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, August 30, 2017

The Girl With a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier

I had high expectations of this book going in and it did not disappoint.  Griet a young woman of seventeen is sent from her family of mother, father, brother, and sister to go and work as a maid in the now famous painter Vermeer's household.  Her father was a tile painter but lost his sight due to an accident at work involving the kiln.  Now it's up to Griet to provide for the family as her brother is doing his apprenticeship and is not making anything yet.  Her father can get some money from the Artist Guild which all members put into when they work for just such an occasion, but it's hard to accept the money.  The best solution is that Griet goes and work for the head of the Guild, Vermeer.

It is an unusual household in that they are Catholic and Griet is Protestant.  Also, there are a lot of children and Vermeer's wife Catharina is pregnant again with their seventh child.  Catharina loves to have children, though governing them is not her strongest suit.  Maria Thins, her mother, lives with them as well and she is really the one who runs things.  Her servant Tanneke who has been with them for over ten years and does the cooking and cleaning of the house.  Tanneke is lazy but loyal and Griet must handle her carefully.  Griet was hired to clean the master's painting room with precision and leave everything the way it was. She will also do the laundry and help with serving and cleaning up the meals and help do the floors at night.   The eldest child Cornelia is the one to watch out for as she has it in for Griet and wants to cause a great deal of mischief.

At the butcher's shop the butcher's son Pieter becomes interested in her and begins to court her, but she is not interested in him, for she is starting to fall in love with her master, Vermeer which is a death knell for someone like her as it can ruin her and end her job or her reputation if anything comes of it.  Vermeer, however, seems to be devoted to his wife.  But they become closer when he asks her to mix and grind the paints for him in secret as working with him might upset his wife.  And when she sits for him in the famous painting they share something truly special that may bring about the ruin she had hoped to avoid.

This book is as beautifully written as the paintings on which it is based.  It really puts you inside this world and makes you believe that this is how it must have happened.  Griet is a young woman who is learning about the world and losing touch with her family with whom she had been so close as she only sees them on Sundays and the ways of the Vermeers are turning her head away from the values her family taught her or maybe they are just opening her eyes up to the world in a different way from the way her parents see it as when she looks at his paintings.  Griet will have to make some big decisions or they may be made for her.  

Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Girl-Pearl-Earring-Tracy-Chevalier-ebook/dp/B000OCXIDK/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1504097768&sr=8-1&keywords=the+girl+with+the+pearl+earring     

Monday, August 28, 2017

The Burden of Persuasion by Anna Faktorovich

I very rarely stumble across a book that I just did not care that much for, but this book is one of them. This review is based on an advance copy.  The book is based on the Carolee Koster case of the woman who worked at Chase Manhatten in the 1970s and sued throughout the 1980s for sexual harassment and equal pay.  She lost appeal after appeal until it got to Judge Richard Doronco who also turned her down, but this time, her father, a retired cop, Charles had had enough and shot him dead in his home and then turned the gun on himself.  The author imagines a back story to go with the bare facts of the case.

In this book, an FBI agent is on the fringes of the judge's shooting, but there's nothing to investigate since the killer took his life.  She does, however, find a note in his shoe that indicates a diary is located in his trailer.  She uncovers it and makes copies of it to read from before turning the note and the diary over to her boss. The next thing she knows the note and the diary are gone.  The more she reads of the diary the more she understands why that happened as it is about corruption in the law enforcement ranks and politics.  She decides to hold onto the diary and research it all she can and to turn it into a fictional book to be published when she leaves the bureau.

Part of her research involves going to the library and part of it involves breaking into people's houses and making copies of their diaries. Yes, you have to suspend quite a bit of belief to believe that these many people kept diaries. But it was the only way the author could feasibly move the story along the way she had written it so I was able to make that leap.  She collects diaries from Ida Callaghan, the one who sued for sexual harassment, Lorcan Whelan, the president of the bank where the harassment took place, and Judge Vincente Brunetti, the judge of her case who was killed.

It seems that the bank was involved with some corruption that involved the cops and politicians that Ida's dad stumbled onto when he was a cop but wasn't able to shut down, which is where Ida comes along in that she probably uncovered something and had to be gotten rid of before the house of cards comes tumbling down.

You get the distinct feeling that the author does not like men as there are no sympathetic male characters in the book.  Even Bradley Callaghan, the cop father who shoots the judge is not all that likable. He's set up to be this perfect cop who can't get ahead because he didn't go to college or the military or play the corruption game. He's even forced off the job because he digs his nose in where it doesn't belong.  The rest of the men are sleazeballs and crooks most of whom believe in sexually harassing women.  She is also against marriage and goes off on a long tirade against it and has not one married couple in her book happy, including Ida's parents.  This isn't a realistic look at the world and while this is fiction, fiction does mirror society and men are complex creatures just as women are.  Ida is no saint in this book, either. To be honest I'd never heard of the Chase Manhatten case before and this book really educated me on its story by making me look up the particulars. It also educated me on how bad things were and are today with sexual harassment cases and how hard it is to win one.  While the writing is good, I just think the author could have done a better job getting her story across.

For more info on the Chase Manhattan case: https://www.upi.com/Archives/1988/05/22/The-killer-of-a-federal-judge-gunned-down-at/5229580276800/

Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Burden-Persuasion-Anna-Faktorovich/dp/1681143232/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1503927041&sr=8-1&keywords=the+burden+of+persuasion


Friday, August 25, 2017

Raging Heat by Richard Castle

If you watch the show Castle on ABC, then you'll recognize the name of the author as the character on the show who writes a book series about a Lieutenant named Nikki Heat, that he based on Kate Beckett and the journalist Jameson Rook, who tags along with her, and sometimes writes stories about her cases for the press.

Rook has just returned from a long stint away on a story.  As Heat is trying to organize the mess he's left everywhere, she finds a receipt for a jewelry store in Paris and believes that Rook may be asking her to marry her and she has no idea what to think about that.  Her thoughts are quickly taken elsewhere when a Haitian immigrant falls through the glass ceiling of the New York Planetarium.  It appears that he had been beaten before he died.  No one can figure out how he came to fall the way he did. 

Soon they discover another murder of an elderly gentleman, whose maid was the Haitian's girlfriend and who hid a phone with a message from him saying to run that K.G. who they believe to be Keith Gilbert a man running for the Senate.  Heat is so narrowly focused on Gilbert as the killer, she fails to see the other pieces of evidence that don't fit.  The Haitian, Beuvais, worked at an illegal operation that went through people's trash and try to find out information in order to forge IDs, steal identities, and other things.  His girlfriend was able to get out and Beuvais was working on a way to score some big money so they could go back to Haiti. 

His last job was ripping off an ATM with two large men the cops had seen before fleeing Beuvais's apartment.  On camera there is a shot of one of them shooting at Beuvais.  Rook who had been helping out the Roach partners with this angle ends up butting heads with Heat and their relationship suffers horribly.  He's doing his job as a journalist and following up on details that Heat refuses to look at which also causes friction between her and her team.  It seems that everybody was after Beuvais to kill him.  Also, those that killed his girlfriend were pros who tortured her before she died. 

You don't have to watch the show to read this book, though you will enjoy the inside jokes.  Nor do you have to read the other books, though I really cannot recommend them enough in that the ones that deal with solving Heat's mother's murder is actually better than the one that they came up with on the show.  This doesn't happen often, but I couldn't put the book down.  I read three hours past when I was going to stop for the night.  I just had to finish it.  This is a great book.

Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Raging-Heat-Nikki-Book-ebook/dp/B00MC3X76M/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1503683708&sr=8-1&keywords=raging+heat

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Orphan #8 by Kim van Alkemade

Kim van Alkemade has written several articles in magazines that have been described as "creative non-fiction", whatever that may be.  While researching her family genealogy, she came across a reference to a Medical Journal article that shocked her and she felt compelled to tell the story, but in a fictionalized novel.  Some of the people in this book are actually real.  Some are actually her relatives.  While the girl, Rachel Rabinowitz and her brother Sam are works of fiction, what happens to Rachel, is not.  This is an important book that raises questions about science and its practice, and whether you can forsake justified vengeance and forgive the unforgivable.

In 1919 the Jewish family, the Rabinowitzs, which consists of Harry, the father who works in a shirtwaist factory, who is saving for the chance to have his own contractor business, goes to Society meetings to make contacts, and is hoping to move his family up to the nicer neighborhood of Harlem; Visha, his wife, who wants another child and dreams of moving out of their three room tenement, where she looks after two borders and the two children, Rachel, four (who is known for her temper tantrums that only her brother can seem to stop) and Sam, six, who just started school.  When Harry forgets his lunch, Visha and Rachel go to the factory, which Harry has forbidden them to do.  When they return home, an angry Italian mother and her eighteen-year-old daughter show up at her house telling her that Harry, who met the girl at work, has been courting her daughter and has gotten her pregnant.  It's hard to tell which ticks her off more: that her daughter is pregnant by a man already married or that he is really Jewish.  Visha realizes that he has lied to her.  There is no money being saved up.  When he returns home, the two get into a fight and Harry accidentally cuts Visha's neck, in front of the two children.  While she bleeds to death on the floor, Harry quickly packs up and runs away.

The children end up going to social services, where a nice woman is determined to find a foster home for them.  Unfortunately, the two will have to be split up for now due to their ages, until she can find a home.  Sam goes to the Hebrews Orphanage Home and Rachel goes to the Infant Hebrew Home.  When she gets there, the social worker is told that Rachel will have to spend a month in isolation to make sure she does not have any diseases.  This was 1919.  Many of the diseases that we have vaccines for now, could kill children back then.    A month later when the social worker returns with the news that a nice Jewish couple in Harlem is willing to take them both, she finds that Rachel now has both measles and conjunctivitis and will not be well enough to be taken in by this couple anytime soon, so she looks for another placement for the couple.  The Infant Home would be seen as perhaps, hellish, to those of us today, and I have to admit it rather is.  The nurses do not believe in touching the babies.  Dr. Hess (a real person, who was the son-in-law of Strauss, the founder of Macy's, which is where the Home gets its money for fancy equipment) runs experiments on the children.  He sees them as no better than lab rats, in that they are actual human subjects whose situations, such as home life, background, diet, etc...are the same and therefore variables can be controlled, which is a rarity in scientific research.  Rachel's life changes when she meets Dr. Mildred Solomon a female doctor, an oddity of the time, who is there to do her residency and wants to run her own experiment, get published, establish herself, and get out of there.

This book goes back and forth between Rachel's past growing up and her present as a nurse in the Hebrews Home for the elderly.  Rachel has many secrets.  One is that she is a lesbian whose partner is away in Miami, for some unknown reason.  When Dr. Solomon arrives on her floor, the hospice ward, terminally ill with bone cancer, she recognizes her and talks to her and finds out that she was a doctor at the Infant Home when she was there.  She has always wondered what disease she had that necessitated some form of treatment.  When she goes to the Medical Library she uncovers the horror of what happened in the Home and to her.  She was "material # 8".  She also discovers that because of that she is in grave danger of developing a serious disease that could kill her.

After leaving the Infant Home almost two years later, Rachel goes to the Hebrews Orphan Home, where she meets Mrs. Berger at reception, who works there while her son, Vic, is housed there. Vic's best friend just happens to be Rachel's brother Sam.  While finally reunited, Sam has become hardened by his years in the Home where the bells ring constantly for every possible thing and the orphans respond like Pavlov's dogs sensing exactly when the bell is going to ring and making sure they are where they are supposed to be so they don't get slapped by the monitor (an orphan who is in charge of level and is usually two years older) or worse. There are 1000 kids in the home [my alma mater Catawba College, in Salisbury, NC, only had a little over 800 students and much more space], which is a large castle that takes up a whole city block in New York City.  The book has a photograph of it.  It may seem really bad, but actually, a state home is so much worse.  At least here they receive dental care, medical care, three meals a day, and decent clothes and shoes to wear.

Sam, determined to look after his sister, bribes one of her monitors, Naomi, to look after her.  Naomi gives her an "acceptable" nickname because it's better to pick what others call you then to have them call you something worse.  Naomi is good to her and treats her almost like a friend and it's not just because Sam bribes her.  The years pass and more things happen in Rachel's life, some good and some bad.  [Reviewer's Note: a character in this book, Amelia, is given special treatment because she has long, beautiful red hair.  I, too, have always have had long red hair, but I have not received special treatment for it.  From fifth grade to middle school, I was teased for it, until I took a hardback book, corner-side pointed out, punched Scott Baker in the stomach with it.  Guys wanted to date blondes, not red-heads.  In college, I discovered men who felt differently, and I admit, that now, I am a bit vain about my hair.  But I have never forgotten the teasing or the seeming obsession by the world for blondes].

This is an incredible book.  Is Dr. Solomon a Dr. Mengele?  She thinks a bit like him, but what she does (and Dr. Hess for that matter), while inexcusable, is nothing compared to what Mengele did.  Rachel wants an apology, but it does not seem that she is going to get it.  She is given an opportunity to work the night shift where it's just her and one other nurse and she has already been holding back on the amount of morphine she has been giving Solomon for days.  Now she is in control.  She has the power.  She can cause Solomon to suffer and then kill her for what she has done to her.  But is Rachel capable of such an act?  Can she really do this?  The question you find yourself asking is what would you do.  And the answer is not an easy one.

Gloria wrote in our shifts, twelve hours on every other day, extra days off popping up as unpredictably as Jewish holiday.
--Kim van Alkemade (Orphan # 8 p 30)
“You listen to me now,” Mrs. Giovanni said… “Nothing is your fault.  Never think that again.  God can see inside you, right into your soul, and He knows you did nothing wrong.  Remember that, Rachel, if you ever feel alone or afraid.”  Looking at the C-ray images, Rachel imagined this was what God saw when he looked at her.  Where on the radiograph, she wondered, did it show right from wrong?
--Kim van Alkemade (Orphan # 8 p 90)
When Rachel hung her towel and stepped under a showerhead, the new girl realized with a thrill she’d spotted something more valuable than an equal: someone worse off than herself.
--Kim van Alkemade (Orphan # 8 p 146)
 We snorted in unison, the universal sound of nurses who know better than the doctors whose orders we follow.
--Kim van Alkemade (Orphan #8 p 168)
That’s what it was like for me, killing myself to be first just so I’d be in a position to capitalize on the stupidity of others.
--Kim van Alkemade (Orphan #8 p 172)
Delayed reaction most likely.  You had a very upsetting experience.  I’ll keep you here for a couple of days so you can rest up.  We’ll say its mononucleosis if anyone asks.
--Kim van Alkemade (Orphan #8 p 176)
She worked through the glossary letter by letter, abscess to xanthin.  In bed at night, she’d run her finger down a column in the index and choose a disease to read about: bilious fever, creeping pneumonia, hookworm, mumps, palsy, typhoid.  Bacillus tuberculosis, at twenty-six pages, put her to sleep for a week.
--Kim van Alkemade (Orphan #8 p 181)
Rachel remembered reading in Nurse Dreyer’s copy of Essentials of Medicine that treatment for the disease consisted of rest, rich food, fresh air, sunlight, and, if possible, freedom from worry.  She wondered how someone with tuberculosis could not be worried.
--Kim van Alkemade (Orphan #8 p 288)
The white people, they think Indians and Chinese are both dirty, no matter how clean we make their shirts.
--Kim van Alkemade (Orphan #8 p 306)
If good only came to those who deserved it, the world would be a bleak place.
--Kim van Alkemade (Orphan #8 p 336)
Link to Amazon:  https://www.amazon.com/Orphan-Novel-Kim-van-Alkemade-ebook/dp/B00NVLI552/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1503495081&sr=8-1&keywords=orphan+number+8

