahos (The Scar Boys p 4)
Ask a nine-year-old a series of uninterrupted questions and eventually you can steer the conversation anywhere you want. Try it some time.
-Len Vlahos (The Scar Boys p 19)
I don’t think there’s any explanation for how people become friends. Maybe it’s pheromones (we learned about pheromones in tenth grade biology), maybe it’s kismet (we learned about kismet in eleventh grade English), or maybe there’s no reason or explanation at all (I learned about unexplained things from Leonard Nimoy’s In Search Of TV Series). With kids, there’s an even greater intensity to the speed at which new friendships form. To me, it seems like magic.
-Len Vlahos (The Scar Boys p 29)
As we lay there that day, a new record form a band called Black Flag was on the turntable. If the Sex Pistols made the Who and Led Zeppelin sound like they were singing anthems from another age, Black Flag made the Sex Pistols sound overproduced and corporate, if that’s even possible.  This was a bunch of guys with a guitar, a bass, and a drum set that were—or at least it sounded like they were—recording on someone’s living room. And they sounded drunk.
-Len Vlahos (The Scar Boys p 41)
Together we went to school on blues, rock, and country guitar styles, covering everything from pentatonic scales, to how to dampen the strings when using a distortion pedal without causing too much feedback. And, most important, he imbued me with the ancient and sacred knowledge that the most beautiful part of music is the space between notes.
-Len Vlahos (The Scar Boys p 45)
There were obvious things like wedgies and punches and kicks, but sometimes the more twisted of the school’s goons would get creative. There was a kind of art to it.  The worst was in ninth grade shop class when a boy named Alvaro Dimatteo discovered the mystery and wonders of a blowtorch. (You need a license to drive a car or own a gun, but the board of education will hand any fourteen or fifteen-year-old a blowtorch. I need someone to explain that to me.)
-Len Vlahos (The Scar Boys p 51)
It’s funny how, to Yankee ears, a Southern accent on a woman sounds both charming and mysterious, a suggestion that a wild, untamed Scarlett O’Hara lurks beneath a praline-sweet exterior.  A man with the same accent is a different story.  He sounds slow, maybe a bit dim-witted.
-Len Vlahos (The Scar Boys p 77)
Mary Beth was so out of my league that she wasn’t even in my dreams.
-Len Vlahos (The Scar Boys p 100)
I was in a funk to end all funks. I was Parliament Funkadelic.
-Len Vlahos (The Scar Boys p 146)
The truth is, I was beyond reason, beyond thought. It was the closest thing to playing the guitar I’d ever experienced.  I can’t find my own words to describe kissing Cheyenne, so I’ll share a Chinese proverb we’d learned in tenth grade English: Kissing is like drinking salted water you drink, and your thirst increases. 
-Len Vlahos (The Scar Boys p 193)
Socially I’m lower than a pariah and only barely higher than a corpse.
-Len Vlahos (The Scar Boys p 215)
I was starting to freak myself out, so I shifted gears and listed every Academy Award Best Picture nominee in reverse chronological order. (The fact that Chariots of Fire beat out Raiders of the Lost Ark is still one of the great crimes of the twentieth century.)
-Len Vlahos (The Scar Boys p 221)
Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Scar-Boys-Fiction-Young-Adult-ebook/dp/B01IPSGRP0/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1486561668&sr=1-1&keywords=the+scar+boys

Monday, February 6, 2017

Garden of Lies by Amanda Quick


New York Times best-selling author, Jayne Ann Krentz, writes her modern day suspense novels under her real name, her historical suspense novels under the name Amanda Quick, and her futuristic fantasy novels under the name Jayne Castle.  This is one of her Amanda Quick novels, and while some of these novels are part of a series, this one is a stand alone.  It takes place in the late Victorian times.  Archeologist and adventurer, Slater Roxton, a bastard, born from Lily Lafountaine, a famous, talented, and well-off actress and Roxton, a man of the ton.  When Roxton's first marriage ends with the death of his wife and with no children, he still cannot marry Lilly, even though she has provided him with a son, he must marry someone of his station.  Luckily for all involved, he marries a young woman who sees the marriage as a business arrangement and likes Lilly and Slater, who, after the death of his father, returns home from his business of tracking down antiquities around the world to manage the estate for the two young boys, whom he adores.  While Slater is left a small amount of an inheritance, he will never get the title or the estate, but he cares nothing for such things.

