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

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Seventh Grave and No Body by Darynda Jones


If you are not already reading this series, you should get in gear and get going.  This book is one wild ride for Charley, a grim reaper, who is engaged to Reyes, the son of Satan.  She has just found out she is pregnant and the prophesies say that their child will raise an army and defeat Satan and that there will be peace for a thousand years.  So, much to Charley's irritation, Reyes is not letting her out of his sight, especially since someone has let loose the twelve hounds of hell in order to kill her and Reyes, and their possible ally, The Dealer, a demon who escaped hell, where he was known as the warrior for the many fights he won, can not make a dent in these creatures, it's up to Charley to figure something out.


On top of this, a ghost who actually hangs out in the cemetery in order to watch her body slowly decay finds not only her body but that of others missing and asks Charley to help.  She's also helping an FBI agent she's helped in the past that knows there's something different about Charlie and that she knows things somehow, asks her to look at a cold case where some camp councilors and a few kids are killed at a camp that is just opening up for the summer.  When Charlie goes there, she finds more kids there than should be.  This is a dumping ground for a serial killer who likely killed the others because they stumbled across what he was doing.  Also, she is haunted by a dead enemy from her high school years and her uncle, a cop, is dealing with a rash of people leaving nearly identical suicide notes and then disappearing.  There seems to be no connection between these people.


Charley worries about being a mother since she cannot even manage to keep a goldfish alive.  She is beginning to realize how vast her powers can be.  She's been told many times by Angel, her gangster ghost who works for her, and Reyes that she can literally do anything she wants.  In previous books, she has discovered the ability to stop time and exist outside of it and keep a bullet from hitting someone and the ability to rip someone's heart out of their chest, which scares her.  Her bright light can destroy demons, but she is capable of so much more, including getting the drop on Reyes with a few words of Latin.  The bounty hunter, Garrett, has discovered from ancient texts that she came from another plane where she was to ascend to the throne as a god but chose instead to be born on earth as a grim reaper where she could do the most good.  Names have power and if you know the true name of a being, you can have control over them.  Charley does not know her true name, though Reyes does.  He is afraid that if she knows it, she will cease to be human and become a permanent grim reaper, losing her forever.


It's a busy time for Charley and her father has disappeared, off on his own investigation of her, but she still has her partner and best friend, Cookie, who gives up coffee with her to show her support.  The world has become a  dangerous place for Charley with lots of beings out to kill her and an unknown future.  This is one of the best books in the series.  Charley is more than her usual sarcastic self without her daily gallons of coffee.  She is also worried that she will not be able to keep her baby alive or raise her if she does.  This is a unique series that is both humorous and action packed, as well as being filled with a very sexy Reyes who you would never turn away from your door.

Quotes
I often question my sanity.  Occasionally, it replies.
--Darynda Jones (Seventh Grave and No Body p1)
We are all searching for someone whose demons play well with ours.
--Darynda Jones (Seventh Grave and No Body p 23)
 
I’m diagonally parked in a parallel universe.
--Darynda Jones (Seventh Grave and No Body p 33)
 
I don’t think I get enough credit for the fact that I do all of this unmedicated.
--Darynda Jones (Seventh Grave and No Body p 51)
 
Of course I’m an organ donor.  Who wouldn’t want a piece of this?
--Darynda Jones (Seventh Grave and No Body p 73)
 
My life is just like a soap opera filmed in a psychiatric ward.
--Darynda Jones (Seventh Grave and No Body p 92)
 
I don’t want you to forget this moment.  In about a week, I’ll come up with a scathing retort.
--Darynda Jones (Seventh Grave and No Body)
 
If I’m upset, hold me and tell me how beautiful I am.  If I growl, retreat to a safe distance and throw chocolate.
--Darynda Jones (Seventh Grave and No Body p 213)
Link to Amazon:  https://www.amazon.com/Seventh-Grave-Body-Charley-Davidson-ebook/dp/B00LKS1BFE/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1500477085&sr=8-1&keywords=seventh+grave+and+no+body+darynda+jones

Monday, July 17, 2017

The Awkward Thoughts of W. Kamau Bell: Tales of a 6'4'", African-American, Hetersexual, Cisgender, Left-Leaning, Asthematic, Black and Proud Blerd, Mama's Boy, Dad, and Stand-Up Comedian by W. Kamau Bell


The title of this book is appropriate as it is indeed filled with awkward thoughts especially if you are a straight white male since it tackles such topics as race, sex, and homosexuality.  He also focuses on his career and family and his blerd (black nerd) status as well as what it is like to be a towering Black man in the United States.  By the way, he capitalizes the word Black because other words of identity such as Chinese, Christianity, and Klansmen are capitalized so he feels as do other Black scholars that it should be capitalized.  So I too will capitalize it for this review.