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Soulprint by Megan Miranda

Alina Chase is being held on an island in a pretty prison not for a crime she committed but because of a crime that was committed in her past life as June Calahan.  June and a guy named Liam White broke into the Alonzo-Carter Cybersecurity Data Center in order to announce who could possibly be a dangerous criminal based on their past lives.  Scientists had done studies that had determined that you passed on such traits as handedness, intelligence, and behavior. The two go on the run and Liam is shot down by the police when he reaches for his cell phone and a year later June is killed when she comes out of hiding.

Immediately after June was killed, scientists tested babies in a 100-mile radius to find out where June's soul ended up.  As a baby, Alina had a tracking device inserted into her. Her mother was arrested when she tried to remove it.  Her father dropped her off at the hospital because he could not handle raising her alone with all of the outside pressure.  When the two of them try to get her back, they are unable to do so and Alina is sent to the island where she is told she will be set free at first this age then the age keeps getting pushed up as she gets older.  At the age of ten, a guard tries to help her escape but fails and this is when Alina first gets the idea to try to find a way off the island.

While doing her biology homework, she discovers a hidden message in the assignment and responds to it.  This goes on back and forth for a while with plans being made on the outside to get her out of her prison.  From her end, the plans are very vague. On her seventeenth birthday, the big day, she goes to her bathroom, where there are no cameras and finds a young man, Cameron, who has a press badge and is there to take out her tracking device.  The girl he is with, Casey, is the person Alina will next meet at the door of her room, as she is a guard.  When the press arrives to take pictures and hear a speech and ask questions, Alina and Casey move forward as though to speak to them, when an explosion occurs in her room causing panic. Alina and Casey run to a cliff where they meet Cameron and Alina is supposed to jump over the cliff. The only problem is that Alina does not know how to swim, so Cameron goes with Alina and  Casey, dressed like Alina in a wig, runs away with the tracker to lead the guards away.  After they jump into the water, they meet Dom who is wearing a full scuba gear and gets them one set of scuba gear to share.

When they get to the meeting point Alina finds out who Dom is and wonders if she can really trust any of them.  Why did they break her out of her prison?  There is definitely a reason and it is not altruistic, though they each have different reasons.  They are all on the run now from the police and the government and others. For a while, they decide to hide in plain sight, but that can only work for so long as soon enough people are going to want to turn her in for the reward money. They all seem to buy into the idea that she IS June reincarnated and therefore knows everything June does and have her wondering if that isn't true.  So what is Dom's endgame?

This book makes you question whether or not you can overcome a past life or just the things you've done in this life.  At the age of eighteen, anyone can find out what their past life is and all the details held therein.  Parents can do it for their children.  But do we really want to know?  Is it relevant?  Are we the sum of our past lives, or do we change over the course of them, or is there no connection whatsoever between each past life?  This book will really make you think and has a great deal of action and a hint of romance, as Alina and Cameron are attracted to each other.  It also makes you wonder what is the cost of such knowledge.

So you see, it’s not just the past life that can come back to haunt you. It’s the past in this life, too.
-Megan Miranda (Soulprint p 190)
School is not how I pictured, or maybe it’s different when it’s completely empty. It’s more like how I imagine an empty jail, or some asylum, and everything about me echoes still.
-Megan Miranda (Soulprint p 210)
I try to focus, but instead my mind keeps replaying Cameron’s face the second before he kissed me. And then the kiss. And I can’t unfocus from it. I have decided it’s really unfair. I should get to decide what my mind thinks about, and not the other way around…
-Megan Miranda (Soulprint p 230)
I’m lost in a daydream—it’s so real I can feel it take shape inside me, and I know how dangerous this is, I know. How hope can spread, how it multiplies when you linger in it. How it works its way into your life, before you remember that it’s not real. How insidious hope can become if you let it.
-Megan Miranda (Soulprint p. 248-9)
“Whoever lives here better realize how lucky they are,” I say. “A house doesn’t make people lucky.” “But the people in it,” I say, “the people you live with.” He cringes and then gestures to me. “Some people never know their parents and wish they did. But some people do know their parents and wish they didn’t. No house in the world wouldn’t have changed that,” he says.
-Megan Miranda (Soulprint p 251)
The windows up front are tinted. And I think, He has found us the perfect car, because he is perfect. And I wonder if people do this all the time: fall for people because of their ability to pick getaway cars; or fall for people because of the way they look when they think nobody is watching; or fall for people because of the things they say, or the way they look at them, or the things they give up, or the things they cannot do. I thought it was because of hair and eyes and a sense of humor, or similar personalities and common interests—but it’s not.  It’s the ability to pick getaway cars. To weigh crimes. To take the risk on someone again, even when he’s been betrayed once before. To have faith in himself and in me. To see me.
-Megan Miranda (Soulprint p 262)
Data can be used however one sees fit to twist it. The truth can be anything. We are dealing with human beings here. There’s no control for a human being. Way too many variables. It could be the truth. Evil is evil, Alina, there’s no other explanation.
-Megan Mirada (Soulprint p 289)
“I don’t care,” I say. But that’s not exactly true. It’s more that there are degrees of caring, and degrees of truth, and what you want and what you need are very rarely the same thing.
-Megan Miranda (Soulprint p 317)
It may save me this time, public opinion. Which is all law really is, anyway. We make our laws, and then we must suffer for them.
-Megan Miranda (Soulprint p 341)
There’s no pattern to falling in love. At least, nothing I can understand. Not something I could see beforehand. Not something I can decipher after, either. Trust can be earned, piece by piece, like links in a chain. But love is more like faith, or belief: it’s a leap. It’s hurtling over the edge of the cliff and trusting you will not drown.

-Megan Miranda (Soulprint p 351)
Link to Amazon:  https://www.amazon.com/Soulprint-Megan-Miranda/dp/0802737749/ref=sr_1_cc_2?s=aps&ie=UTF8&qid=1473683061&sr=1-2-catcorr&keywords=soulprint

Monday, August 21, 2017

Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison by Piper Kerman

Warning! If you watch the Netflix TV show and are expecting to read about lots of violence and sex you will be sorely disappointed. If you are looking for a real book about life in a minimum security federal prison then this is your book.

