Monday, January 15, 2018

Reading the Stars: Zodiac-based Book Recommendations


As a librarian, I see it as part of my job to present the public with book recommendations, so I thought that since the year has ended, I wanted to give you a few suggestions from books I read last year...with a twist. Instead of the classic reader's advisory (when a librarian makes a book suggestion to a reader), which I'd love to provide to whomever so desires, I intend to cover more ground by letting the stars decide and offering book recommendations according to the zodiac.

Aries


Those born under the Aries sign thirst for adventure and hunger, for tests of strength and courage. So, it comes as no surprise that I recommend all you Aries-born out there to try Wonder Woman: Warbringer. Wonder Woman is one of those iconic characters that demand attention, that’s always courageous, optimistic, honest, and a true leader, all traits that reflect an Aries. 


Though sometimes impulsive, especially early on, Wonder Woman tends to make up for it as she goes along by instilling acts of leadership and physical strength. An Aries would assuredly appreciate her character and the novel's action-packed adventure (Ironic, though, that in both the book and the movie Wonder Woman is trying to STOP war and rallies against Ares).

Taurus


A Taurus tends to appreciate the classics, so something that’s won the Newbery Award would be of interest, surely. The Girl Who Drank the Moon is a story of Luna, who devotes all her being into saving her family, regardless of who they are and what they do. And really, the lovely, poetic descriptions will keep any Taurus engrossed.


The book focuses on family and friendship. The mother who adopts and saves Luna raises her and is patient enough with her daughter that any composed Taurus would thoroughly enjoy the character. Taurus are said to be stubborn, which reflects the main character, Luna’s, personality well. She is firm in her beliefs and stands tall with her mother, dragon, and monster.

Gemini



Gemini are conflicted. They have the ability to be sociable and fun loving one moment but serious and stoic the next. They usually learn quickly and efficiently, which Kelly in A Babysitter’s Guide to Monster Hunting MUST have in order to survive the wild and crazy night ahead of her.


Kelly is bored with her everyday routine and realizes that monster hunting won’t be all that bad, especially when it comes to protecting her kids (Steve, is that you?). Geminis will like how Kelly is able to adapt to any situation, and her many moments of affection towards children and fellow babysitters with resonate with them as well.

Cancer


A List of Cages is a novel filled with feels. All the feels. Cancers won’t be able to put it down, in part because of the amount of familial sweet moments and in part because of the heart-crushing instances of tribulations faced by one of the main characters, Julian, who must suffer through bullying and physical and mental abuse as he navigates through high school.


Both main characters, Adam and Julian, are loyal to one another, something a Cancer can appreciate, and are slow to reveal much about their personal lives, which Cancers have a tendency to do. Get ready for an emotional journey, Cancers.

Leo


Leos admire themselves and also enjoy being admired, so stories of kings and queens are right up their alley. Dark Breaks the Dawn is a Swan Lake retelling about Princess Evelayn, strong in the art of wielding light, and her journey to take the throne to beat back the darkness.


Leos, who tend to be creative and passionate, will find themselves intrigued by Evelayn and her persistence to gain royal strength and power, but also her passion for her love interest. She can be stubborn and arrogant at times but is ultimately and genuinely warmhearted, something Leos can relate to.

Virgo


The Bear and the Nightingale takes place in Russia, where most of the characters must be hardworking in order to survive, a quality that Virgos value. The book also has a reoccurring inclusion of animals and nature throughout the book, something that Virgos also thoroughly enjoy (the book is named The Bear and the Nightingale, after all. Even if it isn't exactly what you think). The main character, Vaska, is a brilliant, independent young lady who must team up with an ancient bringer of death to defeat an evil spirit bent on raising the dead and taking over the human world.


Though Virgos are compassionate and kind, they don’t always open up easily, something that Vaska, the main character, has trouble with, even though she is loving and tenderhearted. Virgos can relate to the loyalty that Vaska has for both her close family AND the old Russian spirits because she would sacrifice herself for the sake of them if need be.

Libra



Libras stand for justice and fair-mindedness. The Inquisitor's Tale: Or The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog revolves around just that--a group of children who are condemned for something that they aren't and who must prove their innocence throughout their journey. Some main characters have diplomatic grace, like a Libra, and others are indecisive (also like a Libra). But, all stand for justice and equality in whatever they do.


The narrator of the tale, the inquisitor himself, can be flexible in his way of thinking, something a Libra is extremely good at. Violence and injustice are avoided as often as possible, which a Libra will appreciate as he/she reads, and friendship is valued throughout, also something a social Libra would admire. This heroic tale is a must read.

Scorpio


Scorpios can be calm and collected but can also possess intense qualities, like passion. "Passionate" is how Thornhill's Mary could be described. She has a passion that the reader isn't always sure is good or bad. Scorpios tend to be secretive, another quality that Mary has. There are secrets that aren’t revealed until much later, a slow process of extracting the tiny, important details until the big reveal at the end.