He has an interesting take on superheroes.  His favorites are the Hulk and Spiderman because the Hulk is green and Spiderman is red and blue. Under Spidey's mask, he could be any color and the Hulk was green so both were appealing to a young Black man growing up in the 1970s and 1980s were those and Batman and Superman were the most popular superheroes.  Yes, there were Black superheroes such as Black Panther, Black Vulcan, and Black Lightning, but these superheroes all had the word Black put in front of their name.  It gives out a clue to their secret identity.  Of course, there is Falcon, Cyborg, and Power Man. Cyborg could never hide his identity and Falcon was pretty lame. His power was talking to falcons.  In the movie, they gave him cool wings and left out the talking bit. Power Man looked like a pirate in a ridiculous costume.  Now he goes by the name of Luke Cage and is much cooler. He's also not big on the new trend of having people of color playing the iconic superheroes.  Why not just have new superheroes of color?  It's a valid question and one the major comic industries should be asking themselves.

After many years of doing stand-up and not doing as well as he would have liked, Bell finally found his niche when he created the show The W. Kamau Bell Curve: Ending Racism in About an Hour.  It would be topical and informative while also being funny.  After the first night of running it, he asked for feedback from a select group of friends and he got it.  One of them, a woman, took him to task about his sexism in the show.  And he learned a valuable lesson that it isn't enough to just be the better male comedian on sexism he must think about who he is hurting in his joke. If he is hurting someone else that doesn't need to be hurt.  He would deal with others on this issue later in his life who didn't see things his way and he would have to fight them on it because sexism still exists inside writers' rooms on shows and in movies.  He wonders why more women don't quit once they get inside these rooms for all the crap they have to put up with.  The answer is simple: they want to change things and this is the only way.

Bell also talks about the making of his two TV shows Unbiased and The United Shades of America.  Unbiased came about due to Chris Rock taking an interest in him and aired on FX and then FXX.  It started out as a weekly show then in its second season it went to a daily format, Monday through Thursday.  He came to curse Chris Rock to some degree for that show. It very nearly ended his marriage.  He was completely miserable doing it as he didn't have the control over the show he should have had.  On Untied Shades of America, the first season was rough as the people he worked with didn't get what he was having to do like the KKK episode where they had gotten the footage they needed but didn't tell him and let him keep talking to the Klan which was dangerous for him.

I somehow missed Unbiased but I've seen every episode of United Shades of America which is what prompted me to pick up this book and read it.  While at times it's uncomfortable to read as a white person, I don't have a problem with that as I believe I should feel uncomfortable about the issue of race in America.  It is a problem and one that won't be fixed overnight.  But the other things he talks about in this book also make it worth reading, such as confronting and conquering his homophobia, his awkwardness over sports, his love of Denzil Washington, the Democratic Party, the Trump presidency, and the trials of being married with children to a white woman.  This is a great book that explores a man's life in its many facets in a very fascinating way.  I highly recommend it.

Quotes
In San Francisco, “beach” means a cold, bleak place to take a walk and wonder what went wrong in your life.
-W. Kamau Bell (The Awkward Thoughts of W. Kamau Bell: Tales of a 6’4”, African-American, Heterosexual, Cisgender, Left-Leaning, Asthmatic, Black and Proud Blerd, Mama’s Boy, Dad, and Stand-Up Comedian p 240)

Link to Amazon:  https://www.amazon.com/Awkward-Thoughts-Kamau-Bell-Heterosexual-ebook/dp/B01LZXZK2F/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1500295027&sr=8-1&keywords=the+awkward+thoughts+of+w.+kamau+bell