Piper Kerman met Nora after she graduated from Smith College but had no idea what to do with her life and had a "thirst for adventure".  She met Nora in her apartment building when she was holding down more than one job as a waitress.  Nora suddenly left for a while then came back and rented a bigger apartment on her own and furnished it with nice things.  It turns out that Nora was now in the drug-smuggling trade by way of a friend of her sister's who was "connected" and had been tutored in the ways of the drug world by and American art dealer who was also "connected".  She was now a drug smuggler and was being paid quite well for it.  Nora's sister Hester was dating a West African drug kingpin named Alaji.  Soon, Piper and Nora began a sexual relationship and Nora was taking Piper with her on trips around the world to conduct business.  Nora had young men to act as couriers and none of them ever got caught so it seemed like a only slightly risky adventure.  But Piper was lying to her friends and family and seeing little of them and she was getting to be bored on these trips. When Nora asked her to carry drug money because they really needed someone to do it she did.  Then a real emergency arose and she was asked to carry drugs, but the drugs never arrived at the airport where she was to pick them up so she took a plane back home to California and broke off all ties to Nora and her gang.  She had had to much adventure and she thought that was the end of it.

She began her new life and started working for a TV production company.  Her life was back on track. She even started dating one of her long time friends, Larry, whom she just realized she was in love with.  Then the U.S. Customs office came calling and told her she had been indicted in federal court on charges of drug smuggling and money laundering.  No one knew about her past with Nora and now everyone would have to know because it looked like she was going to go away to prison for some period of time.  She pleaded guilty to get a lesser sentence, but before they passed the sentence Alaji was arrested in London. The Feds wanted her to testify against him so they kept her out of prison for six years while they tried to get him extradited. Eventually the British released Alaji on his own accord and Piper was to go before a judge for sentencing. She was lucky and got only fifteen months.  She could have gotten up to a decade in prison.

To say prison was a real eye opener would be an understatement.  But when she arrived she was given a khaki pants and top to wear, a nightgown, granny underwear, mittens, scarf, woolly hat, shoes, powder to wash your clothes in, sheets and a towel.  She was quickly welcomed by others who gave her shower shoes and shampoo and a comb and soap and other things she might need.  She was told not to make her bed by her bunkmate that she would make the bed and that she was not to sleep under the covers because that would mess up the bed for inspection.  She was taught the first of many uses for a sanitary napkin is to clean the cell.  Those with the cleanest blocks go to dinner first.

For the first month you cannot hold down a job because you haven't been cleared medically yet so there's a lot of time on your hands.  She can't buy anything in the commissary until the check that Larry mailed to the prison system clears, but until then she gets help from others.  And she does get mail from friends and family which include lots of books.  Her friends and family start up a website for her and soon she is hearing from friends of friends and her outside support system makes things somewhat easier.  She also has visitation on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays.  Larry comes on Fridays and stays for hours.  You were patted down whenever you went in and strip searched whenever you came out and some of the guards were a bit handsy, but you put up with it to see your friends and family.  She is luckier than some in that she was put in Danbury prison in Connecticut which is near her home in New York and her family in Boston.  

Her first bunkmate Natalie was a quiet older woman doing eight years for who knows what. She works in the bakery so she is up early in the morning and goes to bed early at night.  She is a good bunkie to have in that you can trust to ask her questions whereas you really shouldn't ask anyone in prison questions but learn by what you see.  She makes a lot of friends because she is always willing to share her books or do something for a prisoner without anything in return.  In prison everything costs something.  About half way through her sentence they outlawed smoking in prison so cigarettes became a hot commodity.  But mostly it was stuff you bought in the commissary or extra food you smuggled from the cafeteria that was used for services such as doing a manicure or someone's hair or tightening up the fit of one of your jumpsuits so that you look good for visitors day.  They had a microwave that the guards looked the other way about them using to make their own meals after dinner with food purloined from dinner and bought in the commissary.  Piper learned to make a mean cheesecake.

But at any moment you could be thrown in SHU (solitary holding unit) for breaking even the smallest of rules.  And the COs (Corrections Officers) meant business. It was also your word against theirs and guess which one would be believed?  You walked a fine line.  Not to mention that it was very easy to get too used to prison and forget what life was like outside and make plans for the future.  When your day consists of getting through to the next one you lose sight of any goals you might have had.  You also get caught up in prison life: the people, the work, whatever you do to entertain yourself or keep in shape.  This was an incredible book that really lays it all out there.  Most of these women in prison are there for non-violent drug related charges.  Some are there for a minor probation violation.  This book shows that America needs to revamp it's justice system in the way that it sentences prisoners for drug related crimes because we have prisons that are overflowing with people that are what we deem to be undesirable.  Also, we need to have education and treatment available for those that want to better themselves or get off drugs.  And to better prepare them for the world after prison, such as how to get housing, aid, and a job.  Kerman writes passionately on this subject as she has lived it herself and was lucky to not have to leave prison without a job waiting for her or an apartment set up for her to live in.  Kerman learns a lot from her prison stint about the harm her time with Nora did to others as well as herself and whether or not she can let go of her hatred of Nora for naming her and putting her in prison in the first place.  This is a must read book.    

 July dawned with a sour flavor. The entire Camp facility seemed to groan in the heat, overtaxed. The phones stopped working. The washing machines broke, a horror show. Suddenly all the hair dryers disappeared. Two hundred women, no phones, no washing machines, no hair dryers—it was like Lord of the Flies on estrogen. I sure as hell wasn’t going to be Piggy.
-Piper Kerman (Orange Is the New Black p 174)
Link to Amazon:  https://www.amazon.com/Orange-New-Black-Womens-Prison-ebook/dp/B0036S4B6M/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1503322324&sr=1-1&keywords=orange+is+the+new+black

Friday, August 18, 2017

Thor: The Goddess of Thunder by Jason Aaron (Writer), Russell Dauterman (Artist), Jorge Molina (Artist and Colorist), Matthew (Colorist), and VC's Joe Sabino (Letterer)

Things have shaken up on what is now known as Asgardia.  Odin who willing left Asgardia to Freyja to rule as the All-Mother is back.  Thor, after a battle on the moon, where Nick Fury whispered something in his ear that the Watcher told him, dropped his hammer and has been unable to lift it since.  It seems that Thor is no longer worthy to lift it. But he isn't the only one. When Odin comes back he cannot lift it either and he put the magic spell on it and should be able to. Nor can anyone else who tries.  Odin decides to take over Asgardia once more which is not necessarily a good thing.

On earth a corporation has done some underwater excavation and uncovered a skull of power that the Frost Giants want and the Dark Elf Malekith, the Accursed has agreed to get for them.  Thor even though he lacks the power of his hammer shows up to fight the Dark Elf and save the earth but loses his arm and is left for dead at the bottom of the ocean.

Meanwhile, on the moon, a mysterious woman picks up Mjolnir.  She heads to earth to take up the fight and finds warriors frozen, including the Avengers.  While she is brave this does worry her as to what she is up against.  She figures out how to fight the Frost Giants that remain there and learns where the rest have headed to and what they are after and goes to stop them.

Odin is obsessed with finding out about her identity and I have to say so am I.  She has met Thor before you know that, but in what capacity who knows?  The electric blue-tinged white of the Frost Giants looks amazing next to her bright white lightning that snakes across the page.  When the Dark Elf breaks open a magic door it's a glorious sight of whirling magical symbols and gorgeous shades of pink exploding on the page.  Overall this is a fabulous comic and I can't wait to read the next one to see where it goes next.

Link to Amazon:   https://www.amazon.com/Thor-Vol-Goddess-Thunder-2014-2015-ebook/dp/B00VU2BKQA/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1503064050&sr=8-1&keywords=thor+goddess+of+thunder 

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Bury Your Dead by Louise Penny

Fair warning.  You have to read The Brutal Telling before reading this book, and here is why.  In this book, Penny deftly juggles three events in the air with the dexterity of a pro.  One ball is the death of the hermit in the previous book and whether or not whom they put in jail for the crime really did it.  One ball is a devastating terrorist event that takes down some of Chief Inspector of the Surete, Armand Gamache's, officers and injures some.   You can't always save everyone.  The third ball is the murder of the amateur archeologist, Augustin Renaud, who was notorious for looking for the body of the founder of Quebec, Champlain.  Oddly enough, the Provence has found many people, minor and major, but no one has been able to find the one that everyone really wants to find, their founder.

