huckI love superheroes, but lately I’ve been burnt out on spandex superheroes in my own reading. Needing a mental reading break for myself, I scoured the new shelves looking for a hero without a leotard. I found my good ol’ hero in Huck: Book One: All-American.

Huck begins in a quiet seaside town with a large muscled man bouncing around on top of several cars on a busy interstate. He then runs exceedingly fast and dives into the ocean. He lifts heavy objects, finds what he’s looking for, and deposits it on a local woman’s doorstep. With that quick introduction, readers are left wondering who exactly that mysterious person is. That’s Huck.

Huck is a local gas station clerk who uses his special gifts every day to do a good deed for someone. Huck can find anything and anyone. Seriously. It’s one of his gifts, besides super-duper strength and general all-around awesome good guy-ness(Is that a word? I’m making it a word.) Everyone in this small town knows to keep Huck’s good deeds and gifts a secret because he needs to be protected. Seems easy, right? Nope. A new person moves into town and, of course, ruins his anonymity. With this new person blabbing his story to the media, Huck soon finds himself unwillingly famous and hounded at every turn by anyone and everyone. With this fame, people start coming out of the woodwork looking for help, to introduce him to the world, and to solve the mystery of his past. Huck naturally believes the good in all, but to the people in this small town(and to the readers), it quickly becomes obvious that his new friends may not actually be his friends and the people in danger may not really be the ones in danger. Things can actually be too good to be true.

If you want a superhero without spandex or even just a good old feel-good helping story, check out Huck by Millar and let me know what you think!

championslargeThe Champions is a documentary about Michael Vick’s pit bulls that were used for dog fighting.

In 2007, Michael Vick was found to be involved in an illegal interstate dog fighting ring and served 21 months in jail. The dogs were originally held as “evidence” for the trial.  The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) and other animal organizations, such as the Friends of Animals, took in the former fighting dogs.  Of the 49 dogs that were seized from Vick’s property, only ONE dog was euthanized for being too vicious. One other dog was euthanized due to health problems.

So what happened to the other 47 dogs?  The Champions follows some of the Vick dogs to see what happened to them after they were rescued. One dog, Cherry, is a prime example of how sweet pit bull dogs can be. Cherry was super shy and scared of a lot of things when he was rescued.  With a lot of love and patience from the Friends of Animals, Cherry was able to trust people again and was adopted by a loving family, which includes two small children, a dog and a cat. Recently, Cherry was given his “Best Day of Ever” (find the video on YouTube). Part of his best day was being able to play with kittens. Cherry clearly is a lover, not a fighter.

The theme of this documentary is that pit bulls are just like any other dog. A lot of myths surround the pit bull breed that are simply untrue. Sadly, many pit bulls are euthanized every day due to misconceptions of this breed. There are many communities that have bans on pit bulls. Dogs in these areas would be confiscated and put down. This became a concern when 22 of the Vick dogs had to be taken cross country. Another pit bull owner ran into this situation. He lived in Miami and was transferred to Toronto, which bans pit bulls. He felt that he could not teach his children that dogs were disposable. Now his family continues to live in Miami while he is in Toronto.

The Vick dogs have left a lasting legacy. They have proven that dogs from fighting rings can become family pets, agility dogs and therapy dogs. If dogs are given food, water, shelter and the proper training, they can be loving animals. Now dogs rescued from fighting rings are no longer automatically euthanized. Rescue organizations now step in to help take care of these dogs.

 

Read more about the pit bulls rescued from Michael Vick’s fighting ring:

lost-dogsThe Lost Dogs: Michael Vick’s dogs and their tale of rescue and redemption by Jim Gorant

 

 

audieSaving Audie: a pit bull puppy gets a second chance by Dorothy Hinshaw Patent

Even though this book is in the juvenile section, there is a lot of information for adults and children. A great book to learn about Michael Vick’s dogs and more importantly, the love and compassion people have for dogs.

 

 

the-librariansThe Librarians is an American fantasy-adventure television show that premiered in 2014. If the title sounds familiar, it should! This show is a direct spin-off of The Librarian film series starring Noah Wyle as Flynn Carsen. (Look below for the list of The Librarian movies available for check-out).

