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

Friday, March 31, 2017

Spider Gwen Featuring Spider Woman # 7 and # 8 by Jason Latour, Bengal, and Rico Renzi



Jessica Drew (Spider Woman) and Cindy Moon (Silk) from Prime Earth visit Gwen Stacy to go out to eat and have a simple chat between friends when things go horribly wrong and a robot called the Super Adaptoid goes after them right in front of innocent people. They are able to stop the robot but not before some mystery person who sent the robot steals Gwen's interdimensional bracelet which strands Spider Woman, a new mother, and Silk on Gwen's planet.

When they go to the bodega to get supplies like phones to use in this world they have no money that is good here and the Avengers in this world don't know them are are easy to contact. But when the bodega bandit strikes, Spider Woman strikes back with her electric shock touch and takes him out for the bodega guy which earns them the rights to some free stuff.

Cindy soon ditches them once she gets a hold of a phone book since in her world her parents disappeared after she spent ten years in a bunker once she got bit by a spider and she would like to see her parents in this world and find out what they are like.  Which leaves them short a woman to do the job.  Gwen and Spider Woman go back to the apartment that Gwen shares with her bandmates.

When Spider Woman sees that Gwen has a life there that she is neglecting she leaves her there and goes out to find a way back on her own. She goes to a park and runs into a kid there on the jungle gym who is Reed Richards who says he can help her. That he has been helping dimension hoppers since he was a toddler.  When she says she's glad to have the help and to not have to go to Toney Stark the kid explodes that Stark has spent his time paving this world with mini-malls and she better not let him get ahold of another world to do the same too.  So as Spider Woman says "Tony Stark. Multiversal Jerk." But first, she's got to get them away from some attackers with the help of Gwen of course.

In #8 they figure out that Cindy Moon of Gwen's planet stole the interdimensional bracelet and that she works for a criminal network called S.I.L.K. Reed Richards has built them a way home, but evil Cindy has already made a trip back to Prime Earth. Cindy works for J. Jonah Jameson the newsman who goes after Gwen in the press.  On Prime Earth, he's Silk's biggest fan and he and Spiderman almost get along.  While they are in the office they grab a flash drive that Cindy picked up from S.I.L.K. She is determined to take down this evil Cindy who she sees as taking her life.  Only what was supposed to be on the drive isn't there. Instead is a message from the evil Cindy to be at the Parker Industries Baxter Building tonight.

When they arrive the security at Peter's office that normally would recognize them and not give them any trouble is fighting them thanks to evil Cindy.  But the real reveal comes with the evil villain speech given by evil Cindy that will turn both their lives upside down. The colors are really incredible and pop off the page. A creative use of paneling and color is when Spider Woman and Gwen go to Gwen's apartment and you can hear the band playing from outside. This is shown by their hair blowing back and large brightly lit letters of Mary Jane's singing and the noise from the instruments.  There are other cool uses of paneling where a small block in the center is set up with one small story that explains something important to the comic.  In one example it is set in the past and the colors are sepia toned to give it that aged looked.  I really enjoyed both of these comics. It was cool to see Spider Woman and Silk working with Gwen.

Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Spider-Gwen-2015-7-Jason-Latour-ebook/dp/B01D8ZT112/ref=sr_1_fkmr2_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1490963896&sr=8-1-fkmr2&keywords=spider+gwen+number+seven
Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Spider-Gwen-2015-8-Jason-Latour-ebook/dp/B01D9AD6KS/ref=pd_sim_351_1?_encoding=UTF8&pd_rd_i=B01D9AD6KS&pd_rd_r=QJRJQRAC57H7HFDBQHK0&pd_rd_w=VWe8U&pd_rd_wg=xgx5v&psc=1&refRID=QJRJQRAC57H7HFDBQHK0

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Sup With the Devil by Barbara Hamilton


This third Abigail Adams mystery is set against the tense times after the Boston Tea Party that winter.  It's May and the colonies are expecting a reply from the King any day now and it may just mean war, so the Sons of Liberty are stockpiling arms and making preparations.  Abigail receives an odd letter from her nephew, Horace, who is a freshman at Harvard and very astute in many languages, also serves as a "fag" (an underclassman who does odd jobs for an upperclassman) for George Fairfield, an upperclassman who is from Virginia and came with his, as he calls him, "gentlemanly" slave, Diomede.  Horace writes that a Mrs. Lake came with letters of recommendation from John and a judge and had her carriage take him out into the country to a deserted house to translate some Arabic papers.  Most of them are of a rather intimate recounting of an affair the pirate John Morgan had.

An old widow woman, whose ancestor was a pirate, found his old books and sold them off after the odd death of her husband.  She sold some Arabic books to Horace, some chemistry and astrology books to the Indian [yes, it took me a good third of the way into the book to discover he was a Native American] Weymouth, and over fifty to someone else.  It seems that her ancestor may have a treasure supply somewhere, perhaps where he lived in the forests when he stayed amongst the Indians for a while before coming to spend his last days with his son.

Mr. Ryland, the head of the hall where Fairfield and Horace live, puts it about that Horace ate something disagreeable, which wouldn't be suspicious since he has a delicate stomach and cannot even drink tea or eat wheat bread.  Mr. Ryland served under Fairfield in the King's Volunteers a while back.  Both of them, as are half of the county, are after the hand of a rich landowner's daughter.  Mr. Ryland, however, is at Harvard on a scholarship from the Governor of Massachusetts. 

On the day that Abigail arrives, she, Weymouth, Horace, George, and Diomede, go to the local tavern for dinner to discuss the situation.  The next morning, George is found stabbed to death, his slave Diomede, drunk, and drugged, with a bloody letter opener next to his body.  The two books that George bought from the widow are missing.  Abigail goes back to Boston with the rest of the books and hides them at Sam Adams' house because they may be of value to someone enough to kill.  Sam, of course, when he hears of the treasure, is less interested in helping to get Diomede cleared from murder and out of jail than he is the treasure that could buy gunpowder and weapons. 

As usual, Abigail worries, in the back of her mind about taking care of the home and leaving it all to their relative/servant girl.  She receives help from an unexpected source.  It turns out that George, married months before he died to a tavern owner's daughter, named Katy, who is pregnant, but really full of spirit and on the side of the colonists, even if her husband was a Loyalist.

Then tragedy strikes and Abigail begins to question her doing "men's work" and not staying at home and taking care of the kids, her husband, and the house.  She knows God made her do more than just be a mother and housewife, but by doing so, she has put her family in danger and all over something that may not be what the average person thinks of as treasure but is none-the-less quite priceless in its own way.