While Gamache sends one of his officers to investigate the hermits murder again in Three Pines, he is recuperating in the walled in part of Quebec City, with his old mentor, Emile.  The body is found at the English Literary and Historical Society, a little known English library that most Québécois would not know about, especially the French.  Gamache has been going there to do research, in order to take his mind off of the tragic events, in the last battle of the French and Indian War that made Quebec English territory.

When Renaud's body is found buried in the basement, the local police come to investigate and meet Gamache and ask for his help.  At first, he declines, but soon he can't help himself and becomes quite interested in the mystery.  The floor of the basement was scheduled to be cemented over the next week and while they advertised this, the members of the board were the ones who would best know.  The body would never have been found if the killer hadn't accidentally cut the telephone wires under the basement floor.

The other possibilities are the Society of Champlain.  Renaud had gone to them telling them he had solid information on where the body of Champlain was buried.  But Champlain the man had secrets, and perhaps the Society would not want these secrets to come out or maybe they wanted to discover the body themselves.   No one really liked Renaud and he was known for saying he had found Champlain, only to find the basement of a Chinese restaurant.

This book is amazingly well written and one of Penny's best ever.  I couldn't read the pages fast enough to find out what happens in Three Pines and whether the true killer was caught or not, and what exactly happened that caused so much destruction that leaves Gamache haunted by it, and last, but certainly not least, who really killed Renaud and is the body of Champlain hidden under the basement of the Literary Historical Library?  I cannot recommend this book enough.

For them, the past was as alive as the present.  And while forgetting the past might condemn people to repeat it, remembering it too vividly condemned them to never leave.
--Louise Penny (Bury Your Dead p 250)
Not everything buried is actually dead…For many the past is still alive.
--Louise Penny (Bury Your Dead p 251)
Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Bury-Your-Dead-Inspector-Gamache-ebook/dp/B003P8PENC/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1502886808&sr=1-1&keywords=bury+your+dead+by+louise+penny

Monday, August 14, 2017

Obsidian Prey by Jayne Castle

This book is one of Jayne Ann Krentz's science fiction Harmony books when a group of humans left earth and landed on the planet Harmony and set up a base there.  But the curtain between the planet and earth would close and these colonists would be stuck with each other, for better or worse.  Aliens had once lived on this planet long ago and left it.  They are believed to have lived underground in the catacombs that are made of some kind of green mineral.  Over the years, the humans began to develop psi abilities which allowed them to use amber to "rez up" things such as cars, microwaves, cell phones, locks, etc... Some would develop particularly strong psi talents that required the use of amber to do, such as tuning amber (it has a unique frequency and if you go into the catacombs without tuned amber you will wander around until you go mad and die), read auras, handle and create  "ghosts", or UDEMs (electrical energy that manifests in the form of a ghost) in the catacombs, music talents, botany talents, the ability to find and handle minerals, the ability to use alien technology.  The list is pretty endless. There are also dust bunnies, mysterious creatures with an endless apatite, who come and go as they please, collect the oddest things and form attachments with humans. They have the loyalty of a dog who always knows when you need him and the independent streak and the insistence that you take care of his needs first of a cat. They're adorable.

When Lyra Dore first started receiving the purple orchids with the card "We belong together" she knew they could only have come from one man: Cruz Sweetwater, the man who broke her heart and her bank account three months ago when his family took over an amber ruin that she had found and shown to him believing him to be a buyer under another name.   Instead, he reported it to the government, who in turn gave the contract to Amber Inc. to take care of, which is his family's mining company.  She went broke trying to sue him in court to get the claim back.  It also turns out that the Sweetwaters and the Dores have a long history of not liking each other.  The Dores have no luck, while the Sweetwaters are lucky as hell.  

At an art gallery, Lyra spots Cruz and he comes over and insists he needs to talk to her. She thinks this is when he is going to give his big apology and beg her to come back to him, but no, there are five men trapped inside of the ruin and no one can open the trapdoor, would she help?  He also still needs someone to tune the amethyst amber they found in the ruins and she is the only one they've found qualified to do so.  Lyra can tune amber of any kind and do special things with it.  The Sweetwaters are also amber tuners but they often have a second ability too: a hunter talent of some sort.  Cruz can generate a psi fog confusing your senses by using his obsidian amber.  He can also hunt down a psi print someone left behind.  They also know, quite quickly when they meet them, who the person is they are so supposed to be with forever. And for Cruz that is Lyra. 

Cruz asks her out to dinner the next night and Lyra's friend and the gallery owner, Nancy convinces her to go.  Nancy handles Vincent's, Lyra's dust bunny, art work.  They sell it under a false name and some mysterious buyer has been buying them up.  The money has been going toward paying the bills Lyra owes after losing the court case.  After dinner, they are attacked by two thugs who produce some ghosts. They want to kidnap Lyra and take out Cruz.  But Cruz takes them both out and calls in the Ghost Hunters Guild to have them deal with them and get any information out of them that they can.  Lyra was caught in his fog when it happened and she thought she was having another one of her hallucinations that she has been having. They happen during the day and everything looks warped and nightmarish.  

Cruz tells her that the feeling she had was caused by him and his talent.  He also tells her that the men getting trapped are just the latest incident at Amber Inc.  One of the relics was stolen and a lab tech was murdered.  He believes that someone is setting her up and he plans to stick to her like glue til this is sorted out and then forever after that because she's the girl for him.  He may not have sent the orchids, but he tells her his feelings for her never stopped. The only problem is that his company seems to really need her services and maybe he'd say anything to get them.  Will she ever be able to trust him again? 

Lyra is a real stubborn mule who refuses to believe anything Cruz or his family says about him having a broken heart over her or him telling her that in his family they know when they meet the one and she is meant to be his.  She just thinks it's about hot sex and getting her to work the amber. The two fight like cats and dogs sometimes, neither willing to give an inch.  But what could you expect from a Dores and a Sweetwater?  

This book is really great and lives up to the expectations from the other books in the series.  As usual, you don't need to read the other books in the series to read this one, but they are worth reading.  For once you start off with the man already knowing that he belongs to the woman and has a plan in place to get her back.  That she doesn't follow the plan is what makes the book so much fun.  These two were a real treat to read about and Cruz's family was quite interesting too (Big Jake the cantankerous grandfather and Jeff the cousin who wants to be the first to leave the family business and work for the police).   This was a real page turner and full of surprises.  I can't recommend it enough.

Link to Amazon:   https://www.amazon.com/Obsidian-Prey-Harmony-Book-6-ebook/dp/B002DW93BU/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1502717722&sr=8-1&keywords=obsidian+prey+jayne+castle

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Illusion Town by Jayne Castle

This book is one of Jayne Ann Krentz's science fiction Harmony books when a group of humans left earth and landed on the planet Harmony and set up a base there.  But the curtain between the planet and earth would close and these colonists would be stuck with each other, for better or worse.  Aliens had once lived on this planet long ago and left it.  They are believed to have lived underground in the catacombs that are made of some kind of green mineral.  Over the years, the humans began to develop psi abilities which allowed them to use amber to "rez up" things such as cars, microwaves, cell phones, locks, etc... Some would develop particularly strong psi talents that required the use of amber to do, such as tuning amber (it has a unique frequency and if you go into the catacombs without tuned amber you will wander around until you go mad and die), read auras, handle and create  "ghosts", or UDEMs (electrical energy that manifests in the form of a ghost) in the catacombs, music talents, botany talents, the ability to find and handle minerals, the ability to use alien technology.  The list is pretty endless. There are also dust bunnies, mysterious creatures with an endless apatite, who come and go as they please, collect the oddest things and form attachments with humans. They have the loyalty of a dog who always knows when you need him and the independent streak and the insistence that you take care of his needs first of a cat. They're adorable.