A Scorpio longs for facts, truth, and friendship, all things that the main character Mary has in common with this sign. The other main character, Ella, is resourceful, a Scorpio characteristic, and does whatever she can to find out what happened to Mary. Besides all this, Thornhill will keep any Scorpio engrossed in its engaging (and unsettling at times) storytelling techniques.

Sagittarius


Sagittarius has the best sense of humor out of all the signs and can easily enjoy comedy, which Posted has quite a bit of. Though the book can be serious, Posted is also lighthearted and fun to read. A Sagittarius would recognize the full worth of something like that.

(You'll crack up, Sagittarius.)

The story, and sarcastic main character Frost, spews not only jokes but philosophy, one other aspect that a Sagittarius will appreciate. It will make you think and laugh at the same time. That balance between the two will keep any Sagittarius interested.

Capricorn



A Capricorn tends to be a much more serious sign, possessing both discipline and responsibility. Because of this, I could see this sign picking up a crime, thriller, or nonfiction book rather than a whimsical fantasy/sci-fi adventure (not to say they wouldn't!). Because of this, The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly would be a great choice for a Capricorn in that it has gruesome, gritty details surrounding a reluctant girl and a menacing cult, something the world has seen a dozen times over.



Capricorns tend to expect the worst, and having your whole family turn your back on you, having your hands cut off and your boyfriend murdered while you watch, well...what COULD be worse? But Capricorns also value tradition and family, something that Minnow deems important as well. She has enough discipline to find ways to live without hands, and she has enough love for those she considers family.

Aquarius



An Aquarius is an independent and forward-thinking individual. They enjoy outings with close friends and also strive for originality. The Disappearances has a great deal of friendship and is quite an extraordinary, creative tale about a few towns losing something each year. 


What makes it intriguing is that what they lose are things you wouldn't expect: their reflection, music, paints’ colors. It’s different. Seems like something right up an Aquarius’ alley. Aquarius also tend to keep their distance from those they don't know, which some of the townsfolk do in regards to the main character, Aila, and her brother. The townsfolk keep their knowledge secret and distance themselves from outsiders. But overall, this original piece is interesting enough for any Aquarius' imagination.

Pisces


Pisces are artistic and musically appreciative and/or talented, something a reader would need to possess in order to fully appreciate Wintersong and its message. It's a lovely written tale about Liesl and her love for music, her sister, and...the goblin king!


Pisces also have their heads in the clouds, important because this novel is imaginative and, to be honest, a magical wild ride, transporting you from a small town to the underground lair of a beautiful goblin king, who is tasked with keeping the balance between humans and the goblin people. Sounds like something a sign with wild imagination would enjoy. Not to mention, after living for so long, the goblin king must have an abundance of wisdom (psst, just like a Pisces). 

What's your sign? Do you intend to read my recommendation?

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

'Gotham' Recap: "Queen Takes Knight" (4x11)



I’ve got some good news and some bad news. The good news is that it’s time for another Gotham recap. The bad news is that you won’t be reading another one until the spring. Unfortunately, it looks like Gotham is leaving us with another hiatus, heralded as always by cliffhangers and mystery. The airdate of the next episode is still unknown (although the title is, allegedly, “Pieces of a Broken Mirror”).

This week’s episode, “Queen Takes Knight,” juggles several plots at once, so I’ll go through each of them in order of importance. The first and most important revolves around Jim Gordon, Sofia Falcone, the Penguin, and some other unexpected characters. Warning for spoilers, violence (some involving a minor), and, as always, angst.

Plot A: Everything’s Coming Up Sofie

The episode opens as Sofia and the Sirens storm the Iceberg Lounge and question Mr. Penn about Penguin’s whereabouts. Meanwhile, Gordon and a bunch of cops storm a building, only to find the dead body of a black-market surgeon and a goodbye message from Pyg (who, Gordon suspects, may have underwent another facial surgery before killing the doctor).

Back at the lounge, Barbara points out that Penguin is consolidating Gotham’s gangs and will do everything he can to take Sofia down, but Sofia insists that they just need to take him down first. Tabs exits a back room and announces that, for all of her interrogation, Penn has no idea where Penguin is. Before she can respond to that development, Sofia gets a phone call. We don’t hear who it is or what they say, but her face turns cold and afraid.

Over at the GCPD, Harper fills Gordon in about how Sofia ditched her train ride, and another cop tells him a rumor about her meeting with Penguin under the bridge. Gordon tells Harper about Pyg’s escape but also stresses that it’s more important to focus on Penguin right now.

In the next scene, Sofia and the Sirens enter Carmine Falcone’s house. Why? Because he’s back. He kisses Sofia on the cheek and says she looks tired. Carmine also notices Barbara, which leads to a hilariously awkward exchange, given that she was a hostage the last time they met.

Carmine then snaps at his daughter for disobeying him and going to Gotham. He says that when she first left, he waited to see what she would do out of curiosity. Sofia insists that she just needs a little help to take the city, but Carmine says he doesn’t want it anymore and that family is more important. When Sofia insists that she deserves to rule Gotham, he slaps her across the face and says she’s a disgrace to their family.


