Big Mojo by Jack Getze

(Austin Carr, #3)
Published Oct 2014

Wall Street’s miasmal garbage washes up on the Jersey Shore when a small time broker falls in love: Is he attracted to the beautiful lady—or her brother’s inside information? Held spellbound by a steamy, auburn-haired woman with a dubious past and a get-rich-quick, insider trading scheme, Austin Carr knocks down a beehive of bad-acting Bonacellis, including the ill-tempered “Mr. Vic” Bonacelli, who wants his redhead back, and local mob lieutenant Angelina “Mama Bones” Bonacelli, architect of a strange and excruciating death trap for the fast-talking stockbroker she calls smarty pants. To survive, Austin must unravel threads of jealousy, revenge and new affections, discover the fate of a pseudo ruby called the Big Mojo and slam the lid on a pending United States of America vs. Austin Carr insider trading case. Can Austin and his Jersey Shore mouthpiece possibly out maneuver the savvy U.S. District Attorney from Manhattan? Will anything matter for Austin ever again if Mama Bones flips that switch?

Jack Getze hasn't disappointed yet - Austin Carr continues battling bad luck in the third of the series, 'Bad Mojo.'

While the second ended on a cliffhanger which shows the main character's financial fortune may finally be turning around, this continuation of the story shows that particular journey is always perilous and on the brink of being lost.

While Carr holds back a little with his trademark 'full-boat grin' being written in' he's as likeable as ever. Unless it's my imagination, his previous brushes with danger have given him more of a backbone now when facing foes who want to beat him to a pulp or worse. He's still as tempted by dangerous women, however, which almost always gets him into some kind of trouble.

Mama Bones has a stronger firmhold on the story as she dabbles with superstitious creations, resulting in the heart of this book's humor. Louis is as clever and captivating as ever, even if he may have finally met his match.

I enjoyed Austin's parenting woes with his aging daughter, Beth, especially in a funny exchange at the bar and grill. These funny touches are a delight to read, but even if the humor is removed, there's always something happening and pacing is strong to the end. I can almost hear TV show theme music playing in the background as Austin either saunters or flees from one adventure to another.

Mystery wise, there's a nice twist or two at the end I wouldn't have guessed, as well as a clever save that results in yet another turn-around in Austin's life. The series continues to improve with each book, with this one being the best of the three. Can't wait to read more!

In Our Strange Gardens

(No Series)

In Our Strange Gardens was named a BookSense 76 Recommended Pick for January 2002! Michel has a story to tell. It's about his father, an exquisitely common man whose very ordinariness is a source of grave embarrassment for the boy. It's also the story told to him by his uncle, who shared a family secret with the child in the flickering black and white images of a Sunday matinee.

Years before, in the bitter years of World War II, during the Nazi occupation of France, two brothers found themselves at the mercy of a German guard following an explosive act of resistance. Thrown into a deep pit with a small group of terrified prisoners, the men are told that one of them will die by dawn to serve as an example for the others. It's up to the prisoners to propose who will be sacrificed. But in the middle of the night, the guard returns with an extraordinary proposition of his own.

A novel of revelation, innocence and ignorance, of the power of language and the strength and complexity of family, In Our Strange Gardens is a fable of nuance and power, a mesmerizing addition to the literature of war.

A short, reflective piece that would be ideal in schools, telling moral lessons and how heroes grow out of the mundane before a child's eyes. Beautifully written in a poetic, first person point of view, the story is told as an adult looking back toward childhood. 

Let's just say this story, for a change, gives a positive reputation for clowns. A neat twist in sobering circumstances, all is happy and better in the end, as people do sometimes truly grow and thrive from tragedy if they overcome. Rather than an actual story, it is composed an introduction, a life changing scene, and an afterword. 

Yes, this is a ridiculously short review - so short I considered not putting it up at all - but with the short content length there's not much to say other than the point of the story: the moral lesson. 

Man of Steel

(No Series)

Havill, author of Deep Truth: The Lives of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein offers readers the inside story of Christopher Reeve's heroic struggle with paralysis. Reeve has been in the public spotlight since his equestrian accident, giving encouragement to his millions of fans and peers in the entertainment industry. This is the first book available on this tragic, yet uplifting story.

Thankfully well-researched, the writer takes up little space with introspection and filler, instead using facts, quotes and known impressions down to the finest details and the more obscure sources. If you're a Superman or Reeves fan, I highly recommend this book when searching for a biography.