The founders also insisted on what is called a Covenant Marriage.  If you have one of these, it is nearly impossible to get out of.  You can pay to get out of one, but you will be broke by the end of it. The founders believed that close connections were important if they were going to survive. And these days no one gets out of being nagged by some family member about getting a CM, even the gays.  The founders also set up what is called a Marriage of Convenience, which was basically a classy way of saying you were shacking up with someone.  It could be broken at any time, by either party.

This book takes place mainly in Illusion Town, a kind of Las Vegas whose motto is "Where the thrills are real." It is set out in eight zones: the Fire and Storm Zones are uninhabitable due to intense paranormal radiation, the more opulent casinos and nightclubs were in the Amber and Saphire Zones, the low-rent enter gambling establishments and racier shows were in Amethyst and Emerald, the Dark Zone was a neighbourhood community with a few gambling places and clubs but was mostly where people who worked in the casinos lived, and the Shadow Zone was the least prosperous of the zones and whatever glamour it had was only visible at night and during the day the casinos were closed which is unheard of in the other zones.

Hannah west, a dreamlight talent who dream walks, has a shop set up where she is known as the Finder since she is able to find lost objects.  She was left with a couple Clara and Bernice who had a magic act together by her parents who died in a drug deal gone bad. Her mother left her with a crystal necklace that was to be her inheritance. Hannah has just found the missing piece of crystal which forms a map to the Midnight Carnival a very special find that she files a claim on.

The book opens with Hannah and one of her former clients, Elias Coppersmith finally agreeing to go out on a date.  When Elias heads out he finds out something bad has happened and the promise he gave Hannah that he would not ask her for a favor goes down the drain. The next thing the two of them are in a cheap motel trying to remember what happened. Worse, Elias has a certificate on him that says the two of them are in and MC.  What would possess them into getting an MC and what would cause them to lose their memories? The answer to the last question is quickly answered that they were psi-burned, which can cause memory loss. Now it's only a matter of trying to figure out what happened.

A fortune teller's slip of paper you would get at a carnival is in her purse and she believes that they must have gone to the Midnight Carnival and they quickly remember it was to escape the bikers. They figure out the bikers must have been trying to stop Hannah from working to help Elias's company who has men stuck behind a waterfall of dreamlight that was triggered while they were mining Ghost Town nearby. So they figure the best way to get the bikers and whoever is out to stop them is to get the job done.  Of course, they don't realize the commotion their marriage will cause in the DZ (Dark Zone) where her family is or in Coppersmith's family or workplace.

The more Hannah tries to brush off the MC as nothing the angrier Elias gets.  Both of them are falling for each other of course but Hannah cannot believe that she is capable of having a relationship with a man due to her dreamlight talent and he's a rich Coppersmith to boot. Elias on the other hand does not see any obstacles. Of course when the job in Ghost Town becomes more complicated than it at first appeared and it seems that more people are after Hannah the two must learn to trust each other as never before in order to survive this ordeal, after all in Illusion Town the thrills are real.

She hurried up the stairs, reminding herself that the two of them had been through worse during the night. They had been attacked by a motorcycle gang. They had been psi-burned. They had gotten married.
-Jayne Castle (Illusion Town p 100)  
Hannah watched the very still men in the street. “Are they--?” “Alive.” Elias glanced at the devise in his hand. “I think. Still working out a few bugs in the crystal-ware. I didn’t want to risk using it with us inside the car, not at that power level. Too much chance of blowback. Might have taken us out, as well.” She swallowed hard. “I see. Wow. Okay. Who needs a bodyguard when you’ve got an engineer handy.” 
-Jayne Castle (Illusion Town p 125) 
“You’re not exactly normal. Neither am I. Coppersmiths don’t have a problem with not being normal. You could say it’s a family tradition.” “You don’t know how much that means to me,” she said. “Thank you.”  “It’s not a compliment, damn it. It’s just a fact.” She smiled. “It’s the best gift you could have given me tonight.”
-Jayne Castle (Illusion Town p 147)
“Life is simple for a dust bunny,” he said, “It’s a priorities thing, I guess. What didn’t kill you in the past isn’t worth obsessing about and there’s not much point trying to anticipate what might try to kill you in the future.” Hannah wrinkled her nose. “Because whatever it is, it will probably come from the one direction you least expect it to come from.” 
-Jayne Castle (Illusion Town p 206)
Link to Amazon:  https://www.amazon.com/Illusion-Town-Novel/dp/0515155756/ref=sr_1_sc_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1482936581&sr=1-1-spell&keywords=Illusiion+Town

The New 52! Suicide Squad Volume One: Kicked in the Teeth by Adam Glass (Writer), Federico Dallocchio (Artist), Clayton Henry (Artist), Ransom Getty (Artist), Andrei Bressan (Artist), Cliff Richards (Artist), Ig Guara (Artist), Scott Hanna (Artist), Val Staples (Colorist), Allen Passalaqua (Colorist), Jared K. Fletcher (Letterer)

This reimagined Suicide Squad opens with them being sent out to deal with a plague centered in a football stadium. The members are Deadshot, Diablo, Harley Quinn, Savant, Spider, Voltac, and King Shark.  After killing everyone in the stadium except a baby which is the package they are sent to get, they leave and await evac.

But instead of evac their implants inside their necks which can be triggered to explode at any time by Waller, the head of the Squad who works for the government, are recalibrated for another thirty-six hours so they can do another job.  They are criminals and are working off their sentences by doing dangerous jobs no one else wants to do.

Added to the Squad are YoYo and Boomerang, who has been put in charge of the group and given a switch for everyone's implants.  Boomerang and Deadshot have a bad history together and he can't believe that Waller put him in charge of this mission.  But Deadshot got infected at the stadium and he's in no shape to lead. Hopefully, the baby will provide a cure.

Just what is Waller playing at here with putting Boomerang in charge and having them go out on another mission so soon?  And when Harley finds out the Joker's dead there will be hell to pay.  Deadshot just wants to keep going for his little girl and the visitation he gets and Diablo wants to make amends.  The rest want to get out as soon as possible. The use of color is bold and slaps you in the face especially when it comes to Harley Quinn and Diablo's letterbox is black with red letters which fit him and is very cool, if at times hard to read.  The plot is really quite great and sets up a very interesting series that I can't wait to continue.  

Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Suicide-Squad-Vol-Kicked-Teeth-ebook/dp/B008RNK76E/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1502456645&sr=8-1&keywords=suicide+squad+the+new+52+volume+1

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Moon Dance by J.R. Rain

Samantha Moon once carried a gun and hunted down the bad guys while working for HUD in Orange County California and had a happy marriage.  But that was six years ago. Until one fateful night when she is attacked and left for dead by a vampire and becomes one herself.  Now she works as a private eye at night while taking care of her two kids during the day after a short nap that leaves her feeling sluggish.  To drive the minivan, which has tinted windows, she slathers herself with sunscreen and wears clothing all over herself and a big floppy hat and makes a mad dash for it under the detached garage.  She might burn a little bit but heals fast. Her kids and family believe that she has a skin condition that makes it so she cannot go out in the sun.  Her sister Mary Lou knows the truth and helps out however she can. Her husband Dan set up a delivery service with a butcher to get cow's blood so she doesn't feed on humans.  She is able to stomach certain alcohols such as certain types of wine but they have no effect on her and they have no taste. She can also drink water. She still drinks them to give herself a sense of normalcy especially when she is out with her sister at their favorite bar talking about her vampirism, Dan's cheating, and her latest case.

Her latest case involves Kingsley Fulcrum who turns out to be a werewolf but is also an excellent defense attorney who has gotten off lots of people some of them guilty as sin and real bad guys.  Recently in front of the courthouse, he was shot five times in the neck and head and he wants Moon to find out who did it. The police are saying it was a random shooting and are getting nowhere.  Samantha finds herself attracted to Kingsley but fights it because she is still trying to save her marriage not just because they once loved each other, but because Dan will take the kids if he divorces her.

Moon goes to see Detective Sherbet at the Fullerton police station in order to get a copy of the report on the shooting of Kingsley.  It's just her luck that he is a sharp detective and tells her after seeing her that he believes that she either has a skin condition that prevented her from meeting him at any time but night and also accounts for her looks or that she is a vampire.  He gives her the file and his ten cents worth of advice on the case. He also believes that it was connected to a client but he doesn't have the resources to go through all his files and chase down all those leads.  She's welcome to do it and good luck to her. He hopes that she'll share what she learns with him. She says yes, but in reality, she plans on telling him only what she wants to and only when she wants to.  But she likes Sherbet.  He's a good cop.

This book will keep you guessing as to who the killer is.  You also really feel for the trials and tribulations that Samantha goes through in her life as a mother and wife.   Moon is also a real smart ass and has a way of trying to see the bright side of things in a darkly humorous way.  This is a great start to the series and I highly recommend it.

Link to Amazon:  https://www.amazon.com/Moon-Dance-Vampire-Hire-Book-ebook/dp/B002Q0Y27Y/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1502282068&sr=1-1&keywords=moon+dance+jr+rain


Monday, August 7, 2017

Dig If You Will the Picture: Funk, Sex, God, and Genius in the Music of Prince by Ben Greenman

Greenman is a free-lance journalist, a critic, a man who has helped others write their story (Questlove, George Clinton, and Brian Wilson), and has written both fiction and non-fiction works.  He is also the biggest Prince fan ever and owns nearly every Prince song there is to be had.  I mention this in order to show that he is qualified to examine Prince's music and making determinations about it.

Prince was an extraordinary artist who was quite prolific, destroyed the notions of race and gender, and "redefined the role of sex in pop music".  Prince was like a machine who never stopped making music often staying up all night then waking up early the next morning.  He was obsessed with it. He had side projects where he mentored others and produced their records, writing the songs on the albums.

Most of these groups or solo acts were made up of women. He also offered help to those who were already established, such as Stevie Nicks (who actually asked him), Paula Abdul, Bonnie Rait, and more.  His female groups really begin with Vanity 6. They had very minor success even though Vanity wasn't the greatest singer. Vanity would be replaced with the woman who played the female lead in Purple Rain, Apollonia, and the band would be renamed Apollonia 6. While she had a better singing voice, the songs were too good and lacked the "punkish insistence" of Vanity 6.  Some of the songs that were meant for Apollonia 6 ended up going to others, such as the Bangles ("Manic Monday"), Shelia E. ("Glamours Life") and Prince himself ("17 Days").  Shelia E. and Sheena Easton, both protegees of Prince, benefitted greatly from working with him. But that was not always the case with the protegees who worked with him. Ingrid Chavez was no winner and neither was Carmen Electra, Tamar Davis or Bria Valente and let's please forget Kim Basinger.   Jill Jones was another exception of a protegee that worked out.  He worked with her on and off throughout the 1980s and finally released her album in 1987 which "offers a nearly perfectly disillusion of the Minneapolis aesthetic synth-heavy funk loaded with double entendre, heartfelt ballads, and layered vocal arrangements." He was a Svengali, however, his connection with his own female identity meant he was just as caught in the web as they were.

On all of Prince's albums, he always gave thanks to God. He had a faith in God that came out in his music. On the song "Let's Go Crazy" it starts off with a church organ and a sermonesque talking bit about the afterworld.  He recorded a song called "God" that was subtitled "Love Theme From Purple Rain" that was put on a B side. In America and Britain it was instrumental, but elsewhere there were words that described the end times and how you should dance in response to it.  The song "Temptation" describes how Prince let his carnal desires keep him from the divine.  "Sometimes It Snows In April" shows Christopher Tracy as a Christ figure waiting for resurrection.  "The Cross" couldn't have been more plainly faith-based.

The book also covers sex in his music, race and politics in his music, why he changed his name and the chaos that ensued, his frustration with his fans and the internet, what he was like on stage, and how he was able to produce so much for so long.  This book was an odd if somewhat interesting read. The author reminds you of the English major who sees symbolism everywhere when sometimes a lyric is just a lyric so to speak.  He does love the music but is not too blind to admit when a song sucks.  I also have to say his knowledge of the music is unparalleled.  One thing I really enjoyed was the list of albums and songs at the end with his pick of one song from the album and a brief description of why it was so good.  Overall this wasn't such a bad book. It was highly informative and gave this Prince fan some songs to hunt down.

Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Dig-If-You-Will-Picture-ebook/dp/B01MRU59CS/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1502109433&sr=8-1&keywords=dig+if+you+will+the+picture


Friday, August 4, 2017

The Good, the Bad, and the Emus by Donna Andrews

This is the one of the funniest in the hilarious Meg Langslow mystery series, all of which are named after birds (the first is Murder With Peacocks, but others include: Revenge of the Wrought Iron Flamingos, We'll Always Have Parrots, Crouching Buzzard, Leaping Loon, Stork Raving Mad, Some Like it Hawk, The Hen of the Baskervilles, and Lord of the Wings).  Meg is a blacksmith who lives in a small college town in Caerphilly, Virginia with her husband, a drama professor at the college, their two children, her parents who live next door (including her "retired" father a doctor who is obsessed with mysteries and in solving any murder that happens in their area and her mother a classy woman with excellent tastes, that do not always agree with Meg's idea of decoration).  In their large house on a farm they bought, they have found various family members living with them, including Rose Noir, a vegetarian who makes things with herbs and such to give away and sell and her brother Rob, who passed the bar, but never wanted to be a lawyer, but created a killer game about lawyers, that his company, that is wisely run by someone else, has made him a lot of money and Rob has continued to create more successful games.  They also live with many farm animals and two dogs: a small dog named Spike, who is extremely vicious and people avoid, and Rob's Irish Setter, who may be sweet, but is so large and has been taught to jump on people, that some are scared of her too.  Meg also has a great many family members on her mother's side that are hard to keep track of, and frankly remind me of a friend of mine, who is also from Virginia and has a large extended family.  If you need anything done, there is always someone in the family who can.