This book keeps you on pins and needles as the looming threat of the King's wrath sweeps into everything and the reality of war begins to hit the colonists, who are now realizing they are going to have to pick a side.  Also, you see a woman who is quite beyond her time.  If she would have been allowed, she would have aced her way through Harvard, and quite possibly become a lawyer like her husband, or something equally demanding of her high intellect.  Instead, she is forced to live in a world devalues women as only good for child rearing.  John, to his credit, never treats her this way, nor do the other members of the Sons of Liberty.  This is a trying mystery in that it is quite possible someone killed Fairfield not because of a bizarre treasure, but because of his leadership skills in the King's Volunteers that will be rather valuable in these trying times.  This is the last, so far, published mystery from this series.  I wait with baited breath for the next one.

Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Sup-Devil-Abigail-Adams-Mystery-ebook/dp/B0052RGBGS/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1490788460&sr=8-1&keywords=sup+with+the+devil

Monday, March 27, 2017

The Stars Are Legion by Kameron Hurley


At the outer universe are a series of world ships that are quickly falling apart and dying due to a cancerous growth.  On one of these worlds, the Katazyrna, Zan awakes with no memory of who she is only that she is a prisoner of sorts, but also is a savior as she keeps going into the Mokshi, a world that is believed to be able to leave the Legion and start anew.  Jayd tells her this and Zan feels an attraction to her but also knows that she can't completely trust her.  It seems if she wants her memories back she must take the Mokshi for that is where her memories are.  She's very limited to where she can go on the world ship and with whom she can talk to.  When Sabita talks to her Sabita gets into trouble with Jayd.  The ship is a living thing that pulses and has creatures inside it that can break down and need to be repaired. To leave the ship you spray on a suit to go to the docking bay and an opening is created that sucks you out into space once you are on a high-tech version of a space motorcycle.

Anat is the Lord of Katazyrna and the rest are considered her daughters, though some have a rank if they fight.  Zan was found around the Mokshi area when Jayd led a group of there to try to take it and failed. Jayd brought her back to try to get her to do what no other sister has been able to do.  Anat is a very impatient woman and a bit of a crazy dictator and she is fighting the Bhavajas the only other powerful group left in the Legion. They think Bhavajas are not as strong as the Katazyrna, but their leader Rasida is the creator of worlds, meaning her womb is special.  The women (there are no men in this book) all get pregnant and give birth to whatever the world needs.  Rarely is that a child.  And Jayd is pregnant with one.  Rasida wants to marry Jayd and possess her.  Jayd seeks to end the war by joining the two worlds with their marriage and then she can get what she needs from Rasida and take the metal arm that Anat wears on her arm and take the Mokshi with it. It's the only way to take Mokshi. But she's the only one who knows that. Zan doesn't remember and she can't tell Zan the plan because she might remember the truth and the truth is pretty ugly and Zan might not go along with the plan if she remembers everything so she just tells her that she will bring her the world. What she doesn't count on is Rasida being as bad as Anat and harder to manipulate.

The Bhavajas double cross the Katazyrnas and attack the wedding party on the way back to their world while they are also attacking their world.  Jayd is unaware of this.  She was given something to put her to sleep and she woke up in Bhavja when Rasida returns with Anat's arm.  Zan, meanwhile survives the space onslaught only to go down at the last stand on the ship.  All the bodies are thrown in the recycler.  The recycler is many levels down and has quite a few large scary creatures that devour the bodies that are sent there.  Zan is still alive, though badly wounded.  She meets up with an old woman who has been living there for who knows how long named Das Muni. After she heals up enough she vows to get out of there no matter that Das Muni says that there is no way out. Eventually, they come across a young woman who has climbed down a rope to scavenge named  Casamir who comes from a tribe of engineers.  They believe Zan to be crazy when she tells them about her world in space and all the things that go along with it.  Casamir agrees to take Zan to the next level though because as an engineer she must take a trek and bring something back and this is a good time to do it.

While Zan goes on her long trek to try to get back to her world she meets many interesting women who help her and runs into lots of trouble. Jayd, meanwhile, will wonder if she can trust the resistance movement that is growing on Katazyrna and on Bhavja and Sabita who has managed to survive and is given to her as a maid.  This is an incredible book with such a creative world structure and I'm not just talking about the fact that it only has women in it. There's the world of the Legion in space and the world of the ground and both are so drastically different and neither knows of the other and yet both are dying.  Will everyone make it out alive? Will the Mokshi be the saving grace it's supposed to be? Will Zan get her memories back? You'll have to read it to find out and it is definitely worth reading.

Quotes
 
There is nothing I fear more than someone without memory. A person without memory is free to do anything she likes.-Lord Mokshi, Annals of the Legion
-Kameron Hurley (The Stars Are Legion p 3)
The common people don’t want war. Better to broker for peace, and break it, so they are willing to fight for what they have lost, than pretend that spilling cold blood will warm weary hearts.-Lord Mokshi, Annals of the Legion
-Kameron Hurley (The Stars Are Legion p 72)
The heart is a vital organ. Control the heart and you control the flesh it feeds. We all have weaknesses. The heart is mine. Once you have the heart take the head.- Lord Mokshi, Annals of the Legion
-Kameron Hurley (The Stars Are Legion p 79, 89)
I don’t know why desire has to be so complicated. I know what I need and what I want, and there is a place where those two things intersect, but it is a dangerous place. I want it nonetheless.
-Kameron Hurley (The Stars Are Legion p 86)
True power is the ability to make those who fear you desperate to love you.-Lord Mokshi, Annals of the Legion
-Kameron Hurley (The Stars Are Legion p 114)
What is love anyway but a hunger than no meal can satisfy.
-Kameron Hurley (The Stars Are Legion p 115)
Be careful what you pretend to be. It’s far too easy to become what you pretend.- Lord Mokshi, Annals of the Legion
-Kameron Hurley (The Stars Are Legion p 199)
When you understand what the world is, you have two choices: Become a part of that world and perpetuate that system forever and ever, unto the next generation. Or fight it, and break it, and build something new. The former is safer, and easier. The latter is scarier, because who is to say what you build will be any better.
-Kameron Hurley (The Stars Are Legion p 204)
The secret to leadership is not to be a particularly intelligent person. It is to surround oneself with those far smarter than oneself, and try not to kill them.-Lord Mokshi, Annals of the Legion
-Kameron Hurley (The Stars Are Legion p 256)
If you cannot kill what you love, make best friends with it.- Lord Mokshi, Annals of the Legion
-Kameron Hurley (The Stars Are Legion p 333)
Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Stars-Are-Legion-Kameron-Hurley-ebook/dp/B01BKR14LA/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1490617311&sr=8-1&keywords=the+stars+are+legion
          

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Banana Cream Pie Murder By Joanne Fluke


In this latest Hannah Swenson (now Barton) mystery she has just returned from her honeymoon cruise with her new husband Ross to find that her mother has found the body of Tori Bascomb after hearing yelling and gunfire in her neighbor's apartment below.  Of course, Hannah is on the case with help from her trusted friends and family.  Michelle is staying in town to take over Tori's duties as director of the Lake Eden Players's play that is set to open soon around Thanksgiving and is getting an independent class credit for it.  While there she is investigating the players for suspects.