Friday, July 14, 2017

Amazing Spider-Man: Family Business By Mark Waid (Writer), James Robinson (Writer), Werther Dell'edera (Penciler), and VCs's Joe Caramagna (Letterer)


All Peter Parker wanted to do was to send his payment for his electric bill electronically by paying cash at the neighborhood market before they cut it off at midnight.  But he is told by the clerk at the locked door to come back in five minutes.  That's when his spider sense begins to tingle and he notices an empty delivery truck on the street. Now it's up to Spider-Man to foil armed robbers, which he does with ease, but by the time he gets back to the marketplace it's now a crime scene and he can't pay his bill so he goes home to a dark apartment.

It doesn't stay dark for long, however.  Soon a helicopter with armed men in tactical gear burst through his window and twist tie his wrists and hook him up to a line to take him up to the helicopter. Peter finds a way to escape without revealing that he is Spider-Man and makes it to the ground where he lands inside a car driven by a woman who tells him she is Teresa Parker--his sister.  They ditch the car for a cab and Teresa tells him that she went into the family business and became a CIA operative just like their parents, Richard and Mary.  Peter senses no threat from her and believes that she believes what she is saying.

The two hop on a plane heading for Monte Carlo to meet up with a source of information through a contact she has.  They are to go to a party to do this and things, of course, go wrong and Spider-Man must make an appearance when Cyclone begins to tear apart the place. But Cyclone isn't the bad guy they need to be worried about. Kingpin is planning something as the comic opens with him freeing a man from a hell hole prison. But what is he up to and what does it have to do with Peter Parker?  And who are the guys from Peter's apartment that are looking for him and why do they want him?  Can Peter keep his identity as the Spider-Man secret from Teresa? Does he want to?

Spider-Man is more a smart ass in this comic than in some of the others I've read.  The dialogue is fabulous.  The paneling pages that depict the fight between Spider-Man and Cyclone are truly chaotic. You can almost feel the wind blowing it's drawn so well.  The drawings in this comic have that slightly shadowed look about them and the colors have a softness about them that make them look artistic.  Overall this was a great comic and I highly recommend it.

Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Amazing-Spider-Man-Business-Mark-Waid-ebook/dp/B00PSN1ADA/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1500034825&sr=8-1&keywords=amazing+spiderman+family+business

Monday, July 10, 2017

From Cradle To Stage: Stories From the Mothers Who Rocked and Raised Rock Stars by Virginia Hanlon Grohl


Virginia Hanlon Grohl, mother of Dave Grohl, drummer for Nirvana, and lead singer, guitarist and creative force behind the Foo Fighters, was questioning to herself if other mothers went through the same things she went through with Dave when he was growing up with his music.  She looked around at the festivals and concerts but didn't see other mothers there and wondered where they were.  Her best friend told her to go and find them and ask them.  So she did and this book is the result.

 Miranda Lambert's parents met when her mom Bev went to cheerleading camp at Southern Methodist University and Rick, a narcotics officer was working undercover. Bev swore that she would marry that man and during her freshman year in college she hunted him down and congratulated him on his engagement--to her. They've been together ever since. Rick and Bev would open their own private investigation company which was very successful during the oil boom of the 1970s and early 1980s when there was plenty of money to go around to spend.  Miranda was even used in some of the operations.  During one operation she was sent dressed as a junior high cheerleader selling something to scope out a place to see if she could spot what her parents were looking for.  But when the oil crash happened they lost everything.  However, they were hired to investigate Bill Clinton for Paula Jones's lawyers.  They took a lot of crap for that.

Miranda took an early interest in music. There was always music in the house as Rick had been a songwriter and guitar player in a country band.  As a child, Miranda had been shy so Bev thought she would grow up to be a choir teacher. Not something in the spotlight. Then a talent show for that area of Texas came up and she was eager to try out.  While she didn't win, she became addicted to the applause.  She finished high school early and her parents took to managing her career booking gigs and making a CD.  Bev and Miranda would butt heads as Miranda was at an age when she wanted to be more independent and Bev it seemed was trying to manage her life, but the two worked it out.  When Nashville Star came around Miranda tried out at Fort Worth, Texas and bombed. Her mother instead of consoling her told her was furious and told her why she bombed--that she had picked the wrong song, the wrong outfit and had the wrong demeanor.  So when the show went to Houston she supported her and pushed her forward to try again and this time she slammed it.  While she didn't win Nashville Star it was what got her noticed and she would eventually get a record deal.  While her parents don't manage her anymore they still have a hand in the business. Miranda knows that if they ever overstep she can tell them to back off and they will.  Miranda has won hundreds of honors including the Grammy's, too many to count Country Music Association Awards, and an unheard-of seven consecutive awards for female vocalists of the year from the Academy of Country Music.