The book opens announcing the world's reaction to the accident, going into detail about what was required for procedure and everything leading up to it. There were details and tidbits about the procedures and problems with outside influences that were discussed in the biography, while Reeves did not personally bring them up in his own book.

Man of Steel went into graphic detail about the filming of each Superman film, which should delight fans, but also chronicles every stage of Reeve's acting career, from every small film and every struggle. Most attention is given to the first big movie, Superman, taking pages to show how hard it was to cast parts with each actor. Marlon Brando was certainly painted in a poor light, not really from the side of the producers and during the movie, but especially afterward with scathing reviews.

Even small, amusing tidbits like this were included: "...was concerned that when his star wore the costume with the bright red tights that the protruding part of Reeve's anatomy be in the same place for each shot. To make sure, he assigned a script girl to keep track. After a conference it was decided that a true Superman would be neither left nor right - but dead center. A plastic codpiece was found... "

Toward the end of the book, as Reeve grew more passionate about causes, protects, and politics, this was all handled well by dishing out tidbits about groups he joined, speeches given, leading causes under his enthusiasm. I was surprised to learn about the Donald Trump involvement with Reeve over Trumptown in New York, and of course impressed by the speech and rally at Chilie which may have well saved 88 lives. With the political turnout a year later for the better, country officials again noted Reeve's involvement. It was especially invigorating how he chose to spend time lobbying for the Arts guild, including fighting a school board that fired a teacher for a controversial play. His comments on censorship there - bravo.

The writer also digs deeply into what the tabloids speculated and what Reeve confirmed or disproved regarding his ten year relationship (no marriage) to his sweetheart Gae, and his firm stance on no-marriage until hitting an older age and meeting Dana. I learned through his words in interviews how his relationship with father and mother were and differed, in a way more than I learned from his personal autobiography, Still Me.

Man of Steel presents a courageous, impressive man who was talented in so many ways - childhood pianist, enthusiastic pilot, sailor, activist, and of course actor. While presenting a positive and admiring light of Reeve's character and ambitions, it is unapologetic with it's honesty during the rougher times of his acting career, lining up reasons the career fell so far in a straight way any reader will get without being told. (Surprisingly it wasn't at first from being typecast as Superman, not so much.) Even the most brutal and vicious review piece is shared, all to accurately portray his acting achievements and pitfalls throughout the years.

The wrap-up at the end was touching and you could feel the support of fellow actors and those lives he touched as he attended the awards. Inspiring stuff.

This thorough book is a wonderful accompaniment to 'Still Me.' The autobiography definitely shouldn't be passed up for this less personal piece, for 'Still Me' shows his personal mindset about his love of acting, of life, of sports, and of the tragedy that befell him. His philosophical musings, especially at the end, were sobering, powerful pieces. But taken together, both factual book and the more personal one, was a rewarding reading experience about this interesting man who was so well suited to play the man in red and blue.

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The Shadow Hero

(No Series)
Published July 2014

In the comics boom of the 1940s, a legend was born: the Green Turtle. He solved crimes and fought injustice just like the other comics characters. But this mysterious masked crusader was hiding something more than your run-of-the-mill secret identity... The Green Turtle was the first Asian American super hero.

The comic had a short run before lapsing into obscurity, but the acclaimed author of "American Born Chinese," Gene Luen Yang, has finally revived this character in "Shadow Hero," a new graphic novel that creates an origin story for the Green Turtle.

With artwork by Sonny Liew, this gorgeous, funny comics adventure for teens is a new spin on the long, rich tradition of American comics lore.

Hank is an everyday boy who loves his father - a man who faithfully runs a small grocery store in Chinatown. His mother, an unhappy woman, gets it into his mind that her son should become a superhero and spice up their lives. Hilarity - tragedy - and bizarreness ensues.

I ended up loving this one - the humor worked well without any force, making me laugh out loud - I LOVED the mother, she cracked me up. The art was quirky and fun, in the beginning being dim and gray and slowing brightening to color. The character's faces - and some of their chins - added to the experience. 

I loved the theme for the superhero and the different costumes they went through to get there. The effects of the mother trying to turn him into a superhero = priceless. There was some tragedy, as there is in a lot of superhero origins. The background story for the main family was not only funny, it made sense and was interesting. The China guardians and animals spirits - not sure what else to call them - were also intriguing.

There was culture, humor, realism, and fun fantasy for this graphic novel. I'm not the biggest fan of superheroes from the street without many powers, at least not as into the actual powered ones, but this is still a fun, fascinating story I enjoyed reading.

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