Before Slater returned home, he and his friend Brice hunted down a legendary island, Fever Island, and discover a building filled with passageways and priceless treasures.  When the ceiling collapses separating the two friends, Slater knows that the ship's captain needed to leave soon since they were low on supplies and that everyone would assume he was dead anyway, which they did.  He finds three paths, one filled with pictures of war, one with vengeance, and the third one, which he chooses.  After running out of food and water, he begins to wonder if he'll survive but soon arrives in the sunlight, where there is a rope he uses to climb out of the building.  There is a monastery of sorts there, where they teach philosophy and to control your emotions.  He studies there until a year later, a ship comes by and takes him back to London, a changed man.  The press has a field day with him, speculating on his oddities and eccentrics as being a sign of madness and that he performs bizarre rituals in his basement where he lures unsuspecting females and other such nonsense.  Since he has no idea how to hire a staff for his home, he lets his mother do it and she hires all sorts of actors who are between jobs, or have had to retire and cannot get work, so he has an odd mélange of characters in his household, which suits him.

Ursula Kern is the owner of the highly successful Kern Secretarial Agency that only employs the best and most talented women as secretaries.  She has had to reinvent herself due to a scandal in her past and someone is trying to blackmail her.  However, she does not have time to deal with that right now, because of her best friend Anne Clifton, who was working for Lady Fulbrook taking down her love poetry and then typing it up for her.  When Anne is discovered dead, Ursula suspects foul play, but the police are unable to discover anything to support that theory and refuse to investigate further.  When Ursula goes to her client Slater, whose archeological work she has been cataloging, to tell him that she will have to take leave of the work for a while, he demands to know why.  Ursula decides to trust him and tells him about Anne and her suspicions.

Soon, the two are neck deep into something bigger than they expected: a powerful drug ring, that involves a secret society called the Olympus club whose members are given the highly hallucinogenic drug that makes them amorous and is provided with courtesans.  Occasionally, especially lately, the drug has been making the men dangerous.  Somehow Fulbrook is involved with this and it is likely that Anne discovered what was going on and was killed for it, as others have been.

As things become more dangerous, the two become more intimate, but Ursula worries that Slater's great logic, which is useful sometimes, and his training of not to have emotions, will destroy any chance they have of a life together. Not to mention the secrets each are keeping from the other.  She seems to be unable to reach him and he, as a typical man, is completely clueless.  Will they figure out their lives together before someone gets to them and kills them first?

This is a really delightful romp of a book with a strong female character who can take care of herself, whether it be with a sharp hatpin or a gun or her great intelligence and sharp thinking.  Slater is refreshing too.  He is not a man of nobility, but one on the fringe of proper society and the world of the stage.  He can be just a bit as melodramatic as his mother, who is the one who made her lover all his money, because she had a natural talent for business, and seems to know what everyone is up to in London.  This book is unique in its storyline of an old fashioned drug cartel and a den of iniquity where men do whatever, to whomever, they want.  All the supporting characters were delightful too, including Matty, Ursula's second in command, who has been going to see a doctor to treat her "hysteria", which at that time doctors were using dildos to treat this mysterious condition that we call an orgasm, that the doctors of the time did not recognize, because women were believed to not enjoy sex.  I will recommend pretty much any Amanda Quick novel, but this one was really one of her best.

Quotes:
As far as I’m concerned, the necessity of wearing fashionable gowns that feel like a suit of armor and weigh approximately the same, with skirts so heavy and voluminous that they make the simple act of walking a difficult endeavor, is an exotic ritual.  Yet ladies here in London do it every day.
--Amanda Quick (Garden of Lies p111)
You heard the accent.  He’s an American criminal trying to escape in our fair city [London].  I doubt he’ll go far…He’ll stand out on the streets.  After all, he can barely speak the language.
--Amanda Quick (Garden of Lies p 242)
Fantasies are gossamer things, are they not?  Reality invariably crushes them.--Amanda Quick (Garden of Lies p 335)
Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Garden-Lies-Amanda-Quick-ebook/dp/B00O2BS780/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1486391698&sr=1-1&keywords=garden+of+lies

Friday, February 3, 2017

Jessica Jones: Alias Vol. 1 by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos


First off this comic is what is known as a MAX comic which means it is meant for those seventeen and older since it contains explicit content.  That being said it is an amazing introduction to Jessica Jones a former superhero who is now living the life of a lowly private eye whose cases are not ideal and when she tries to help someone things sometimes backfire on her.