Born Gary Lee Weinrib, he is best known as Geddy Lee (Geddy comes from the way his mother pronounces Gary.  He legally changed his name to Geddy as an adult.), the lead singer, bassist, and keyboardist for the band Rush has a mother with a very interesting life story. Mary is from Poland and during World War II when the Germans invaded and took over her town, Starachowice.  In 1942 the Jews in the ghetto were gathered together in the marketplace to be separated into two groups. One would be sent to Treblinka, a death camp while the other would be sent to Auschwitz a work camp. Mary was chosen to be sent to the death camp, but her mother grabbed her and snuck her into the group to be sent to the work camp.  While she had worked in the ghetto making ovens she had met a young man named Morris Weinrib and the two had fallen in love. They would be evacuated to Bergen-Belsen from Auschwitz in 1944 as the Russian army advanced.  Morris would go looking for her after the war and he would find her.  Together they decided to move to Canada.  They started off working in a sewing factory until Morris had enough money to open his own shop.

Geddy grew up in a strict religious household that held family paramount.  Sunday was set aside for being together where they went to the park and went swimming and picnicked then went to the drive-in at night.  His grandmother lived with them and held the family together.  When Geddy was twelve his father died and Mary went into a deep depression and couldn't get out of bed. It would be Geddy who would tell her that Dad would want her to keep the store open and run it herself that would get her back up and go again.  And though she had no idea how to do it she figured it out by herself and the kids helped her in what way they could.  When he was a kid his sister had been the one to have what she felt were the dreaded piano lessons. One day when the teacher was having tea with his mother they heard the piano piece his sister had been butchering before played perfectly. They got up to congratulate her on getting it right when they found Geddy behind the keys. He had figured out how to play it by ear.  After working extra hard in the store she asks him how she can repay him and he tells her he wants a guitar so she buys him one and soon he has figured out how to play it.  Mary wanted her sons to grow up to be doctors and scientists and change the world.  She insisted that they have the education that she missed out on.  But Geddy would disappoint her on that score. He had stellar grades until he hit high school and Rush was being formed.  He was trying to go to school and gigs and sleep and school was what was suffering.  The guidance counselor had a talk with her about how he had a real chance here and how he had to pursue it.  Geddy would graduate high school. He felt he owed his mother that, but he would not be going on to college. Music and another path were calling his name.  But in 2014 Geddy accepted an honorary Ph.D. from Nipissing University and his response to the crowd was that his mom finally got her wish. She had a doctor for a son.

Mary Morello, Tom Morello's of Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave mom, is a very interesting woman.  Born in 1924 to Italian parents she went to college at the University of Illinois where she majored in history and then got a job teaching gym.  After she had to go home to take over her father's bar for a year while he recovered, the desire to travel the world kicked in and so began her journey.  She left in 1948 for Europe and taught school there for a time.  Then on to Asia where she taught in Japan.  Then she went back to school to get her master's degree in history and African studies at Loyola University.  After hearing a speech by Tom Mboya one of the leaders of the new nation of Kenya she headed to a Kikuyu, Kenya high school to teach. There she met Ngethe Njoroge, a young revolutionary, whom she married.  They moved to New York where they had Tom. The marriage did not last and Mary for a while stayed in Harlem until her family called her home. It took a while for her to find a job because they knew about her marriage to an African man.  And finding a place to stay was even tougher.  The realtor had to get signed slips saying that everyone in the neighborhood was fine with them living there. He "sold" the idea by saying that Tom was not a regular black child but an African child and somehow better.  Tom says that it wasn't too bad with some exceptions like when they found a noose in their garage or the KKK literature left at Mary's teaching job.  Mary was very outspoken against many causes and began the organization Parents for Rock and Rap, a national anti-censorship group that was fighting the Parents Music Resource Center who sought to censor music played on the radio and where it could be sold.

