Book Review: Know the Past, Find the Future by Caro Llewellyn

The centennial was in 2011.  In honor of that and Penguin Books' 65th Anniversary, we've been given a collection of 100 notable figures who talk about what items mean the most from the many collections at the library.  There is much more than just books at the New York Public Library.

This is a great glimpse into the many collections contained at the Library.  My own love affair with the MYPL started very early.  Between the guardian lions and the feeling when you step inside, it was a favorite place to visit whenever my New York relatives would take me to the City.  When I became old enough to go on my own, I always took time to visit what was my favorite place downtown.  3.5 out of 5.

Book Review: Season of Storms by Susanna Kearsley

Young actress Celia Sands is offered the lead in a play written for her namesake by lover Galeazzo D'Ascanio.  His grandson, Alessandro D'Ascanio, is producing it in Italy.  The original Celia never got a chance to star in it, having disappeared shortly before.

This is a modern gothic.  Kearsley has taken all the best bits from classic and traditional gothics and twisted them up.  The author's use of character and location gives it that bit of commonsense that gothics need to shine again.  Celia isn't one of those stupid heroines who go where there is a strong possibility of danger, at least not without good reason.  We still have murder, mysterious disappearances, ghosts, and a strong undercurrent of pain.  This was a gut wrenching story, so you might want to grab a few tissues as you approach the end of the story.  4 out of 5. (It might've been 4.5 out of 5, but for the loss of one of my favorites in the story.)

Man from U.N.C.L.E. Review: The Vulcan Affair

In anticipation of Guy Ritchie's reboot of this beloved series, I've cracked open the U.N.C.L.E. briefcase to review the old series.  We start off with the first episode, aired September 22, 1964.  Back in those days it was aired in black & white, although there was a pilot episode done in color.  I am an original fan of the series, having watched it and the latter, and much weaker, spin-off The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. from the first time it aired.  Remarkable as it was opposited McHale's Navy when it first started.  My love for this series continued to the bitter end.  I read all the spin-off books and magazines, joined my friends in playacting scenes from the more intense hurt/comfort and angsty episodes, and that love has always simmered inside throughout the years.

Spoiler alert.  During this recaps and reviews, there may be spoilers, so if you haven't seen the original series, you might want to skip these.  I am not using the cuts since the series was aired and released in DVD format so long ago, so be aware.

The basic setup of the series was an organization, U.N.C.L.E. or United Network Command for Law and Enforcement, without boundaries of country or politics.  The aim of U.N.C.L.E. was to protect the world from baddies, particularly those from THRUSH.  There were U.N.C.L.E. offices all over the world, but Section 1 was New York City.  Number 1, or the head guy, at Section 1 was Mr. Waverley, wonderfully played by the aging Leo G. Carroll.  His top agents for all the tough jobs were Napoleon Solo (Robert Vaughn) and Illya Kuryakin (David McCallum).  Solo was an American, but Illya was Russian.  The hook for the early years at least was the involvement of an innocent, either intentionally or by accident.

We start off strong with THRUSH agents busting into U.N.C.L.E. headquarters in an effort to assassinate Mr. Waverley before he can send Solo on a mission ot stop the murder of an emerging African nation's leader.  Napoleon quickly takes care of the situation before Waverley can be reached.  We meet Illya for a short time, but he won't be involved in this mission.  Early days for everyone's favorite special agent.  Genius businessman and engineer Andrew Vulcan (Fritz Weaver) is the man from THRUSH that must be stopped, but to get near him, Solo enlists, somewhat forcably, the assistance of Vulcan's high school steady, Elaine May Bender (Pat Crowley).  She has since married and has two children, but is convinced by her clueless husband to go.  A cover story has been carefully crafted for her, that of a rich widow.

Things go pearshaped when everyone knows who Solo is when he appears at Vulcan's party, not to mention the actual focus of the assassination attempt is actually NOT the man everyone thought.  There is action and daring escapes, witty dialog and unusual camera angles.  Oh, and we didn't have the pen communicator as yet.  Solo's was a box the size of a cigarette box for this episode, but we still communicated on Channel D.