A few books back, Meg's father found out that the famous animal rescuer and television star, Dr. Blake is his father.  In this book, Blake has hired a PI to find the woman who fathered the child he never knew about and could not find after he had to go on a quick trip to the Gallipolis Islands.  Meg is said to look exactly like her.  The PI has found a woman, Annabel, living an hour away, who is the cousin of the woman, Cordelia, whom he thinks is Meg's grandmother.  A recluse, she only agrees to meet with Meg if she helps to solve the murder of her cousin, six months ago.  She believes it is their evil neighbor, but other suspects soon begin to turn up, when Dr. Blake finds about the wild Emus living in the area, who were released into the wild by their owner, a rancher who could not make a go of it.  These Emus are causing problems for the town and people are starting to shoot them, so Blake, with his followers and cameras, arrive to make a rescue.  Then, someone gives Blake a poisoned bottle of scotch that he gives to another man, who almost dies from drinking it.  But that is not the last victim.

Meg soon finds herself becoming close to Annabel, even though she is slightly resentful that her grandmother lived so close by, but never got in contact with them and now she is dead, while Annabel is still alive.  Cordelia was interested in buying back the farmland they had sold and created a pottery and art studio and place for artists to sell their wares, but she is not the only one interested in that property.  She had it checked for mining purposes by an environmentalist who said it would be a disaster and not worth it for the minerals inside to go through with.  However, others would like to open a mine there and just might do anything to have that happen.

While Meg begins to suspect that one of the volunteers who came with her grandfather to help with the emu rescue may be the killer, she cannot figure out why. It will take all her skill and her notebook that tells her when to breathe to figure this one out.  This really is a great book in the series that adds to the history of the Langslows by allowing Meg to find out about her grandmother.  I cannot recommend this book enough.

Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Good-Bad-Emus-Langslow-Mysteries-ebook/dp/B00HP1I7UM/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1501855070&sr=8-1&keywords=the+good+the+bad+and+the+emus

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Sold Down the River by Barbara Hambly

This is the fourth Benjamin January novel in the series about the doctor/piano player who lives in New Orleans in the 1830s as a Free Man of Color.  This is perhaps, so far, one of her most serious and dangerous books in the series.  January has just been recently robbed and is in need of money, but that is not what ultimately makes him take on this job for the policeman Shaw.  January's former master, Simon Fourchet is having trouble on his sugar cane plantation, Mon Triomphe.  The slave's food has been poisoned, a butler murdered when he snuck a drink of Fourchet's liquor, and another slave killed in a fire in the mill.  There are voodoo marks everywhere and Fourchet believes there is the possibility of a slave revolt, but he is not entirely convinced and wants to hire January to uncover the truth.

After some convincing by his sister and Rose, he reluctantly agrees, mainly because there is a good chance that if something is not done, the slaves will be punished severely for this.  There had been a revolt in 1798 on Fourchet's family plantation, but most of the slaves were caught and killed.  So January leaves behind his Parisian French for the African patois of a field hand (there are many different dialects of French in the area).  He pretends to be his violin player friend Hannibal's personal slave.  Hannibal, who suffers from consumption, is invited to stay on Fourchet's plantation when his health takes a turn for the worse.  January, who was too young to work in the cane fields before being freed by his mother's lover, still remembers how things work on one, and is placed in the fields since they do not have enough hands.  It is hard work and January's tender, piano playing hands are soon blistered and bleeding and he is aching all over from working from sunup until dark.  It will take a while for him to recover and be able to play again at the winter balls if he can survive this at all.

He makes friends and begins to find out information about the slaves, such as the relationship between Quashie and Jeanette, who is being forced to have sex with the evil overseer, who has it in for Quashie and blames him for anything that goes wrong on the plantation by having him severely whipped, as when the sugar cane knives go missing and are mostly destroyed.  On the plantation, women are given, in a sort of marriage, to male slaves in order to get more work out of them.  Kikki, for instance, is first given to Reuben, until she lets Madam Marie-Noel Fourchet, a sixteen-year-old cousin of the Doubrey's who owns a large piece of land and have a complicated history and are upset at her for marrying Fourchet, who now has a chance of owning her father's plantation, Refuge, lets her marry Gilles, the murdered butler.  She is Fourchet's third wife, the other two having died.  The first gave birth to his eldest son, Robert, who was away in Paris with his annoying wife and children when the trouble first began.  The second son, Esteban, is the only surviving child of his mother. The others were believed to have been killed by the slave nanny.  Robert makes many overtures toward his stepmother and seems to have feelings for her that it appears she does not share.

Mohammad, the old blacksmith, provides January with information, including the whereabouts of the slaves when the various incidents occur.  It is indeed a true puzzle because it appears that a slave or former slave is causing the trouble.  But why?  Or maybe it is one of Fourchet's many enemies, which include Trader Jones who trades illegal items to slaves and others and is hated by everyone up and down the river.

January has Hannibal return to New Orleans and talk to Shaw about looking into Fourchet's will and his son's activities in New Orleans.  He is only supposed to be gone a day, but when a couple of days pass, January becomes quite worried.  He has a signal he places on a post visible to the ships passing for Shaw to know that he is ok.  He places a different colored neckerchief for each day of the week.  When two slave cabins catch fire along with some other buildings, Fourchet is affected in a minor way by the smoke and needs to spend some time in bed.  With each day, however, he gets sicker and sicker.  Now January is terrified because the Ney brothers are in league with the Doubreys against Fourchet and the Ney brothers are known for grabbing any slave and selling them upriver and January is in danger of having this happen to him.  His only option is to take down the handkerchief and hope that Shaw gets the message and him and Hannibal return in time to save him.

This is a dark novel that really explores the life of a slave on a cane plantation, which is the hardest type of plantation to work on.  You can actually get an idea of the complicated relationships between master and slave and that not all masters are good ones, like in Gone With the Wind, or evil, like in Uncle Tom's Cabin.  This, in my opinion, is a truer account of a slave's life and how throughout, they manage to find happiness when and where they can, however fleetingly, and endure, no matter what they are put through.  This is also a story of the evil found in the hearts of humans that can lead one to consider and commit murder and other acts of violence.  This book is a true tour de force and a worthy read. 


Hell, thought January, stumbling on blistered feet, aching, his mind curiously clear.  What window had the ancients looked through, to see that Hell would actually be a Louisiana sugar-mill on a November night?
--Barbara Hambly (Sold Down the River p 67)
January recalled what the Romans has said, that Death was Freedom for a slave.
--Barbara Hambly (Sold Down the River p 101)
Given the Creole system of keeping land and family together and everyone living and working under one roof, I’m a little surprised there aren’t more murders in such households.
--Barbara Hambly (Sold Down the River p 110)
As Cinderella would probably tell you, even a prince who only recognizes your footwear is preferable to a lifetime cleaning out grates.
--Barbara Hambly (Sold Down the River p 111)
You can’t defeat the army, he thought. But if you lie quiet in cover you might save yourself and win a skirmish or two.
--Barbara Hambly (Sold Down the River p 125)
How is it women can sit and talk about men, and they get all prickly and hot when they think men are talking about them?
--Barbara Hambly (Sold Down the River p 136)
In the few moments over the past four days when he wasn’t sound asleep or wishing he could be, he missed Rose desperately, and, though he felt childish for doing so, missed his piano nearly as much.  Missed the godlike logic of Bach, and Vivaldi’s wry grace.  Missed the peace they brought to his mind and his heart.
--Barbara Hambly (Sold Down the River p 143)
Behind every great fortune there is a great crime, my dear Theo.  Surely you know that.
--Barbara Hambly (Sold Down the River p 281-2)
Link to Amazon:  https://www.amazon.com/Sold-River-Benjamin-January-Mystery-ebook/dp/B004IK8Q18/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1501678794&sr=8-1&keywords=sold+down+the+river