Tom's grades were always great and he ended up graduating from Harvard with honors. He had thought about going to South Africa and joining the military wing of Nelson Mandla's African National Congress but figured that he should "arm himself intellectually".  It was at Harvard that he formed a band.  As a young man, they traveled together, though after a while Tom would stay in the car and read Lord of the Rings rather than go see another old church.  That has carried on into his adult life. The morning after a concert he is up early to see the sights of the city he is in.  He says that he believed for a long time that all mothers were as kind and supportive as she was. She just let him go and be a musician without a word against the idea.  He credits it to her own upbringing and being allowed to wander the world on her own for as long as she wanted with support from her dad.  He also credits her with helping to make him socially conscious which comes out in his music.

Also included in this book are little vignettes by Virginia Grohl about Dave or the lives that she has come in contact with.  Throughout this book, a vast majority of those mothers interviewed, including Dr. Dre, Haim, Mike D, Pharrell Williams, Adam Levine, Amy Winehouse, Michael Stipe, and Zac Brown, talked about how their children had trouble in school starting around junior high school.  They would get distracted by and obsessed with the music that was quickly taking over their lives.  Their grades would suffer and they would either drop out of high school or barely graduate.  Kelly Clarkson's mom had to go before a judge to explain her lateness and truancy from school.  But the one thing these moms had in common is that they believed in their children.

Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Cradle-Stage-Stories-Mothers-Rocked-ebook/dp/B01HZFB0CY/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1499691852&sr=8-1&keywords=from+cradle+to+stage

Friday, July 7, 2017

Captain America: Sam Wilson: Standoff by Nick Spencer (Writer), Jesus Saiz (Artist), Daniel Acuna (Artist and Colorist), Paul Renaud (Artist), Angel Unzueta (Artist), Matt Yackey (Colorist), Dono Sanchez-Amlara (Colorist), VC's Clayton Cowles (Letterer) and VC's Joe Caramagna (Letterer)


In this comic we learn the identity of the Whisperer, the person who revealed sensitive SHIELD information to the press and that Sam protected because he thought one piece of that information a dangerous piece of alien technology they held should be destroyed. Steve Rogers agreed with him on the part about the tech needs to be destroyed but not about the protecting of the guy who leaked the information.  He believed he should stand trial and that he would get a fair trial. Sam wasn't so sure about that which is why he helped him escape.  The Whisperer has been helping him by getting him info on HYDRA and other bad guys to take down, including the Green Skull, an environmental bad guy who wants to destroy humanity to protect the earth.

The Whisperer gets Sam to meet in person because the info he has is so important. At the same time, Bucky Barnes has dropped in from outer space where he has been hanging out protecting the earth to raid some SHIELD posts to discover the same thing the Whisperer has and is telling Stever Rogers what the Whisperer is telling Sam. Kobik, SHIELD's secret plan to use the cosmic cube fragments to alter reality has not been destroyed. Maria Hill, head of SHIELD is using them in some way.

Hill arrives to pick up Steve Rogers and Bucky makes himself scarce. She shows him what she so proudly has done with project Kobik, or rather Kobik herself.  The town of Pleasant Hill is perfect in every way and Hill is the mayor.  It's a beautiful town with nice friendly people.  The only thing is those people are criminals with enhanced abilities SHIELD didn't know what to do with.  Kobik, the entity of a little girl that appeared once the pieces of the cosmic cube fragments had been put together was able to alter the reality of those living in the town and change their memories of who they were.  Some members of the town are agents of SHIELD of course.

The problem is that some of the criminals have managed to regain their memories and therefore their abilities and have been waiting for the right time to strike. They want to take control of the Kobik and use it to change the reality of the world to suit their needs.  Now with Steve Rogers, the former Captain America who put quite a lot of them in jail in the first place the opportunity for revenge is too great to not take advantage of this moment.  Sam and Bucky are on their way in to help and have called the Avengers for backup but they could be awhile. With the help of a kickass SHIELD agent, they make a pretty good team.