This television series begins by introducing viewers to Eve Baird, a NATO agent who bumps into the librarian Flynn Carsen, a meeting that sends the two off on a new journey together. Baird becomes the librarian’s new guardian and, after a quick and dirty introduction to the Library and its magic, is immediately helping Flynn on a rescue mission. It turns out that someone is killing off potential Librarians and they need to be stopped.

Hijinks ensue and we soon find Flynn off to the find the Library after it disappears and is lost in time and space in an effort to save itself from the Serpent Brotherhood. Baird is left to protect the new Librarians and help Jenkins, the caretaker of the Library’s branch office, train the newbies. Meet Jacob Stone, Cassandra Cillian, and Ezekiel Jones: three people who were invited by the Library to interview for the Librarian position that was ultimately given to Flynn Carsen after the three didn’t show up for their auditions. They are each geniuses in their own rights with quirks and specialized knowledge that allow them to solve problems and escape from tricky situations seemingly at the last moment. Throughout the first season, this foursome, plus Jenkins at times, finds themselves set off on adventures to rescue ancient mysterious artifacts. These artifacts have magical powers and either the evil Serpent Brotherhood wants to snatch them up for themselves or they are somehow disrupting normal everyday life. Either way, this show is rife with comedic and stoic moments as the Librarians rush to solve problems, work together, learn new things, save the world, and keep magic alive.

This show is full of history lessons and quirky/off-the-wall humor, much like The Librarian movies are. When you think you are just enjoying a new television show, you’ll realize that you are in fact learning something new, whether it’s about Nikola Tesla, Shakespeare, King Arthur, Santa, Egyptian Gods, the minotaur, or a variety of other historical, mythical, or magical things. This show is full of librarians after all, so you’re going to learn something new!

Once you finish the first season, be sure to go and put the second season on hold! (The third season is still on television.)


This television show is based on/is a direct spin-off of The Librarian film series starring Noah Wyle. This is a series of three movies: The Librarian: Quest for the Spear, The Librarian: Return to King Solomon’s Mines, and The Librarian: Curse of the Judas Chalice.

librarian-quest-for-the-spear librarian-return-to-mine librarian-curse-for-judas-chalice

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infiltrator2The Infiltrator starring Bryan Cranston, as well as several other well-known actors and actresses, is an American crime drama film that is based on the book, The Infiltrator: My Secret Life Inside the Dirty Banks Behind Pablo Escobar’s Medellin Cartel by Robert Mazur. Its basis on Mazur’s autobiography lends this movie a compelling fact-based story with a cast that both resembles the real-life characters and their mannerisms. This movie tells the story of the 1980s bust of Pablo Escobar’s money-laundering organization.

The Infiltrator recounts the story of Robert Mazur’s discovery of a massive money laundering scheme involving Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar. Mazur, a U.S. Customs special agent, is up for retirement after being injured during his previous operation. He instead finds himself back undercover as “Bob Musella”, a wealth mob-connected businessman who becomes a pivotal player for a lot of drug lords who need help laundering their dirty money. He eventually infiltrates the Medellin Cartel, the world’s largest cartel, and discovers the vast money-laundering organization of Pablo Escobar, a massive and well-known drug lord. Mazur also succeeds in taking down the Bank of Credit and Commerce International, aka the BCCI, for their involvement.

This movie shines a light on the ethics of big banks and government, as well as all of the different players, organizations, and activities necessary to keep a massive undercover investigation from being discovered. Mazur’s journey to discovering Escobar’s money-laundering organization and its eventual takedown did not happen overnight. He started small and had to gain buy-in and trust from lower level drug dealers and suppliers in order to prove his worth. Mazur befriended dirty bankers, businessmen, and drug lords across the world as he spent years infiltrating the Medellin Cartel’s criminal hierarchy. This movie tells the story of how Mazur brought these criminals to justice and destroyed the bankers and businessman who were manipulating world-wide finance systems in order to benefit the drug lords, terrorists, and politicians who gave them their money.

 

genius2

genius2I’m a sucker for literary movies, movies that give me a glimpse into the lives of my favorite authors, the time period that they were writing, and their motivations for writing. Genius fell right into my lap one day and I knew I needed to watch it.

Genius tells the story of the relationship between Maxwell Perkins and Thomas Wolfe. Perkins was a book editor at Scribner, one who discovered F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway, among others. Thomas Wolfe’s manuscript was put into Perkins’ hands by an associate who said that is was unique and that he should take a look at it. What follows is a deep dive into the psyche of Wolfe and Perkins’ relationship.