Mayor Bascomb is an early suspect as he got into an argument with his sister over the phone and was heard by one of her acting students who said that she threatened to cut him off if he didn't stop sleeping around on his wife. She then got rid of the student because the Mayor was coming to see her.  There is also the mysterious listing in her planning book for that night of a name that no one recognizes.

A waitress overhears Tori conferring with an accountant who has discovered that she has been cheated out of at least $60,000 that year alone by her money man. She vows to go after him and tell all of his other clients about him, but the accountant warns her not to right away because he may abscond with a lot of money and disappear.  But Tori is a real hot head and she might have told him anyway.  So Hannah, Michelle, and Norman break into Tori's apartment to look for the name of the money man and are interrupted by someone who is looking for a love letter of some kind. Hannah and Norman were under the bed and all Hannah saw was his shoes. Michelle was stuck in a wardrobe and saw nothing.  So Tori had a possible jilted lover who may have killed her in a fit of rage.

And there is always that unknown suspect with the unknown motive which you can never guess at. Mike and Hannah are both stumped at this mystery and you will be too.  But more importantly what is Ross hiding from Hannah?  They've barely been married and he seems to be keeping secrets from her.  This book is a great addition to the Hannah mystery series complete with some fabulous recipes for such things as brownie candy, cheese pops, citrus sugar cookies, peach muffins, and peanut butter cheesecake with chocolate peanut butter sauce.

Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Banana-Murder-Hannah-Swensen-Mystery-ebook/dp/B01GBAIXD8/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1490187044&sr=8-1&keywords=banana+cream+pie+murder

Monday, March 20, 2017

The Liberal Redneck Manifesto: Draggin' Dixie Outta The Dark by Trae Crowder, Corey Ryan Forrester, and Drew Morgan


The ball started rolling when Trae Crowder started putting videos online calling himself the "Liberal Redneck" and got a following.  It began a dialogue on what it means to be a redneck and what it means to be liberal and what it means to be Southern.  Corey Ryan Forrester and Drew Morgan are friends of his who are stand-up comedians.  They decided to write a book addressed to both the South and how it needs to change and to inform the rest of the country about the great things about the South.  It starts off with The New South Bill of Wrongs:
First Amendment: No one shall give a damn about your religion. Freedom of speech doesn't mean you can say whatever you want about prayer and God and rules, and gays, and everyone has to take it.  
Second Amendment: A "well regulated milita" means regulated by the government.  We need prudent regulation for guns.  Let's all accept that.  We don't need machine guns. We can wait a little while on a background check.
Third Amendment: Soldiers ort be respected, but war won't be.  I'll thank a vet, but that senator has to stop parading them (and especially thier corpses) around like they're trophies.
Fourth Amendment: If you're gonna be anti-government, be consistent.  The police are the government. Stop pretending like goverment overreach is a problem everywhere but in the criminal-justice world.  Also, Black Lives Matter.
Fifth Amendment: Repeat after me: "I want a lawyer,"
Sixth Amendment: Take that shit to trial.  
Seventh Amendment: Women's bodies wil not be used as political fodder or a weapon against them. Just treat everyone like you would want your momma to be treated in any given scenario.
Eighth Amendment: The government shall not "crack down" on drug crimes while taking kickbacks from industries and companies perpetuating addiction and abuse.  You can't fight wars on drugs--only on people.  The drug war kills people, not drugs.
Ninth Amendment: Raise your kids. They're your responsibility, not your parents'. Also, ease up on Planned Parenthood. They help poor mothers. Yes, they perform abortions. We get that many of you hate that, but you have to compormise in life.
Tenth Amendment:  It's time to catch up to the rest of the country. We seem to love states' rights in the South. Education, business, minority-class rights, etc.--we're behind in everything.  No longer.  If we're gonna stand on our own, we have to start taking better car of our own people. We have to do better and stand taller--but near the cooler, of course.  
What exactly is a redneck? They are generally poor, but they can be rich. They are generally white, but they can be of different races.  A redneck "works hard and loves harder. Is fiercely loyal to his people (and his animals). Knows how to have a damn good time. Loves his truck, his ball team, his beer, his guns, and his momma. So do not fuck with a redneck's momma. A redneck neither wants nor needs help from anybody else. He's proud. He just wants to left the hell alone. Which leads us to what is in our opinion the single most defining characteristic of a redneck: a redneck don't give a damn. Not the very first one.  You could fill the Grand Canyon with all the damns a redneck does not give about what you or anybody else thinks." Some of the greatest rednecks of all time: Dale Earnhardt, Brett Favre, Pat Summit, Randy Moss, Billy Bob Thorton, and Andy Griffith. What a redeck is not (necessarily): a racist, a bigot, a homophobe, a xenophobe, an idiot, a cousin fucker, a pig fucker, a methhead, a pillhead, a dumbass, a wife-beater, a Bible-thumper, or just a generally hateful piece of shit. Of course, there are plenty of rednecks that are some of these things but if you look at any group of people you will find that these traits can apply to some of them too.  These things do not define a redneck.

The South is poor. All but one state of the ten poorest states in the United States is in the South.  There are very little job opportunities.  And the way some people in the South deals with that poverty is in three ways: The Draw, or government help (food stamps, Medicaid, etc...), The Bottle, or any kind of substance abuse to escape the reality of their lives, and The Lord, or the balm of religion.  Do they sometimes find ways to use their food stamps to buy non-food items that can sometimes be alcohol of pills? Yes. Do they use their last ten dollars to get drunk? Yes, because it's not going to pay the light bill or any other bill for that matter, but it will make them forget for a while.  This is a poverty that there is no way out of.  The school systems are the worst in the nation so trying to get ahead by education is hard when your school doesn't offer the classes you need to go to a good college, which then perpetuates a vicious cycle of poverty.

They go on to include chapters on the great food of the South and how it is going to kill us if we don't use moderation and throw in some vegetables, one on racism in the South which includes alternative flags for the Confederate flag which needs to be retired, music that was created or has a connection to the South including jazz, the blues, country, bluegrass, gospel, southern hip hop, southern rock, and soul, and one chapter on Southern women in their many varieties and how they have sometimes been held back with the use of scripture.  Each of the three has what they call Porch Talks throughout the book where they take an aside to give their personal take on what is being said in the book.  It adds a really neat touch to the book that gives you a better idea of what it's really like on that particular subject.  I'm a liberal Southerner. I'm not sure I quite meet the definition of a redneck, though I come close.  I don't own a truck for one thing or hunt. But the rest pretty much apply.  I really enjoyed this book and took to heart the things written by these three gentlemen.  They told some hard truths that needed to be said and not just to Southerners, though the South does need to get to work on cleaning up its image by investing in the people and trying to raise them out of poverty. And those who are poor need to start voting for those who are looking out for them and not for those who keep supporting the rich. Just because these guys say they're religious or some other superficial reason is not a reason to vote for them.  We need to stop being our own worst enemy.  This book lays out some really good ideas on how to do that. This book is a must read for every Southerner, but also for everyone else so that they can understand how it is down here.