The paneling in this book is just amazing. There's a two-page section where Steve's life is flashing before his eyes and it's just beautiful and perfect.  The panel where Steve is getting his face smashed in is incredible in that the coloring and the artistry are so realistic.  Also included in this book are parts of three old Captain America comics, "Presentation", "Catch Me If You Can" and "Pas de Doux". It's interesting to see how the artistry has changed over the decades.  This book is a worthy follow-up and even better than the last volume of Sam Wilson Captain America comic book.

Link To Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Captain-America-Wilson-Standoff-2015-2017-ebook/dp/B01LVXUYWV/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1499444215&sr=8-5&keywords=captain+america+sam+wilson

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

The Undertaker's Daughter by Kate Mayfield


This intimate autobiographical portrait of not just of a girl who lives above the funeral home her father Frank Mayfield runs, but of a broken family and a time and place in history, the 1960's and 1970's when things begin to change in the South, even if the views are harder to change.  In 1959, Frank Mayfield moved his family, wife Lily Tate, son Thomas the peacemaker, daughter Evelyn an undiagnosed manic depressive, and second daughter Kate, to Jubilee, Kentucky from the mountains of Western Kentucky to the border of Tennessee.  He finds a large house to set up his business on the bottom floors and his home on the second and third floors.  He installs multiple phones so he does not miss a single death.  The words, "There is a body", invoke a bit of dread in the family, especially Lily Tate who may have planned a bridge club luncheon, that she's using to find a place in society, and then have to cancel it.  For the children, it means going upstairs and being quiet and not seen.  But that does not mean that Kate does not sneak looks over the banister to see the way her father quietly orchestrates a funeral with only a mere look or small lift of the hands to his employees or the mourners.  Frank is like a maestro in his work.

The first trouble comes when two men from the oldest families in the county come to visit him and ask why he has not bought too many concrete vaults (which surrounds the casket in the earth) from them.  He says they leak and will not sell people a shoddy product.  There is another white funeral home in town and they have already sent  business his way and now they have made it a mission of theirs to shut Frank down.  It is the Southern good-'ol-boys network and it is quite effective.  Even though Frank has a  young man who lives in the county to help bring in business from that area. 

Help comes in a surprising place.  There were no ambulances back then.  If you could not get yourself to the hospital, you called the funeral home to come and get you.  Frank had a separate vehicle for that, and unlike his competition, does not charge for the service.  One night, Miss Agnes, a spinster who lives in the largest and oldest house in town and owns the only fertilizer dealership in Kentucky, has hurt herself and calls Frank.  The other funeral director has been sending patients roses to get their business, but all Frank can afford is red carnations, which happen to be Miss Agnes's favorite flower.  Her story is incredible in how she was able to go from a wealthy family in town, until her father dies, leaving her in debt, to being very rich with her own business, a rarity in those times.  She shuns those who turned their backs on her when her fortunes changed, so her and Frank are foes of the same people and she decides to help him.  Miss Agnes is a delightfully eccentric Southern Woman who does things her own way.

Kate's mother gives birth to another child, a girl named Jemma.  Her mother is the strict disciplinarian, something she picked up from her own harsh childhood.  Her father, Kate would find, is a flawed man.  He has a scar on his stomach from the World War II, where he almost died.  It was his brother's dream to open up a funeral home, but he died during the war.  The torments from the war haunt him and he becomes a man who is not always a good husband or father.

There is also the specter of race.  Belle, their black housekeeper, helps raise the kids and Kate wonders why it is OK to sit in Belle's lap at home, but she cannot sit next to her in a theater.  When black students begin to finally arrive in her middle school, she goes out with one for a while.  When both races find out, she is threatened by a group of black girls after school, and her parents who tell her it could end her father's business, which it would.  Oddly, Frank sometimes helps the only colored funeral director with embalming or with ordering things if need be, but he still does not seem to think of them as being equal. 

While this book offers a glimpse inside of the old way funeral homes worked, it is through the eyes of a child, who basically never goes into the embalming room or sees but glimpses of the pageantry of the funerals.  This book looks at a family that is far from perfect, at a dangerous time in the South, a different world all on its own, and small town politics and prejudices.  Kate loves her family, but comes to realize that she is not meant to stay in Jubilee, but is meant for a wider world in which to explore life.  There are many who help her see this, even if her family cannot.