Wolfe is portrayed as a lovable American South writer who does not believe his novel will ever get published after he worked on it for four years. Perkins drops into his life right when he is at a crossroads. The two work together to carve down Wolfe’s massive manuscript into something the public will actually read. The scenes where Wolfe and Perkins are actively working on his manuscript are some of my favorite as both of their personalities shine as they rally for their favorite parts to be saved or for certain sections to be cut. Perkins’ relationship with his family as well as Wolfe’s relationship with his lady benefactor also play key roles in this movie.

Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald make frequent appearances in the movie, letting viewers see into their own personal lives and the struggles they were facing as writers. Seeing the characters’ relationships grow and change throughout the course of this movie really allows viewers to see how complex Wolfe and Perkins’ relationship was with each other and with the outside world.

This movie is based on the 1978 National Book Award-winner Max Perkins: Editor of Genius by A. Scott Berg. It’s important to remember that this is a dramatized version of a biography, so the director and writers strayed from the book a little bit. If you’re curious about what was left out or need a little more background, check out this New Yorker article entitled “The Odd Factual Gaps in Michael Grandage’s ‘Genius’ “and judge the movie’s authenticity and factuality for yourself.

the-way-i-used-to-beThe Way I Used to Be by Amber Smith is a deeply moving, traumatic examination of one young woman’s struggle to overcome the aftermath of a rape. Eden, a 14-year old teenage girl, is raped by Kevin, her older brother’s best friend and college roommate. Her family is asleep down the hall while he crawls into her bed. Eden is the typical band geek, good girl who lives in fear of Kevin as he tells her that he will kill her and that no one will believe her if she talks. She is paralyzed with fear and doesn’t know what to do except try to live her life like normal, an idea that quickly fails as she becomes a new person overnight.

This book follows Eden through all four years of high school, highlighting her relationships with friends and family as she keeps this dark secret under wraps. School becomes increasingly more difficult for Eden as she turns to lies, booze, sex, and parties to smother her emotions. Kevin’s younger sister, Amanda, who Eden used to be friends with, turns against her and begins spreading vicious rumors about her around school. Eden’s best friend, Mara, knows nothing about what happened to her and the two move through high school experiencing some typical high school activities: dying their hair, first crushes, getting piercings, drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes for the first time, going to parties, doing drugs, and getting their drivers’ licenses. All the while, distance begins to grow between the two. Eden also finds herself separated from her other friends and her family. She has buried who she used to be, buried her emotions, and buried her secret deep inside.

As Eden grows older, readers are able to dissect the way her rape has affected her personality and her relationships. The way Eden treats herself changes drastically from her freshman year to her senior year of high school, as evidenced through her inner monologue throughout the book. How she believes others to see her changes throughout the book as well. The long-term view of the effect this trauma has on Eden allows readers to gain a better understanding of the guilt, hatred, and complex emotions survivors face in the aftermath of rape and sexual assault. The Way I Used to Be is not an easy book to read as watching Eden disintegrate is painful, but the truth and emotions revealed are so vivid and true-to-life that this book becomes a necessary read to understand the emotions survivors experience on a day-to-day basis.  Eden carries a double burden – the weight of carrying her secret and the violation of rape. She shows strength, power, survival, disappointment, pain, heartbreak, and massive loss throughout this book, leaving readers to grow attached to her well-being and her journey through a troubled adolescent made even more difficult by rape. The Way I Used to Be takes readers on an emotional rollercoaster as Eden struggles to find her way back to herself in the aftermath of her rape.

what-would-alice-doMany people turn to books for advice on how to live their lives or when they have certain questions they want answered. Do you have a favorite book that you refer back to, that you read when you need a pick-me-up, that you pull quotes from to inspire yourself? I certainly do and almost all of them are books from my childhood. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll is one of my steady go-to’s.

What would Alice do? : Advice for the Modern Woman with a foreword by Lauren Laverne pulls quotes from Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and its sequel, Through the Looking-Glass and matches them up with a wide variety of categories that all relate. Instead of reading this book cover to cover, I found myself flipping through looking for quotes that caught my eye.