The comic opens like a scene in Chinatown with Jessica explaining to a man that his wife wasn't cheating on him, but is a mutant. When he comes after her she tosses him through the glass partition of her door.  She calls the cops to take care of the guy and has to deal with crap from them.  She's feeling pretty low so she goes to Luke Cage's bar to drink and winds up going to bed with him, which she's not sure how she feels about that.

The next day she is hired by a woman to find her sister who is missing. The woman sounds positively desperate. Jones does a background check on the woman and her sister, but computers are not her thing and her checks are left to doing simple paid searches. She finds nothing to raise any red flags and goes in search of the woman and quickly finds her at home with a man coming to visit her. A man that turns out to be Captain America. And she has a video of him changing into his costume on the roof on tape.

When she gets home she calls the woman to let her know she has found her sister but gets an invalid number message.  Her first instinct is to destroy the tape but she realizes that someone has set her up and wants her to have this tape for a reason so she holds onto it for now.  She gets into her car and drives to the woman's address and it's a department store.  She has really screwed up this investigation.  Then she drives back to the sister's house and she has been murdered. She quickly leaves the scene but not before the police have noticed her presence.

She goes to Cage for help but he's pissed off at her for coming to his place which is apparently a no-no since he has another woman there.  She goes to the Avengers mansion but no one is there. Then she is scooped up by the police for questioning and is now on the hot seat by a cop who wants to pin this on her.  After grilling her for a while, Matt Murdock shows up.  Luke Cage had heard through the grapevine that she was being held and he sent him. Matt got her out of there and told her to contact him if they bothered her again.

She decides to turn to Carol Danvers or Ms. Marvel to help her figure out where the phone number came from.  The phone number leads to a surprising person and web of intrigue whose plans involve Captain America and the Avengers.  It's up to Jessica Jones to stop them without ending up in jail.

There are other cases in this comic that are equally good and show how Jones has a soft spot and why she is barely getting by financially.  Also making an appearance is the seventeen-year-old fan who keeps stopping by her office to answer the phone and deal with clients when she is sleeping at her desk and can't stop him.  She runs him off every time but he keeps coming back.

This comic can be said to be in the film noir style of story.  She's like Bogey in the Big Sleep only much more tortured. The paneling is blow-your-mind-away amazing.  It follows no set rules and explores the different ways to tell a story visually. At one point when she is talking to the woman with the sister the dialogue just pours down in a wave across the page one after the other and you sense the urgency of the situation.  The colors are so vivid and glorious they can only add to the story and give it the atmosphere it needs.  This truly was an incredible read, both visually and dialogue-wise.        

Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Jessica-Jones-Alias-Vol-2001-2003-ebook/dp/B013TXA1N0/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1486135216&sr=8-1&keywords=jessica+jones+alias

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Nickel and Dimed : On (Not) Getting By In America by Barbara Ehrenreich


In 1998, writer Barbara Ehrenreich was looking for a new story to write for Harper's and was having lunch with the editor when the conversation turned to the topic of people going off welfare and going into the workforce and having trouble making it.  She said someone should go undercover and investigate this and he said why don't you.  So soon she is spending about a month in different locations trying to live off of $6 to $7 dollars.  From Florida to Maine to Minnesota, she worked as a waitress, a hotel maid, a house cleaner, a nursing home aide, and a Wal-Mart salesperson.

In Florida, she went to Key West and tried to get a job working as a hotel worker but that backfired and she instead got a job waiting tables instead of at a hotel chain's restaurant.  Her first place was a small rented efficiency that went for $500 which was cheaper and nicer than the trailer she looked at, but it was also a forty-five-minute drive to the eventual job she would get.  She learned quickly that the want ads are a bad way to find a job in that employers place them and take applications constantly because there is a high turnover rate. So there may be no opening right then, but there may be one soon. She had waited tables in her youth, but it was hard getting back into the swing of things. She has to learn how to use a computerized screen for ordering food.

And she learns a lot about her co-workers, such as Gail who is living in a flop house and paying $250 a month with a male friend who is now hitting on her and driving her crazy but with the rent so cheap how can she go elsewhere? And Claude the Haitian cook who is desperate to get out of the two-room apartment he shares with his girlfriend and two other people. Or Tina who is living with her husband at the Days Inn and paying $60 a night and Joan who lives in her van.  Some of these people end up having to rent a hotel room to live in because they can't pay first and last month's rent at an apartment or trailer.  Barbara was able to because she budgeted for it in each city she goes to stay.

