Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – Volume 1: The Coulson Protocols

If you have watched any of the Avengers movies(or any recent superhero movie), then you’re probably familiar with S.H.I.E.L.D, aka  Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement, and Logistics Division. In Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – Volume 1: The Coulson Protocols, Agent Coulson leads Melinda May, Agents Fitz and Simmons, Mockingbird, Quake, and Deathlok, as they battle someone in an Iron Man suit(who is not Iron Man!), multiple people who want to take over the world, and, of course, the evil Hydra organization. Coulson’s old love interest, Lola – not to be confused with his car who just happens to have the same name, has come to the team’s attention after her name is found to be affiliated with the tech that the person in the Iron Man suit blew up the Pentagon to steal. As a result, Coulson goes to meet her to find out what she knows. It turns out that Lola manipulated their previous relationship in order to steal precious superhero information from Coulson. She’s a psychic and can read his mind!

Coulson, being the giant superhero geek that he is, created scenarios in his head about how to take down any of the Avengers and also any of the other superheroes/agents that he knows. Lola then read his mind and stole that information. Those scenarios are now called the Coulson Protocols and fake Iron Man stole them from the Pentagon. That information is now up for auction to the highest bidder and the team must do everything and anything in their power to get that highly sensitive intel back. They battle a massive Iron Man army, throw down with some Hydra bad guys, rub shoulders with Spider-Man, Captain America, Wolverine, and Tony Stark, and find themselves in a massive standoff with the New Avengers, all while trying to find the Coulson Protocols. Allegiances are tested and backstories are revealed as Coulson and his team work to save the world from a possible leak of this sensitive information.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – Volume 1: The Coulson Protocols does a fairly good job introducing readers to who the agents are and how S.H.I.E.L.D. works. (I didn’t come into this graphic novel as a complete newbie, having watched the first season of the S.H.I.E.L.D. tv show many, many months ago, BUT I remember almost none of it, so don’t be afraid of reading this if you’re totally unfamiliar with any of the characters. You’ll be just fine.). Guggenheim also adds the characters’ names next to each throughout most of the comic, so you won’t have to flip back to the beginning to remember who’s who (That’s fantastic, btw, and way more graphic novel writers should take note). I thoroughly enjoyed this new graphic novel and can’t wait for the next volume to be released. In the mean time, I’ll have to settle for watching the two seasons of Marvel’s Agents of Shield that the library owns. Read this comic/watch the shows and let me know what you think!


Check out the television show, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (season 1 and season 2), to learn more about the characters and see more Agent Coulson. Click on the pictures below to

Conversations with Lincoln

I listen to a lot of audiobooks in the car. Sometimes when I am looking for a new audiobook to listen to, I look for something that is short. If you have ever listened to a 20 disc audiobook, you understand. As much as I love audiobooks, sometimes I need something short and  something different; something to cleanse my palate (or my ears).

While I was browsing the shelves, I noticed, Conversations with Lincoln and I am happy that I checked it out. One nice feature of this audiobook is listed in the title. They are stories. I did not have to pay a lot of attention to the book in order to keep up with the story because the story would end and another story would start! I also liked that this was nonfiction so I was learning something while I drove my car.

The conversations that people had with Abraham Lincoln took place while he lived in New Salem, Illinois, Springfield, Illinois and while he was President in Washington, D.C.  Over and over again people talk about how kind Lincoln was to people. He was especially fond of children. One tale speaks of his time in Illinois and how he allowed the neighborhood boys to go fishing with him. They all had such a good time that no boy would dare miss another fishing trip. Many of the stories that occurred while Lincoln was President involved women asking for their fathers, husbands and sons to be released from duty from the Army or transferred somewhere else. One such woman lost her husband in the war and asked President Lincoln if one of her son’s could be released from duty so that he could come home and take care of her and her farm. Another woman asked for her father’s life after he was sentenced to be executed. President Lincoln had a difficult time executing young boys that deserted from the Army. Many of them were too young to serve in the first place. Of course the Army disapproved of his leniency and claimed that he undermined their authority.

While I was listening to this audiobook, I kept marveling over the fact that people were actually allowed to have conversations with the President of the United States. If you were willing to wait a few hours, it was possible that President Lincoln would invite you into his office to tell him your trouble. As you were waiting, you could be sitting next to a U.S. Senator or an Army General who were also waiting their turn. They would have had preference over you, but an ordinary person had the chance to speak to the President. The theme of this book is how kind Abraham Lincoln was. He genuinely cared about people’s troubles and he did his best to fix the problem. If he was unable to fix the problem himself, then he would refer the person to someone who could do something about it, with a note bearing his signature. He had a soft spot for children and always made a point to speak to them while they were in his presence. And he tried to do his best to reunite women with the men in their lives. Clearly, he hated that the war was destroying families. While listening to this book, it was hard to not wish an audience with Abraham Lincoln in order to speak with this intelligent and overly kind man.

In the Unlikely Event

In The Unlikely Event is by the author, Judy Blume. Yes, that Judy Blume that wrote, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing and Freckle Juice.  But this time, Blume wrote a book that is for adults.

The year is 1952 and the place is Elizabeth, New Jersey. The reader is introduced to several members of the community throughout the book. Sometimes, it could be hard for me to remember which character was which; I would have to read a couple of paragraphs to remember. From what I have read in online book reviews, I am not the only person that has had this difficulty. There were times while I was reading the book that I wished that Blume had not included so many different characters. However, by the end of the book, the character’s stories did come together and it did make sense. Still, I wish she would have cut out a few of them.