Quotes
Add to this fact that being poor is expensive as hell. Overdraft fees, late fees, predatory interest rates—the list goes on and on. It costs a lot of money to have no money, and that sure as fuck don’t help none. Conversely, if you have money, they literally just give you more money. Interest rates, dividends, whatever the hell an ROI is, all this shit serves to take rich people’s money and turn it into even more money. And look, there’s nothing wrong with that. We’re just saying: the system is not designed for upward mobility, regardless of that bullshit grown-ups fed you about the “American Dream.”
-Trae Crowder, Corey Ryan Forrester, and Drew Morgan (The Liberal Redneck Manifesto: Draggin’ Dixie Outa the Dark p 59-60)
Another glaring example of fake oppression [of Christians] is the current Alabama Supreme Court judge who has told his state to ignore the US Supreme Court’s gay marriage ruling and simply not honor gay marriages. Lord, Alabama, sometimes we think yuns are trying to end up on the wrong side of history so you can be the setting for the climactic scene in all documentaries about civil rights issues. Are y’all, like, counting the tourists money you get out of the civil rights landmarks and thinking, “Why not go for the gay stuff too?”
---Trae Crowder, Corey Ryan Forrester, and Drew Morgan (The Liberal Redneck Manifesto: Draggin’ Dixie Outa the Dark p 94)
Fear and hate are the Hall and Oates of emotions. They have a prolific and long career making music together, and it’s really hard to tell them apart (And also, depending on your mood, they really hit the spot.).
--Trae Crowder, Corey Ryan Forrester, and Drew Morgan (The Liberal Redneck Manifesto: Draggin’ Dixie Outa the Dark p 95)
Mayonnaise, grease, and sweet tea are the glue that binds the Southern family.
--Trae Crowder, Corey Ryan Forrester, and Drew Morgan (The Liberal Redneck Manifesto: Draggin’ Dixie Outa the Dark p 105-6)
If sweet tea is the table wine of the South, Mountain Dew is the house vodka.
--Trae Crowder, Corey Ryan Forrester, and Drew Morgan (The Liberal Redneck Manifesto: Draggin’ Dixie Outa the Dark p 120,22)
Music is one of the best things on the whole damn planet. What else is that much fun and don’t make you wake up hungover or ruin your marriage?
--Trae Crowder, Corey Ryan Forrester, and Drew Morgan (The Liberal Redneck Manifesto: Draggin’ Dixie Outa the Dark p 158)
Why in the hell does anybody ever put the American flag and the Confederate flag on the same thing at the same time? They were not big fans of each other. Yet most of the hard-core-pro-rebel-flag fellers are the same dudes who scream ‘bout ‘Merica, “You don’t like it, you can leave! It’s my right as an American to fly that flag!” Yeah? Well, buddy, lemme tell ya, screaming about your rights as an American while rockin’ the Confederate flag is like arguing against gay marriage with a dick in your mouth. Make no sense. But, see, rednecks are immune to irony.
--Trae Crowder, Corey Ryan Forrester, and Drew Morgan (The Liberal Redneck Manifesto: Draggin’ Dixie Outa the Dark p 202-3)
Sexism isn’t just a Southern thing—but we do seem to be pretty good at it. Just like going fast and blowing up shit. Sure, people from the North can do that, but there’s a reason they gave us NASA.
--Trae Crowder, Corey Ryan Forrester, and Drew Morgan (The Liberal Redneck Manifesto: Draggin’ Dixie Outa the Dark p 240)
Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Liberal-Redneck-Manifesto-Draggin-Dixie-ebook/dp/B01HMXRUBE/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1490012153&sr=8-1&keywords=liberal+redneck+manifesto
   










Friday, March 17, 2017

The Amazing Spider-Man: Amazing Grace by Jose Molina, Simone Bianchi, and Andrea Broccardo


The book opens up with the funeral of Julio Rodriguez who was murdered by a junkie and leaves behind a wife and two kids and a community in Harlem that mourns a good man, until the next day when he arises from his grave, an apparent miracle comes alive.  But Peter Parker doesn't believe in miracles and doesn't think much of God since his Uncle Ben's cruel death.  He sets out to try to talk to the family but they are beset by the paparazzi so he waits until the two kids sneak out to go and get something to eat and he talks to the daughter who is not afraid of him, especially since he rescued them from a mean photographer.  She tells him about how her father was dying from cancer and how the church raised funds for his treatment but it wasn't enough and he had to stop, so he turned to a witch doctor, Don Anselmo, even though her mother was against it.

When Spider-Man goes to see Don Anselmo he runs into the Santerians.*Both Anselmo and the Santerians practice Santeria a belief system that believes "that nature binds all things together--people, animals, heaven, earth--it also connects all those things to our minds...and our souls."  It's what gives the Santerians their power. They want Spider-Man to go to Cuba and find out what happened to Julio when he went there after Anselmo told him he would find something there because something went wrong. He came back mean, angry and violent.  And they can't go to Cuba because they are wanted fugitives there.  Also, Paker Industries Uncle Ben Foundation turned Julio down for help so his friend Peter Parker owes him they say.

When Peter Parker gets to Remedios, Cuba he finds a woman who remembers Julio and finds out that she recommended that he search out a Babalu, which is a spirit like an angel or saint that you pray to for health or strength or peace.  She saw one when she was a young girl and her brother was sick and the Babalu came and took her brother's illness into his body and cured him.  Only through prayer can you find a Babalu, but she tells him to try Professor Toledo who teaches philosophy and is a bit of a doubter.  The Professor tells him that that night in Rincon they are holding a feast for him at the Church of St. Lazarus so Peter hitchs a ride there and changes into Spider-Man and finds a trap set for him. He sees a vision of Uncle Ben and is caught up in a twisted mind boggle.

Meanwhile back in Harlem, the Santerians arrange a small apartment fire to lure the family out and separate Julio from his family into a car with some of them to talk to him and try to reason with him but get nowhere.  Then Julio goes too far and kills someone in the name of the Lord or what he is calling the Lord.  Hank McCoy and Tony Stark make welcome appearances in this book.  This book explores faith in a unique way with Peter Parker as the non-believer who struggles with what he sees and with the faith he notices in others.  Can Spider-Man and the Santerians save Julio and his soul?