She ends up taking a second waitressing job at Jerry's and tries at first to hold both jobs but just can't do it, so she keeps the job at Jerry's which is paying more at an average of $7.50 an hour in tips. She also gives up her nice efficiency because the drive is eating up too much in gas money and takes a cheap cramped trailer.  The other women she works with either work a second job or has a boyfriend or husband to help make it work.  But she still needs a second job herself and takes a housekeeping job at a hotel, which is when things begin to fall apart.

In Portland, Maine, she puts out many applications and at Merry Maids (Like at Winn-Dixie in Florida and another job she applied for in Maine) she is asked to take a test. This one is the Accutrac personality test.  All these tests are designed to find out whether or not you will steal from the company or do drugs, or turn in someone else who has stolen something.  The Accutrac also tries to determine your mental health as well.  These tests are a joke and can be easily faked.  While waiting to get into her new place the Blue Haven Motel that has a kitchen, she also applies to be a dietary aide at a nursing home on the weekends.  This involves feeding the elderly and often those with Alzheimer's their meals.  If they do not like what is being served she can make them something else they might like such as a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  It's a nice job, until one day when things go wrong.  At Merry Maids she learns the truth behind the lives of these women and how they will work with a twisted ankle or operate a vacuum cleaner on their back even if they have arthritis or back problems because they need the job and the money, even if it isn't all that much.

In Minnesota, she has an impossible time finding a place to stay.  The economy is supposed to be good there and jobs are supposed to be plentiful there and she does find a job at Wal-Mart, which she ends up finding out was a mistake and that she should have taken the other job selling plumbing at a hardware store.  At first, she stays in the apartment of a friend of a friend until she can find a place, but that place just won't open up and soon she finds herself living in a run down motel with no kitchen much less a fridge and no screen on the window or a fan for the room.  There is a massive shortage in Minnesota of housing for a reasonable price.  Everyone is living in motels and there is a shortage in places to stay in motels.  Working at Wal-Mart changes her into a person that she does not recognize. A very mean, bitch of a woman.  And she recognizes this and wonders if it does this to everyone.  She's only making $6 and change and she really needs to take a second job, which is made difficult with Wal-Mart changing her schedule.  It is here that you really see her dark side.  I like to think that it isn't who she really is, but just a facet of her personality put under a microscope and blown up a million times.

One thing that bothers me about her is that she is against drug testing, which the ACLU has always been against them. And back when this book was published they were just starting to require it at various jobs.  She tries to make it an invasion of privacy and a "the man" is trying to put you in your place and degrade you.  I have found that most people who have problems with drug test use drugs. And that is certainly the case here. To work at either Wal-Mart or the hardware store she has to do a drug test and she isn't sure she can pass it because she had smoked a joint in the recent past and marijuana stays in the system a long while. Of course, there are ways to cleanse it out of your system, which she does and passes the test.  She also says that she is worried that her Claritin-D would show up as Chrystal Meth. When you go to get a drug test you tell the technician what drugs you are taking and they will know what is in your system. Besides, I took a drug test in 1997 to get my job as a librarian and I was taking Claritin and the woman told me none of my allergy medicines would have any effect on the test.  So she really had nothing to worry about on that front.

What else bothered me was some of her racist remarks. She refers to those who live in the Southwest as Chicanos. And she bitches about not being able to go to certain California towns because the Hispanics have hogged all the low wage jobs and all the cheap places to live.  It's not a pretty side to her.

That being said, she made some very valid points about how we measure poverty. Poverty has always been measured according to how much food costs, but these days half of your pay can go toward your home, apartment, or another dwelling place.  They are constantly in danger of being homeless or ending up in a motel if they are lucky.   And some of these places know that they can get someone else to replace you easily and they let you know it, so you feel compelled to do whatever they ask and put up with bad working conditions in order to keep the job you so desperately need.  While this book was written over fifteen years ago, nothing has really changed.  Lots of Wal-Mart workers are on Medicaid and food stamps.  People are working more than one job just to barely get by and are not always succeeding.  Something needs to change.  Maybe that would involve starting with raising the minimum wage.  And trying to do something about affordable housing.  While Ehrenreich felt as though she did this experiment as a lark and was never in any danger of going hungry (She kept her ATM card for emergencies such as that and anything else.)  and she didn't have to worry about feeding anyone else like so many other women do, she does shine a light on an important problem in America today.              

Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Nickel-Dimed-Not-Getting-America-ebook/dp/B001BAJ25W/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1485962520&sr=1-1&keywords=nickel+and+dimed