Nevertheless, I do not want to deter you from reading this book! It is a wonderful story otherwise I would not write about it. Our main character is fifteen year-old Miri. She lives with her single mother, Rusty. They live in house that has been split into two apartments. Miri’s grandmother, Irene lives on the first floor while Rusty and Miri live on the second floor. Miri also has an Uncle Henry that acts like a father toward her. Miri does not know who her father is and when she asks her family about it, they will not tell her anything and she has given up on learning anything about him. Miri’s closest friend is Natalie and she spends a lot of time at Natalie’s house so we get to know that family quite well. Miri also has a boyfriend, Mason. There are quite a few other characters that all make sense when you read the novel. Judy Blume did a wonderful job with intertwining the characters so that they all have a connection with someone that can be connected back to Miri.

The story is based off real life events. Judy Blume lived in Elizabeth, New Jersey in the 1950s. During that time, there were three plane crashes in Elizabeth. The first plane crash was December 16, 1951. The second crash was January 22, 1952 and the third crash was February 11, 1952. Blume has done an excellent job recreating the scene. Residents are on edge. Children are frightened, teenagers are coming up with conspiracy theories as to what is going on. People are anxious. Elizabeth is being called, “plane crash city”. Residents have died or been injured in the crash. Natalie’s father, a dentist, has had to identify bodies with their dental records. A girl that Miri used to babysit died when the second plane crashed in the neighborhood and their building caught on fire. Her sister was severely burned. Miri’s boyfriend helped rescue people from the third plane crash. Other characters volunteered with the Red Cross. The residents of Elizabeth want Newark airport to be shut down. And it is temporarily and reopens in November, 1952. After that, flight patterns were rerouted so that they did not fly over Elizabeth.

Even with the terror of the planes falling from the sky, this book was fun to read. Blume is able to paint a vivid picture and I felt transported back to the 1950s. There are moments, such as when Miri gets an “Elizabeth Taylor haircut” that are sweet and reminded me of being fifteen years old. Or when Miri and Mason are dancing for the first time in Natalie’s basement. Or the conversations that Miri has with her girlfriends. The characters in the book continue to live their lives, even though they do not know if and when a plane will crash again. Blume has an amazing ability to create characters that are so relatable; you feel that her characters are your friends and family.

The book is named In the Unlikely Event after the instructional speech that flight attendants give before a plane takes off. “In the unlikely event of a plane crash…”  You can find it in print, large print and audiobook

 

Before the Fall by Noah Hawley

Before the Fall by Noah Hawley deals with tragedy and its aftermath. On a warm, foggy summer night, eleven people board a private jet heading from Martha’s Vineyard to New York. Sixteen minutes later, the plane plunges into the ocean, breaking apart. Two people survive: Scott Burroughs, a down-on-his-luck painter who was invited to fly by the wife of a wealthy media mogul, and a four-year-old boy J.J., the media mogul’s son. Scott swims in freezing cold water to save himself and the boy, his only thoughts on their survival.

Scott is hailed as a hero, but mysteries surround his background and news stations can’t find much information about him. The bodies of the other people on the flight are still missing as news reporters struggle to get the real story and government and investigative officials work to recover the plane’s wreckage. Family, media, money, and conspiracy drama galore rampage through this book, leaving readers on the edge of their seats wondering what really happened and wondering what people’s real motives are.

This book alternates between the present and past, highlighting each person who was on the plane, from the security detail to the pilots, the flight attendant, the media mogul, his wife, and young daughter, as well as a money launderer and his wife. As each character’s introduction and background story are revealed, a web of intrigue, lies, deception, and mystery comes to light. A conspiracy seems to unravel, only fueled by the 24-hour news cycle and the way the media has sensationalized this catastrophe. Everyone is drawing their own false conclusions with what really happened on the plane remaining a mystery as the book goes on.

I listened to this book through OverDrive and greatly enjoyed it. I stayed up way past my bedtime and woke up very early on the weekend to finish it, which is something I only ever do if a book has really captured my interest. The narrator had me hooked by adding in voice inflections and nuances that brought eash character to life. Add in a captivating story and a mystery I didn’t figure out until the very end and I was fully drawn into the world Hawley created from the very beginning.


This book is also available in the following formats:

Jughead: Volume One

I love Archie comics. Every time I went to the grocery store with my mom, I begged for the newest Archie comic and would begin reading it as soon as I got in the car. Archie was my first graphic novel crush and the whole gang at Riverdale High did things that I expected to do in high school. (When I reached high school and it wasn’t anything like Riverdale, I was more than a little disappointed.)

When I realized that Jughead was going to be given his very own comic, I was ecstatic and knew I had to read it. Jughead: Volume 1 gives Jughead the attention he always deserved in the classic Archie comics. Zdarsky and Henderson expand upon the current Archie volume to give Jughead his own up-to-date background.

In Jughead: Volume One, we meet Forsythe Pendleton Jones III, aka Jughead. He plays videogames, tries to keep Archie out of trouble, skates by in school by just following the rules, and spends his afternoons at Pop’s diner inhaling burgers and milkshakes. Everything is happening like normal until Riverdale High gets a new principal. This new principal institutes new changes on all levels: in the classrooms, in athletics, and, most concerning to Jughead, in the cafeteria. Once he gets rid of all the good food in the cafeteria, Jughead loses his cool and seeks vengeance. This graphic novel is full of gags and antics by Jughead and his friends as they try to oust the new conniving principal from his current position and, in the end, discover his dastardly plot to take over the school for nefarious reasons! This graphic novel had me laughing throughout and was a fantastic trip down memory lane to the classic Archie comics.

Huck: Book 1: All-American by Mark Millar

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!

The Champions

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 Librarians: Season One

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

The Infiltrator

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.

 

Genius

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.