Quotes
Quoting Shakespeare doesn’t automatically win an argument. Hamlet needed Prozac.
-Jose Molina (The Amazing Spider-Man: Amazing Grace)
Link to more info on the Santerians: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santerians

Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Amazing-Spider-Man-Grace-2015-ebook/dp/B01JJKF1A0/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1489763438&sr=8-1&keywords=the+amazing+spiderman+amazing+grace

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Valley of Shadows: A Celetic Mystery by Peter Tremayne


For those who haven't read any of the Sister Fidelma mysteries, she is a religieuse and former member of the community of St. Brigid of Kildare and a qualified dalaigh, or advocate of the ancient court laws, her life and times are explained in detail before you read any of the books.  These books take place in 666 AD Ireland at a time when there were five kingdoms. The Four provincial kings of Ulaidh, Connacht, Muman, and of Laigin all of which gave their allegiance to the High King of the fifth province, which is ruled from Tara, and which is an honorary title that rotates among the various kingdoms when each High King dies.  Among the provincial kingdoms, there were also smaller clan territories.

The Brehon Laws rule the land.  It is quite a system.  Women are able to hold any position they wish, including political positions, warriors, doctors, magistrates, lawyers, and judges.  They could divorce their husbands and receive part of the property and could inherit property.  They were protected from rape and sexual harassment. This land was the most feminist era until today.

Fidelma was born at Cashel, capital of the kingdom of Muman.  Her brother is their king.  At the age of fourteen, the Age of Choice, she chose to study the law and became one of the highest ranking members of the courts, a dalaigh.  The schools of Ireland were quite famous and people from all over Europe attended, since the rest of it was going through the Dark Ages.  A serious debate is going on between those who believe in being "Irish Christians" and Roman Christians.  Irish Christian priests could marry, be women (there was even a female bishop), and the monasteries and nunneries could be co-habituated with the religious marrying and raising their children in these places.  Roman Christians were now leaning toward making priests remain celibate, though that wouldn't be made a rule until around the 11th century.  In the 9th century, Ireland will convert to the Roman way of doing things, but they keep the Brehon Laws until the 17th century when the British outlaw them.

Having set the stage, the book begins with Fedelma's brother, Colgu of Cashel asks her to go to the remote valley of Gleann Geis whose people were mostly still practicing the Druid ways and talk to the chieftain, who has decided to build a school and a church for the growing number of Christians in his realm.  Fedelma sets out with her friend Brother Eadulf, a practitioner of the Roman ways, who works under the Bishop of Canterbury.  When they get close to their destination, they find thirty-three naked bodies in a sunwise circle and bearing the marks of the ancient threefold death, where the body is strangled, knifed, and bludgeoned, of pagan times.

Fedelma is duty bound to investigate but knows she must first go and greet Laisre, and attend her duty to her brother.  Olga, the chieftain's twin sister meets them and is shocked to find the bodies.  She gives her an escort into their nearly impregnable estate, that has only one way in and one way out and is against a mountain.  When she arrives, she discovers Brother Solin of Armagh of the Northern Kingdom, who believes he should be the religious leader of Ireland, and his scribe there under mysterious circumstances.

The negotiations get off to a rocky start and become interrupted when one-night Fedelma hears Brother Solin say that Cashel will fall by the end of the summer.  She leaves the hostel and follows him to the stable where she sees Olga, in a dark cloak leaving the stables and the dead body of Brother Solin within.  As she leans over the body to hear his last words, one of the sentries finds her and accuses her of murder.  Now Fedelma finds herself on the other end of the law and must trust her friend Eadulf to secure her release from prison in order to catch the thief herself.  Olga has the believable testimony of her husband that she was in bed that night, but Fedelma knows what she saw, even if it doesn't make sense.

This will not be the first death in this land and a larger, more fiendish plot is at work in Gleann Geis involving people from other kingdoms who wish to unite Ireland under one king's rule.  This is a really great series and I'm not just saying that because Fedelma is both Irish and a redhead.  There's always this undercurrent between her and Eadulf, who has sort of believes those who hold positions in the faith should be celibate.  Fedelma has found herself in a hostile land, made even more hostile after the death of Solin and her accusation of Olga.  Though there are some Christians, most of the people follow the old way and look at her with great suspicion.  You truly wonder if she will get out of this book alive and be able to stop an incredible plot and a murderer before the end is near.  This is one of the best of the series. 

Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Valley-Shadow-Celtic-Mystery-Fidelma-ebook/dp/B007NKMZHQ/ref=sr_1_3?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1489583867&sr=1-3&keywords=valley+of+shadows

Monday, March 13, 2017

Volume One of the Book of West Marque: The Call by Richard Parkinson


This is a review of a book that I got as a pre-publication.  This is a truly interesting book that takes place in the land of West Marque which is divided up into sections such as Wood Helm, Shield Gate, Sea Wall, Axegate, and Lang'are. There's also the Eastern Range which no one runs officially as a Lord, though there are sheriffs in the sparse towns that dot the wild area.  The religion is that the Giver has provided and created everything.  There is a church and a church hierarchy with monasteries.  The leader of the realm is the High Marshall who lives in Wood Helm.  When they meet there they sit at a round table that was built a thousand years ago by the Great King Avangar I and the grandest seat is held by the High Marshall while the other seats are decorated to fit the occupant of each Lord: Shieldgate, Lang'are, Seawall, Stone Archer, Far Reach, Axefell and one for the Metropolitan, the representative of the Church.

They've come to meet because the Lord of Shieldgate has told the Metropolitan to sent out the Call for the Fifth Wheels to come back to Jonah's Sword, the capital to swear allegiance to the High Marshall. There will be jousting and games and a large festival since this is only done once in a generation.  Lord and Lady Shieldgate have their reasons for raising the Call, though. They plan on overthrowing the High Marshall in some way at the festival with the help of the Church, or at least the help of the darker side of the Church, who have a secret society the Church was not able to remove.  Lady Shieldgate is not particularly religious but her husband is and while their marriage is a love match she is on her guard against the evil and dark practitioner Bishop Michael who is helping them achieve their goal.

Meanwhile, Fifth Wheel John Gray (A Fifth Wheel is a knight, or in these times now a gunslinger as the story is set in a 19th century setting.) has been chasing for a very long time and is close to catching, a gambler and his wife James Gallant and Lucille, who are in possession of a very valuable book that they must get to their contact in order to collect a huge reward.  Now he is being asked to check out the deaths of three Fifth Wheels out in the Eastern Range.  A drunkard named Kawfee swears that it is a demon that killed those men because he had caught a glimpse of it when he went down that shortcut himself taking horses through to sell in town. The sheriff, Kawfee, and Gray go up the path and face off against it and it does indeed turn out to be a demon. Kawfee and Gray are the only ones to survive and just barely.  Now he needs to kill it before it kills the entire town as it is headed that way and find the dead priest who made it and kill him too.