Quotes
She threw out most of the deviled eggs that night.  What a mess they looked in the garbage: a mound of shiny egg whites smeared with pale yellow yolks all smashed together, the whole lot spattered with deep red paprika, as if they’d been murdered.
--Kate Mayfield (The Undertaker’s Daughter p 2)

My mother thought she was crazy.  What she really meant was that Totty was different.  She was different because she …was from the North. ‘Somewhere in Michigan’, my mother said, as if it were near the Arctic.
--Kate Mayfield (The Undertaker’s Daughter p 27-8)
 
I’d become familiar with all of her church frocks; now she was draped in her new widow’s  black.  I felt bad for her.  Sixty years, that’s’ a long time, I thought, practically forever.  She’s going to miss him terribly.  I began to back away, but when she raised her hands, I knew a prayer was coming and I couldn’t resist….’O dear Lord’, she whispered, ‘I just want to thank you today.  Thank you, Lord, thank you, thank you.  Thank you for allowing me to finally put this bastard in the ground.’
--Kate Mayfield (The Undertaker’s Daughter p 38)
 
The South is like a lusty woman who stands at the mirror and admires her own astounding beauty, a beauty that after all these years only seems to intensify with age.  Even though her face has changed, she has never lost her melancholy charm.
--Kate Mayfield (The Undertaker’s Daughter p 369)
 
Most of the women in our town wore beauty-parlor hair, the kind that didn’t move in a stiff breeze because it was teased and sprayed with enough hairspray to kill a cat.  No one touched my mother’s hair except Mildred the beautician.  I didn’t dare and I never saw my father go near it.
--Kate Mayfield (The Undertaker’s Daughter p 45-6)
 
Belle couldn’t go with me to the movies because we’d be separated after we entered.  She would be required to sit upstairs in the balcony, and I would sit downstairs.  I thought this was a strange, strange rule.  I couldn’t understand why I could sit on her lap at home and not sit beside her in public.  I wondered how it was that she could feed me and clothe me, yet be made to separate from me when we walked into the cinema.
--Kate Mayfield (The Undertaker’s Daughter p 54)
 
We had an awful lot of God in our town.  Jubilee had more churches than it knew what to do with.  They came in every variety imaginable, from a one-room house, where the Holy Rollers spoke in tongues and fainted regularly, to the large, money-drenched building of the First Baptist Church, our church, a half a block from the funeral home.
--Kate Mayfield (The Undertaker’s Daughter p 128)
 
The preacher told me privately that Mr. Sheridan would be punished in hell [for killing his two kids, wife, and himself].  But I said nothing to that, because I saw no God in the scene before me, no heaven, no hell.  Prayers would not have prevented this tragedy.  When the Sheridans were finally buried, for it seemed their short time under our roof was elongated somehow, I no longer prayed for bad things not to happen.  I knew they would.
--Kate Mayfield (The Undertaker’s Daughter p 157-8)
 
[On vacation] We went to a different restaurant every night and ordered exotic foods, such as lobster and broccoli and fruit drinks with paper umbrellas.
--Kate Mayfield (The Undertaker’s Daughter p 176)
 
Occasionally I tapped out a Motown tune on the organ downstairs but it sounded wrong in every possible way; hymns, possibly Rodgers and Hammerstein, but never Motown on the Hammond.
--Kate Mayfield (The Undertaker’s Daughter p 209)
 
In high school Emily had been a beauty queen, a drum majorette, Miss Congeniality, an accomplished musician, and all this without an ounce of self-consciousness. She was in college now, a sorority girl studying for her master’s in education. Tall, thin, and blond, she possessed the manners and grace of a Tennessee Williams character having a good day, and we loved her.
--Kate Mayfield (The Undertaker’s Daughter p 230)
 
The seventies crept up on Jubilee and settled like a canker sore.  Was it possible to hate an entire decade based on a dearth of natural fibers? 
--Kate Mayfield (The Undertaker’s Daughter p 255)
 