Some of the more unusual aspects of the series was the use of POC in respectful ways, with such casualness.  An Asian woman who manned the door to headquarters, a black guard farther inside.  Our African nation leaders, who included Ivan Dixon & William Marshall, were well-spoken and educated, no tribal Tarzanesce crap.  Considering the time period, this was as extraordinary as a black co-lead in I SPY a year later in 1965.

A funny fact is that, after the original pilot was aired, the NBC network heads wanted to get rid of the foreign guy.  Will Kuluva, the pilot head of Section 1, was subsequently replaced by Leo G. Carroll.  Unfortunately, the executives had meant the Russian guy.  It reminds me of the executives at CBS who wanted the green guy with the pointy ears fired.  Both Illya and Spock became the most popular characters on their respective series.

Honestly, the episode holds up quite well.  Cheeky, but exciting, much in the mode of James Bond.  If I watched it today for the first time, I would still have put it on my Must Watch list.

Book Review: Best Little Stories from the Civil War by C. Brian Kelly & Ingrid Smyer

Over 100 little stories of unusual events, strange happenings, and wonderful moments from the Civil War.  The focus is on the human story, from soldiers and sailors to slaves and civilians.

I love the "Best Little Stories" collections.  Lots of history in small digestible bites.  But it isn't all cold facts and funny stories, it is pain and sadness and tragedy.  And incredible waste.  More Americans, North and South, were killed in this conflict than any other one we've been involved in since.  More than World War II.  More than Vietnam.  Like so many Lost Causes, it has been romanticized over time, but there were real people involved, people who didn't always agree with the decisions made by their state leaders, but who felt that their loyalties should be with their homes.  4 out of 5.

Book Review: High Water Hellion by Glynn Marsh Alam

Luanne Fogarty 5

Tony Amado calls Luanne Fogarty for a favor, to dive in a search for something his deceased aunt tossed into a nearby lake.  Luanne reluctantly agrees, traveling from her home in Tallahassee to a small town outside Ocala.  As they temporarily share the small cottage, the two find themselves in the midst of even stranger mysteries, from the deaths of other old women to a peculiar neighbor boy, all in the middle of alligator mating season and an approaching hurricane.

We finally get a much better look at Tony, a difficult character to like based on his prior actions.  Add the old gang coming down to help out and you have a wonderful mystery filled with characters old and new.  I rather hope we get to come to the area again.  I liked quite a few of the locals.  There is some animal cruelty off pages, so beware if you're sensitive to that.  The person responsible is caught.

If you want a good mystery series set in Florida, particularly parts of Florida not normally used or if you just want a damn good mystery, this is the series for you.  I would recommend reading in order simply to get to know all the continuing and occasionally visiting characters, but you won't be too lost if you don't.  Alam is good sketching out everyone's place in Luanne's life.  4.5 out of 5.

Book Review: Peanut Goes to School by Thea Harrison

Elder Races 6.7

Liam, outwardly looking like a six year old, is sent to first grade despite not being more than two years old.  While there he learns about bullies, bad teachers, and acquires an older girlfriend.  And he also worries whether he might be bad.

The boy is really coming along, obviously confused by powers and talents that no one could possibly predict.  At heart he is a kind young man who has much of both his mother and father in him.  4 out of 5. 

Book Review: Pia Saves the Day by Thea Harrison

Elder Races 6.6
Since Liam is growing so fast, Dragos and Pia are moving out of the city.  There is lots of work that needs to be done to make it theirs as well as giving the sentinels a place to live.  An accident during blasting injures Dragos badly enough to wipe all his memories away.  Pia goes after him, hoping to heal him before it is too late.
There is a sadness with this story as there is not a full happy ending.  That doesn't mean that Pia and Dragos don't stay together, but changes will have to be dealt with, both by Dragos himself as well as the rest of the group, family and friends.  I look forward to how the next story will handle this healing.  4.5 out of 5.

Graphic Book Review: Sensation Comics featuring Wonder Woman

Volume 1.