Each chapter of this book is told through the eyes of certain characters. Some of the other characters are The Dead Priest Quentus who is traveling with his ex-slave Selene with whom they find a young girl who has crossed paths with the evil dead priest that John Gray is interested in. They decided to try and help her; Marcus Dawn the Novice who is a fourth son of a Lord that has been sent to the monastery at Jonah's Sword, the best place to study to become a man of the cloth, which is the last thing the wild young man wants to be and therefore gets himself into more trouble than he bargains for;  Lara Mainhouse whose grandfather is the High Marshall and provides insight into the workings of the realm; and The Old Lord-Lord Everisle who provides family background to the High Marshall's family.

This book was a real page-turner. I loved that is was set in the old west style, yet kept the knights and Lords of the realms hierarchy.  The places are utterly fascinating and completely different.  A desert world, a frozen world and all worlds in between.  Some scarier than others.  The Church is set up much like the Catholic Church or the Church of England, I suppose and it is a powerful entity in the lives of the people no matter what they believe.  The Church has great power and a far reach and it is corrupt.  This book has a bit of everything: romance, gunfights, power plays, intrigue, suspense, mystery.  And the end has a real cliffhanger that leaves you dying for the next book to come out so you can find out what happens next.  I cannot recommend this book enough.

Quotes
  
Everybody is ugly in death.
--Richard Parkinson (The Call: Vol. One of the Book of West Marque p 16)
Convention and propriety by damned, Genevieve thought, and virtue too for that matter.  She was neither conventional nor proper and her virtue belonged to her husband alone.  Chastity was for ugly women and affairs were for the foolish.
-Richard Parkinson (The Call: Vol. One of the Book of West Marque p 33)
Why is it men grow into their looks while a woman’s beauty quickly fades?
-Richard Parkinson (The Call: Vol. One of the Book of West Marque p 94)
He was a hero and a great fool. He read to many romances and put too much stock in romantic heroes. And in his quest to emulate those bits of fiction, he chose a hero’s death, a romantic death—which in the end is really just death.  
-Richard Parkinson (The Call: Vol. One of the Book of West Marque p 136)
Men seldom kick an opponent when he is down. Women, on the other hand, scratch their opponents eyes out the moment they are vulnerable.
-Richard Parkinson (The Call: Vol. One of the Book of West Marque p 136)
Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Call-One-Book-West-Marque-ebook/dp/B01FZJWDOG/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1489410741&sr=8-1&keywords=volume+one+of+the+book+of+west+marque+the+call
       
 

Friday, March 10, 2017

Spider Gwen Vol. 1: Greater Power by Jason Latour and Robbi Rodriguez


Spiderwoman is still being hunted by the cops, but Gwen's dad is no longer in charge of the case, Jean DeWolff and Frank Castle are. Stacey is following the Lizard lead that Gwen had given him and with her help is finding evidence that something is out there destroying buildings and kidnapping pets.  Gwen takes down the Lizard, Dr. Conners, at the beginning with Captain America with her hands cuffed as Captain America is trying to bring her in.  There's a group of lizards that rush them and Captain America uses her spray that temporarily reverses them back to human form and ties them up. Falcon lets DeWolff by and she sees the whole thing happen.  Gwen gets away and no one is happy about this.  But Captain America points out the fact to DeWolff that no one but Spiderwoman had been looking for the Lizard.  That doesn't mean that the hunt is off of Spiderwoman.

While Matt Murdock is visiting Captain Stacy to give him his card and tell him he is there to help his daughter, Gwen has managed to get the cuffs off and is at the cabin with her friends where Harry Osborne has made an appearance after being MIA for two years, ever since Peter's death.  It turns out he blames himself for Peter's death because he didn't speak up when Spiderwoman was attacking Peter in the Lizard form.  So he joined the Army and learned to fight, then he joined SHIELD who "taught me to kill."  He plans on taking out Spiderwoman. He has become the Green Goblin.

So Gwen has the cops after her, one of whom is crooked.  Captain America is after her and so is the Green Goblin.  Who will catch her first and what will be her fate?  Chapter five is drawn with harsh lines and bright colors harshly painted. It slashes across the pages, which fits the in-your-face storyline being told.  I love the colors in this book. They leap off of the pages. This is a worthy successor to the last book and I can't wait to read the next one.

Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Spider-Gwen-Vol-Greater-Power-2015-ebook/dp/B01EKDYEMC/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1489155753&sr=8-1&keywords=spidergwen+greater+power


Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Trust No One by Jayne Ann Krentz


Jayne Ann Krentz writes her modern novels under this, her real name; historical novels under Amanda Quick; and her futuristic books under Jayne Castle.  I've read most of the books under all of these titles and have rarely been disappointed.  Lady Godiva chocolate, she is not, nor does she pretend to be.  She is more like Whitman's sampler or Lindt: a secret sweet treat that satisfies a craving but does not cost you much brain power to read them.  And this book is more like an 89 cent Hershey bar.  Still good, but not her best work.

Grace Elland is the secret weapon behind the Witherspoon Way, the positive thinking guru's empire,  Sprague Witherspoon developed.  Sadly she actually believes in these affirmations.  She created the internet site and wrote the popular cookbook that is making Witherspoon rise to the top.  Until, she goes over to his house when he does not show up for work and finds him dead in his bed, with a vodka bottle that reminds her of a trauma in her past sitting on the table beside him.  Witherspoon does not drink vodka.

When Grace was sixteen, she went into the old insane asylum because she had heard there was a party there the night before and she wanted to know who had hooked up with who.  What she finds is a little boy tied up, a dead body, and a vodka bottle.  Before she can rescue the boy, the man who put him there and killed the woman drives up.  She grabs the bottle and tells the boy to be prepared to run up the stairs and go for help.  As the man goes down the steps, the boy flies by him and Grace almost gets by him, but he grabs hold of her.  She smashes the bottle and cuts the man repeatedly before getting help.  Since then she has spent a lot of time in therapy where she learned breathing techniques and other devices as well as pills to help her cope with the nightmares and memories.

Enter capitalist, Julius Arkwright, who is set up on a blind date with Grace by her best friend and her best friend's cop husband who wants Julius to check her out to see if she's the killer.  The date is a disaster, but Julius leaves believing that she is innocent.  Soon, however, Grace begins receiving e-mails from her boss's account that sound a shade deadly and then a rat is found in her refrigerator.  Someone is stalking Grace and Julius makes himself her bodyguard.

Witherspoon left behind an enraged daughter who hated her father, her gold-digging fiancé, and two other staff members who could be behind the missing money that has left Witherspoon on the tip of collapse; not that it can go on without him.