Do you think that creativity must be fueled by alcohol or drugs?... It doesn’t work like that.  People think it does.  It’s tricky because at first you’ll think you have the tiger by the tail.  But it will tire you out.  You’ll lose and then those substances will kill creativity stone dead.  Kill it, kill it, kill it.
--Kate Mayfield (The Undertaker’s Daughter p 281)
 
 Cigarette-smoking, alcoholic, adulterous, and now leash-holding Big Daddy—Tennessee Williams made a fortune off men like my father.
--Kate Mayfield (The Undertaker’s Daughter p 287)
Link to Amazon:  https://www.amazon.com/Undertakers-Daughter-Kate-Mayfield-ebook/dp/B00IWTWMW0/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1499259060&sr=1-1&keywords=the+undertaker%27s+daughter

Monday, July 3, 2017

Fever Season by Barbara Hambly


In this second freedman Benjamin January novel, set in 1834 New Orleans, it is fever season, which starts after lent in April and goes through to the first frost in October.  Those who can afford to, leave town for the country in order to avoid Bronze John (yellow fever) and a small outbreak of cholera.  Since there are no very few parties to play at, January makes his money working at the Charity hospital as a doctor.

It is there that he meets Rose, a freedwoman who runs a school for colored girls, who asks for his help with the few sick students whose mothers did not take them away to the country.  As he helps her, they develop a close friendship and January finds himself falling in love for the first time since his wife died.  January meets up with a friend of Rose's, Cora a slave who has run away from her master's home, because his "affair" (more like rape) with her has made his wife, Madame Redfern highly upset.  Also, Mr. Redfern is a gambler who has begun selling off slaves to pay his debts, but he refuses to sell Cora.  Cora is in love with one of the sold slaves who live in Madame Lalourie's household, whose husband is a prominent doctor.  Cora asks January to see if he can get word to this slave since he teaches piano to Lalourie's two daughters.

Shockingly, Madam Lalourie herself offers a way for the two to meet and talk and gives January money for Cora.  Madam Lalourie works in the hospitals too and has quite the reputation of being both a kind and giving a woman and a monster; depending on who you talk to.  That is the last anyone saw of Cora.  It turns out, she had stolen a pearl necklace and $1800 from the Redfern's and left it with Rose.  Rose gets arrested for the theft, instead.  Meanwhile, at the Redfern's, poisoned mushrooms were served and made Madame Redfern and the household staff ill, while killing her husband.  Cora discovered the mushrooms and figured out that something bad was about to go down and she was in danger, which is why she left.

Things get weird when Madam Redfern claims the pearls and money are not hers, so Rose is released from prison and vanishes.  Now fever season is over and no one is hiring January as a pianist for their parties and most of his students quit.  Someone has something against January and wants to run him out of town like they did Rose.  Soon, however, the attacks become deadly.

A slick revivalist preacher becomes close to Madame Redfern and buys her slaves at rock bottom prices then sells them to plantation owners in the Missouri Territory where slaves are in great demand.  However, the preacher does not appear much richer and the church he has been promising to build with the donations from parties held by Redfern has yet to appear.  Meanwhile, Madam Redfern, who is supposed to be broke from paying her husband's debts, is now thriving.  It also appears that someone is kidnapping blacks and coloreds alike to sell in Missouri.  As in the first book, January works with the "backwoods" Kaintuck police officer, Shaw.

This book is especially interesting because one of the characters actually existed in the 1830s New Orleans and did the heinous crimes of which come to light one night.  Hambly has a real way of putting you in the odd world of New Orleans of the 1830s and the crazy hierarchy system and just how much a person can get away with in the treatment of their slaves.  Mademoiselle Marie, the voodoo priestess is up to something in this book too, as she lurks in the shadows.  This is an excellent book that will keep you guessing until almost the very end.  I really love visiting this truly bizarre place with its weird rules ("the custom of the county") and sultry crazy South where if you are a man of color you have to watch everything you say and do or you could find yourself kidnapped and sold into slavery or put into prison for something you did not even do.  It is a unique world and I very am very much fascinated by it but am glad it has passed.

Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Fever-Season-Benjamin-January-Mystery-ebook/dp/B004HFRJXA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1499086127&sr=8-2&keywords=fever+season