Crack open this book for advice from Alice on:

  • Being Inspirational
  • Having a Bad Day
  • Getting On at Work
  • Dealing with Difficult Characters
  • Taking Risks
  • Saying What You Mean
  • Minding Your Manners
  • Keeping Cool in a Crisis
  • Being a Feminist
  • Health and Safety
  • Enjoying Food and Drink
  • Being Brave
  • Appearances
  • Fun and Games
  • The Value of a Good Education
  • Growing Up

Even though this book is marketed as advice for the modern woman, the quotes present inside, I felt, are not uniquely meant for just women. The categories that Laverne chooses are full of helpful advice for everyone and the messages present everyone could benefit from. We could all use some new words of advice every now and then.

newsoftheworldCaptain Jefferson Kyle Kidd travels throughout north Texas, reading aloud news articles of interest to the small, scattered communities of a still very wild West. The year is 1870. The Captain has lived through three wars and has no desire to see another, keeping to himself except to collect coins earned from his readings, remembering the past but always moving forward, forever restless.

One day the Captain is given $50 in gold to return a 10-year-old girl back to her only living relatives, a 400 mile journey through hostile, difficult country. Taken by the Kiowa after they killed her parents and little sister four years earlier, Johanna has forgotten how to speak English, has no knowledge of white people’s rules and manners and wants nothing more than to return to her Kiowa family.

Gradually, with patience and kindness and shared hardship, Johanna and the Captain learn to trust each other. The Captain helps Johanna re-learn English and tries to reintroduce her to the white man’s world. Johanna becomes a fierce defender of the Captain, loyal against impossible odds.

When they finally reach their destination and the Captain delivers Johanna to her only living blood relatives, he realizes that she is viewed as an unwanted burden and that her life with them will be harsh and abusive. Can he leave them with her white family, or will he find another way to rescue her?

A wonderful, complex book, News of the World frequently reminded me of Lonesome Dove (although much shorter) – an epic journey across difficult terrain through a mostly lawless land where an individual must depend solely on his own resolve and resources. Kindness and softness are in short supply, danger lurks everywhere and the weak are not given any allowance. The Captain is a wonderful character – intelligent, thoughtful and authoritative, he has a sly, dry wit and a kind heart that he keeps carefully hidden. Johanna, nearly silent at first, gradually adapts and even thrives in the circumstances she’s been thrown into – her resilience is remarkable. A lovely book about the human spirit set against a wild, untamed landscape. Highly recommended.

 

threesisters Three Sisters, Three Queens is Philippa Gregory’s latest book about the Tudor Court.  This time, we get the perspective of Margaret Tudor, daughter of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York and sister of King Henry VIII.  Margaret, the Tudor Princess, would become the Queen of Scotland, married to King James IV of Scotland and mother to King James V of Scotland.  Even though the title suggests that the book is about three women, the primary focus is on Queen Margaret.  However, the other two women, the Queen of England and the Queen of France, have an impact on Margaret’s life.

The novel begins with Margaret as a young woman, a girl really. Her older brother, Arthur, Prince of Wales is to be married to Katherine of Aragon. Their marriage would form an alliance between the Spanish court and England.  Katherine of Aragon makes her arrival, marries Prince Arthur and they move to Wales.  Margaret misses her older brother, but looks forward to her own marriage. Her father, King Henry VII is working on a marriage between her and Scotland’s King James IV.  But then, the London court gets the terrible news that Prince Arthur has died.  Princess Katherine returns to court as the Dowager Princess.  Her parents have failed to pay the dowry money to England.  And King Henry VII refuses to pay her dowager money until the dowry has been paid.  Katherine literally is a poor princess and has to pawn off her belongings in order to eat, even though she lives at court.  Princess Margaret, having been jealous of Princess Katherine’s finery when she came to court, delights in seeing her brought down a peg.  She believes, along with her grandmother Margaret Beaufort, Lady Mother of the King, that Katherine is too arrogant and needs to learn humility.  In fact, Margaret calls her, Katherine of Arrogant to herself. At this time, Margaret is told that she will marry King James IV.  Their betrothal makes her a queen and she is one step lower than her Lady Mother, the Queen of England.