Whether or not I want to, I really like Grace and Julius, the bored businessman who can make money in his dreams without even trying are very likable characters and worth reading about.  There are plenty of suspects, but you can pretty much figure out who did it and why easily. You can still get enjoyment out of Julius's disdain over her affirmations, when his sound so much better: Trust no one and everybody has a hidden agenda because in this book his words ring true.  This may be a cheap bar of chocolate, but we still eat them, because they taste good, even if they are not good for us.

Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Trust-One-Jayne-Ann-Krentz-ebook/dp/B00KWG62OU/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1488989534&sr=8-2&keywords=trust+no+one

Monday, March 6, 2017

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein


While this is a work of fiction, it could very well have happened.  Set in England and occupied France during World War II, it starts off with a wireless operator who has been captured in a town in France in one of the most stupid ways: she looked the wrong way while crossing the street, right in front of SS Officers.  Through a mix-up of some kind, she did not have her false papers on her, but her own real papers and those of Maddie, a female pilot who had flown her into France the other night and made her parachute out because the plane was malfunctioning and she was going to have to crash land. She is told that the pilot is dead and shown pictures of the burnt up plane.   The head of the Gestapo prison, SS-Hauptsurmfuher von Linden, gives her the privileges of having her clothes back, piece by piece, for each wireless code she gives them.  He then asks that she write down everything she knows about locations, planes, etc...  Instead, this young Scotts woman, nicknamed Queenie, tells the story of her friendship with Maddie.

Maddie, right before the war, rescues a female pilot who crash lands in a field where she lives.  Maddie is really quite good with engines but dreams of being a pilot.  This woman, one of the top pilots, gives her some lessons and promises her, later, after the war starts, that when the military opens up positions for female pilots to ferry people and planes around, she will be at the top of her list to recommend.  For a while, Maddie works with the WAAF as a radio operator helping pilots to land planes.  She is an excellent navigator and knows the terrain very well from flying.  One day a German pilot calls in to make a landing in Calais.  He's speaking in German, so it takes a moment to figure out what is going on.  It turns out that when the pilot crossed the Thames, he thought he was crossing the English Channel and was now in France.  Maddie quickly calls for a German translator and Queenie shows up.  Calmly, she gives the directions in perfect German that Maddie gives to her to help the pilot land and be taken in by the RAF.

The two women quickly become best friends and because of this incident, Maddie is now being sent to the Air Transport Auxiliary and Queenie (who got her nickname because she is distant royalty, related to William Wallace and Mary Stuart) joins the Special Operations Executive.  Though neither one is supposed to talk about what they do, one night after coming in late at night, Queenie, covered in bruises, confesses to what happened.  She is really working for the SOE as an interrogator.  She pretends to be a German officer grilling the German pilots who have just been shot down or captured and get information out of them.  This one, in particular, became very violent with her, but she prevailed in the end.

Linden is surprised to learn this about her because he thought this person was a legend.  After running out of hotel stationary (the Gestapo Prison is located in a hotel) she is given various pieces of paper to write on, including sheet music, recipe cards, and a Jewish doctor's prescription pad.  The Germans have her go on an American woman's pro-German propaganda show to attest to the fair treatment she is receiving there.  The others in the prison, mostly French resistance, hate her for giving in to the enemy.  But what is she really giving them?  She is also shackled to a chair with an iron rod strapped to her back and is tortured with cigarettes, kerosene, and a carbolic acid wash in her mouth.  She tells him her real name which is Lady Julia Lindsay MacKenzie Wallace Beaufort-Stuart, but not her code name, or anybody else's code name.  She insists on finishing her report before they take her to a concentration camp where she will be experimented on until she dies.

But that is only half of the story, from her point of view.   There is also Maddie's take on events and the story of what is really going on--what Queenie is not telling us.  Queenie's brother James (she has a total of five other siblings, all at work in the war effort) suffered from frostbite and lost his toes and bits of his fingers, so he quit flying fighter planes and instead went to work for the Civilians, like Maddie.  It his idea that Maddie takes Queenie to France that night since there was no one else to do so, even though it could get both of them in trouble.

There is quite a cast of incredible characters in this novel.  Brave souls from Britain fighting to beat Hitler and the French resistance risking the lives of not just themselves, but their families to help.  These women overcame prejudice about what women are capable of doing and they did so without much acknowledgment from the government.  These women were incredible and this story bears that out in spades.  As they say about good movies: you'll laugh and you'll cry.  You will also not be disappointed in this amazing book.

Quotes
There’s no efficient way to kill yourself with a dressmaker’s pin (I wouldn’t call contacting gangrene an efficient way to kill yourself)..
--Elizabeth Wein (Code Name Verity p 62)
 
It’s like being in love, discovering your best friend.
--Elizabeth Wein (Code Name Verity p 68)
 
Some of us still have not forgiven the English for the Battle of Culloden , the last battle to be fought on British soil, in 1746.  Imagine what we will say about Adolph Hitler in two hundred years.
--Elizabeth Wein (Code Name Verity p 118)
 
The man I interviewed that night didn’t believe in me.  He accused me of treachery.  Treason against the Fatherland—what was I doing working for the enemy, the English? He called me a collaborator, a backstabber, a filthy English whore.  You know—the stupid man’s big mistake was in calling me ENGLISH.  It made my fury wholly convincing.  A whore—maybe I’ll consider that in desperation; filthy, it goes without saying; but whatever else the hell I am, I AM NOT ENGLISH.
--Elizabeth Wein (A Scottish SOE Agent pretending to be a German Agent in order to got Intel) Code Name Verity p 163
 
Have taken Paul’s revolver apart and put it back together 7 times.  It is not as interesting as a radial engine.
--Elizabeth Wein (Code Name Verity p 220)
 
This ink is amazing, it really doesn’t smear even when you cry on it.
--Elizabeth Wein (Code Name Verity p 228)
Link to Amazon:  https://www.amazon.com/Code-Name-Verity-Elizabeth-Wein-ebook/dp/B007Y7UVHE/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1488808484&sr=8-1&keywords=codename+verity
 

Friday, March 3, 2017

Dark Night:A True Batman Story by Paul Dini and Eduardo Risso


This is not your typical Batman comic. It is written by Batman cartoon artist and writer Paul Dini who in the opening picture is in the hospital terribly beaten up. Then you go back in time to hear his life story. That of a kid who didn't belong and was picked on at school but who escaped in the comics and his imagination.  While talking to his therapist you follow the trajectory of his past and his present. He went to work for Tiny Toons before getting the job working on the Batman animated series.  His luck with women followed a predictable pattern of falling for women who had no interest in him but in what he could do for their careers by who he knew or what party or event he might go to like the Emmys.  But he seemed hell bent on not looking for another type of girl.