An interesting, if widely divergent, collection of tales of Wonder Woman.  The talent in both art and story runs the gamut of fantastic to awful.  If you can get it at discount, go for it.  But to be honest, it isn’t worth the full price.  3.35 out of 5.

“Gothamazon” by Gail Simone (writer); Ethan Van Sciver & Marcelo di Chiara (artists).  When the villains of Gotham band together to take out Batman, Oracle must call for help.  Wonder Woman must learn how to combat these unusual criminals.  Luckily both Catwoman and Harley Quinn are ready and able to give advice.  The artwork is marvelous, crisp and clear, so well-defined, simply beautiful.  A quick, almost AU story.  The idea of Diana learning to defeat the Gotham baddies in her own unusual way is well thought out.  4 out of 5.

“Defender of Truth” by Amanda Deibert (writer); Cat Staggs (artist).  Circe is causing havoc until Wonder Woman arrives to save the day.  She also takes a moment to help a young admirer when he is teased for liking her (boys have to like boy stuff, not girl stuff).  The art is not as crisp on the previous story.  In fact, it is quite blurry in spots.  The story was extremely sparse.  The best scene was probably with the boy.  3 out of 5.

“Brace Yourself” by Jason Bischoff (writer); David A. Williams (artist).  This is an adorable look at a young Diana’s life and how she trained to become the woman we know.  The determination and cheekiness on the child’s face was well drawn.  3.5 out of 5.

“Taketh Away” by Ivan Cohen (writer); Marcus To (artist).  After some unfortunate remarks about the Gods on television, Diana finds her strength and powers gone.  Great look at Diana’s inner strength.  Good art, reminds me of the styles of the 1970s.  3.5 out of 5.

“Bullets and Bracelets” by Sean E. Williams (writer); Marguerite Sauvage (artist).  Diana as a rock star.  A little preachy, a little weird.  Art is not as refined.  My honest reaction to it was more Josie and the Pussycats than Wonder Woman.  3 out of 5.

“Morning Coffee” by Ollie Masters (writer); Amy Mebberson (artist).  Wonder Woman is called to London to help stop Catwoman.  Very simplistic artwork, yet it is quite engaging.  Poor dragon, gets beat up for just doing his job.  3.5 out of 5.

“No Chains Can Hold Her!” by Gilbert Hernandez (writer and artist).  Okay, Wonder Woman on steroids.  Diana fights cheesy killer robots and lizard-like aliens.  Story and art majorly suck.  Sorry, Gilbert, but it does.  Even the Original Wonder Woman art wasn’t this horrible.  2 out of 5.

“Attack of the 500-Foot Wonder Woman” by Rob Williams (writer); Tom Lyle (artist).  Byth of Thanagar is tearing Gateway City to bits.  Wonder Woman, Atom, Hawkman, and Hawkwoman must save the day.  Not too bad.  Decent art, good story.  3.5 out of 5.

“Ghosts and Gods” by Neil Kleid (writer); Dean Haspiel (artist).  Well, here’s a current Arrow villain, Ra’s al Ghul, fighting Wonder Woman and Etta Candy in their search for a stolen purple ray device.  They are joined by Deadman, a murdered circus performer who has been directed to help balance justice.  Actually, the artwork in this tale reminds me quite a bit of early Wonder Woman, particularly the 1950s-1960s.  Not a bad tale.  3.5 out of 5.

“Dig for Fire” by Corinna Bechko & Gabriel Hardman (writers); Gabriel Hardman (artist).  Diana’s mother has directed her to travel to Apokolips to search for two missing Amazons.  An exciting tale and great art to accompany it.  Well done, a great finish to the collection.  4 out of 5.

Book Review: Dragos Takes a Holiday by Thea Harrison

Elder Races 6.5
Dragos takes Pia and Liam to Bermuda for a short getaway.  While there Dragos will do some treasure hunting, but considering who they are, trouble quickly follows.  Plus everyone's hands are full as the Peanut is shifting.
So adorable.  I love getting to catch up on the original lovers throughout the run of the series.  Liam will be a handful, considering he is a combination of talents from Mommy and Daddy.  5 out of 5