Margaret makes the long journey to her new home in Scotland and marries King James IV.  Their marriage is fairly happy.  Their first children die while they are babies and King James wonders about the Tudor curse.  Queen Margaret has a son James (who becomes King James V).  Katherine of Aragon marries Margaret’s brother, King Henry VIII.  While England and Scotland have a Treaty of Perpetual Peace, Henry continues to ally himself with France, an enemy of Scotland.  While Henry is off in France, King James invades England.  During the Battle of Flodden, King James was killed.  Queen Katherine had ordered the English army to take no prisoners.  The army took James’ body to London and Katherine sent his bloody coat to Henry in France.  Of course, Queen Margaret was angry and heartbroken to have her husband be treated this way and by her own sister-in-law.

You may be wondering about the third sister and third queen.  Margaret and Henry had a younger sister named Mary.  Mary had been betrothed to the Holy Roman Emperor’s grandson but that was called off. Instead, Princess Mary was joined in marriage to King Louis XII of France.  Their marriage did not last long due to the King’s age and health.  After he died, Mary went  ahead and married Charles Brandon, a friend of her brother Henry whom  had recently been made a Duke by King Henry.  The pair married in secret in France, without Henry’s blessing which they were punished for.  Even so, Charles and Mary were welcomed at the Tudor Court.

Margaret continues to struggle. She is the Dowager Queen of Scotland but she has no authority.  She is even kept away from the young king James.  Her husband named her regent until their child was old enough to rule but the Scottish Council disregards this.  Instead, a French Duke (who is a cousin of the deceased king) is named regent.  Margaret marries the Earl of Angus for love in secret.  The Council is very unhappy about this.  Rumors circulate that Archibald, the Earl of Angus, is already married to another woman.  Of course, Margaret feels betrayed by her husband.  Her brother, Henry VIII will do nothing to help her.  Her sister-in-law, Queen Katherine, tells her to stay with her husband.  But Katherine needs Margaret to stay married to Archibald.  If Margaret would be granted a divorce from the Vatican, then that would clear the way for Henry VIII to divorce Katherine of Aragon.  And Henry has been having affairs with other women and producing male children.  Katherine has not given Henry an heir.  The royal English marriage is in danger of dissolving.

Mary, the youngest of the original Tudor children still reports to Margaret.  Her letters had been happy ones, relaying to Margaret what had been happening at the English Court.  However, as time passes, her letters are filled with sorrow.  Mary is dismayed to see how her older brother, the King of England, is treating her sister-in-law, Katherine.  Mary has to witness Katherine’s sorrow as her husband sleeps with other women.  Katherine prays constantly and remains a dutiful wife.  Mary can do nothing to interfere as Henry VIII sets aside his wife, claiming that Katherine was not legally his wife, but the wife of his older brother, Arthur.  He claims that Katherine is the Dowager Princess of Wales and is now his “sister”.  The last letter Margaret receives from Mary is grim.  The woman, Anne Boleyn, is now married to their brother and will be crowned the Queen of England.

Three Queens, Three Sisters is available in print, large print and audiobook.

 

 

 

quanticoIf you’re looking for a new television show that will immediately grab your attention and, most importantly, keep it until the very last episode, I recommend Quantico. This riveting mystery begins by introducing viewers to a set of new recruits going through training at the FBI Quantico Base. Alex Parrish is one of these New Agents in Training, aka “Nats”, a thoroughly vetted group of recruits from all across the US considered to be the best and brightest the FBI has ever seen.

Conspiracy, seduction, and suspense rock the recruits as they struggle to complete their training and not get kicked out of the program. Each recruit is subjected to high levels of scrutiny with their trainers digging into their lives and subjecting them to immense pressures all to prepare them for the rigors of daily FBI cases. Each NAT has their own secrets and complicated pasts, but they are all considered to be the best. This series flashes between Alex and her fellow agents training time at Quantico and the present where a bombing has rocked New York, shattering the FBI and the nation, while leaving Alex to try to figure out the truth of what really happened.

A deadly bombing has destroyed Grand Central. This event is the most lethal attack on New York since 9/11 and Alex is being framed as the mastermind. She must race against time as well as the judgments of her fellow FBI agents and the public to prove that she isn’t behind the attack. Alex is in a race against time to find the real culprit in order to prevent future destruction. Her task becomes even more difficult when it becomes apparent that the bomber is working from inside the FBI. Alex is forced to betray her friends and colleagues to find the truth and to prove that she is not a sleeper terrorist.