Then one night he gets attacked by two guys and mugged. He's lucky to not get killed. He makes it home but doesn't go to the hospital or see a doctor. Instead, he pops some aspirin and gets drunk and takes a hot bath--the worst thing he could have done.  The next day his sister comes over and seeing him, makes him go to the doctor who takes him to the hospital where he is to have facial surgery his face is that badly damaged and broken.

All the while this is going on characters from the Batman comics show up in his head to talk to him. He wants to know why Batman wasn't there to save him from the attack and Batman tells him that he could have seen the clues that there was trouble ahead and avoided it by crossing the street but that he didn't. The Joker is trying to convince him to join his side of anarchy and just let everything go, which he begins to do. He stops going into work and begins to drink heavily.

His boss won't give up on him even though the deadline for the Batman movie Mask of the Phantasm is looming he is still holding his scene for him.  But Paul is not feeling very friendly toward Batman right now.  Not that he's cozying up to the Joker either. He wants them all to leave him alone. This comic is brutal in its honesty at how a man loses his way and finds redemption through the very comic characters he has loved and drawn for years.

The drawing is soft and airy and fits the person the story is about which is Paul himself.  The colors are bright when they need to be, a soothing green when he talks to his therapist, but a dark blue during the darkest times of his life.  This comic is a true find.

Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Dark-Night-True-Batman-Story/dp/1401271367/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1488550838&sr=1-1&keywords=dark+night+a+true+batman+story+paperback

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Freddie Mercury: A Kind of Magic by Mark Blake


"I don't have any aspirations to live to seventy. I don't want to sound moribid. I've lived a full life, and if I'm dead tomorrow, I don't give a damn. I've done it all, I really have." (1987)
"It would be so boring to be seventy." (1987)
 This coffee table biography book was published in 2016 around the time of Farrokh Bulsara's, or Freddie Mercury as he was known to billions, birthday on September 5, when he would have turned seventy.  It is filled with glorious pictures of Freddie Mercury during his life and the places that he went to and the people that were important in his life.  Also in bold larger than life writing is quotations from Freddie.

The book starts off at the beginning of his life with his birth in Zanzibar and being sent to a British boys school in India called St. Peter's near what is now Mumbai.  He was very shy but showed an aptitude for music and was given piano lessons.  He excelled at drama and art and music but faired not so well at his other school subjects and would eventually be dismissed from the school.  Not long after he is sent home to Zanzibar there is political unrest and his family is forced to flee the country or face death as his father is a government worker for a regime that has just been toppled. Freddie who loves British music convinces them to move to London where he enrolls in Isleworth Polytechnic to study art and hopefully get into Ealing just like Pete Townsend of the Who did. He wanted to be an artist but was obsessed with music.

While he had a four-octave voice it was untrained and wild and when he filled in for the band's lead singer of Wreckage no one paid him any mind. In fact, his friends that saw that performance heard screaming and screeching. But they also saw someone who was outdoing himself trying to put on a show and perform for an audience that was really not paying too much attention.  A performance that people would pay big bucks to see not that far off into the future.

Meanwhile, Brian May and Roger Taylor, the guitarist, and drummer of Queen were in a band together called Smile that was a bit successful.  Freddie used to hang around and do roadie work for them and offer unsolicited advice to them to make their show better.  After two years, the lead singer of Smile would leave and Brian and Roger would see what everyone else had already seen: that Freddie belonged in the band with them.  It would be another year before bassist John Deacon, the final member joined the band that would complete them, though.

Freddie's voice was still rough when they went out to do the gigs they did before they got the record deal. But John Anthony, the record producer who had done Smile's record that went nowhere, saw something in Freddie that he hadn't seen in their old frontman and he liked it and kept his eye on them and when he thought they were ready offered them a bad deal that Queen would take: they would provide Queen with a business manager (a clear conflict of interest), they would have access to a studio (when no one else was using it), they would pay for the album to be produced, and they would be responsible for Queen's publishing and arrangements.  There wasn't anyone else willing to take a risk on them so they took it.

As Brian May would say if you blinked you would have missed it seeing Freddie's voice transform from the screeching singing to the beautiful voice you hear today on your CDs or iPods. Freddie was a perfectionist and with no one more so than at himself.  At each rehearsal, he went full board like it was the take, not a rehearsal take.  Most of the songs from that first album, Queen, released in 1973, were songs that they had written a long time ago and were not where they were now. One single from that album was "Keep Yourself Alive", which I don't believe charted in the top twenty.  The second album Queen II had more success peaking at number five in the UK and the single "Seven Seas of Rhye" peaking at number ten on the UK charts.  It also had the iconic album cover with the four of them against a black background. A US tour supporting Mott the Hoople is planned. Then they come out with "Killer Queen" from the album Sheer Heart Attack and it hit number two as both an album and a single.  In 1974 came the dreaded and mistaken Lynard Skynrd European tour. Whoever thought up that pairing clearly wasn't thinking straight.  It was a disaster.  In 1975 they tour North America as headliners and Japan as Sheer Heart Attack and "Killer Queen" rock America.  They also replace the manager that was forced upon them with John Reid.  Reid got them out of the deal they had made in the first place at a cost.      

Throughout this period Freddie was dating Mary Austin.  They even got engaged once, though he changed his mind about it.  They dated for seven years before he came out to her and told her he was bisexual when she got tired of him lying about where he was.  She told him he wasn't he was gay and to accept it.  They still lived together for a while and acted like they were still dating, but by then Queen had had some success and he got her an apartment of her own whose window looked into his. They remained as close as a married couple to the end of his days.

This book goes into great detail of the making of Queen's defining work "Bohemian Rhapsody" and other songs to the point that you will want to pull out your Queen music wherever you have it stored and listen to the songs all over again with fresh perspective and a new appreciation.  It also gives you a real sense of who Freddie was. He was a shy man in private, while on stage an extrovert.  He hated giving interviews to reporters because of his shyness and often came off as aloof or a jerk for ignoring the press.  He was the glue that held Queen together. When they fought he was the peacemaker who brought them back together.  He had a way about him like telling John Deacon to go away so he could make his song "Another One Bites the Dust" danceable. Or when he was inspired to write "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" in the bathtub he rushed over to the studio and told the guys to hurry and up and get it down before Brian got back and ruined it with his overthinking of the guitar parts in such a simple song.  He was a gay man at a time when it wasn't cool to be gay especially in the rock world in which he lived. He still managed to carry it off in his own way and get away with it.  In the end, he did find someone to love, a hairdresser named Jim Hutton.  He died too young and was too cruelly taken from us.

Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Freddie-Mercury-Magic-Mark-Blake/dp/1495030113/ref=sr_1_cc_1?s=aps&ie=UTF8&qid=1488377353&sr=1-1-catcorr&keywords=Freddie+mercury+a+kind+of+magic