And then, who should enter but Penguin.


Sofia tries to shoot at him, but Carmine stops her. He explains that she was losing the war before he returned to Gotham, and he called Penguin to make a deal.

Gordon shows up outside the house later, looking for Sofia. Instead, he runs into Carmine, who explains that Penguin will let Sofia live if she leaves Gotham. Carmine then says he’s glad he never killed Gordon, because that would be too kind. He warns that what Gordon has brought on the city will destroy it (although it’s unclear if he’s talking about Sofia, Penguin, or something else).

Sofia then walks up. She’s still upset about being sent away but kisses Gordon goodbye anyway. Carmine remarks that he’ll likely never see Gordon again and makes a sad statement about Gotham: “The sun never shines here.” Sofia bitterly points out that she everything she did was for her father, but he didn’t appreciate it. Carmine says that he still considers her his daughter and that should be enough. Sofia then decides to pick a rose from one of the bushes her mother planted. She pricks a finger on the thorns and sucks on the blood. As she does so, a van drives down the road. Its doors open, and a shooter kills Carmine in a drive-by and grazes Sofia.

Over at the lounge, Penguin says that Carmine shouldn’t have returned to Gotham. Zsasz asks if Penguin was behind the shooting, and he denies it. The two later attend Carmine’s funeral. Gordon and Sofia are in attendance, among others—and Sofia is in a wheelchair and brace, which seems like the biggest shout-out to The Long Halloween and Dark Victory so far, so I’ll take it.


Sofia insists that Penguin is responsible for her father’s death, but Gordon says he needs evidence. After Sofia visits her father’s body, Zsasz goes up the casket, removes a bullet from his gun, lays it on Carmine’s chest, and walks out of the church. While we often only see Zsasz as a snarky assassin, this scene reminds us that he has a sense of honor and obligation. Before he worked for Penguin, he worked for Carmine, and he hasn’t forgotten that.

After Zsasz exits, Harvey Bullock enters and takes seat behind Gordon. Gordon points out that Harvey’s leave is almost up, but Harvey changes the subject to Penguin, asking why Gordon hasn’t arrested him yet. Gordon says Penguin owns the judges and will walk without a solid case. He then tells Harvey the truth about Sofia, causing Harvey to remind him that the bill will come due. Gordon says that, either way, the GCPD can’t be her army, so Harvey advises him to push Penguin—push him to do something he can’t take back, something they’ll have proof of. Harvey says that since Gordon started this war by deciding fight Penguin, he has to be the one to finish it.

Penguin approaches his mentor’s body and promises not to forget everything Carmine taught him. He then tells Sofia that while he respected her father, she’s not going to get the same treatment. Gordon pulls him away from Sofia, causing her to ask what he’s doing. “Finishing what I started,” he replies.

But it’s not over yet. Penguin later barges into the GCPD to announce that he wants to know where Sofia is and will reward any cop who helps him find her. However, they don’t go for it, and one officer even insists, “We don’t work for you.”


After a few officers drag Penguin out of the bullpen, Jim tells the rest that when he first came to Gotham, he was told that the corrupt city couldn’t change. He commends the police for showing him it could and warns that Penguin will be on the warpath.

And he’s not wrong. A montage shows a series of gunfights between Penguin’s gangs and the GCPD. One gang has the Sirens tied up, but Tabs manages to get loose and shoot down the captors.

Back at the precinct, Sofia says that Jim is winning, but he’s not convinced. He points out that he can’t arrest every gang that works for Penguin, and as long as he uses goons to do his dirty work, Gordon won’t be able to arrest him. Gordon admits that he’s pushing him into a corner.

“So you’re baiting him into committing a public atrocity,” Sofia surmises. “What if he already has?” She then spins him a story about Martin, claiming that she was keeping him safe from Penguin for his own good, but Penguin blew the boy up in front of witnesses.

Speaking of Penguin, he’s not doing too hot.


Penguin yells at Zsasz to do something terrible in order to send a message, but Gordon and a squad of cops enter to arrest Penguin for Martin’s death. Penguin laughs it off and tells them Martin didn’t die. When they ask where the boy is, Penguin says he doesn’t know, but Zsasz does because he was the one to take him away. However, Zsasz says Penguin blew up Martin and even promises to testify in court. As Penguin is dragged away by the cops, he yells at Zsasz for being a traitor. Gordon tells Zsasz that it’s not a free pass for him either, but Zsasz simply says, “Not now.” The cops take Penguin to a cell, clap for Gordon, and Harper says he won.

Meanwhile, Zsasz tells Sofia that Gordon doesn’t know that Martin’s still alive. He promises his loyalty, saying “At the end of the day, he’s a Cobblepot. You’re a Falcone.” The Sirens are present as well, and Sofia tells them it’s a new day.


How long are we going to keep using that tagline?

Later on, Gordon meets Sofia in her house and asks her not to take over the underworld, but she says that was their deal. She shrugs off his threats of using the GCPD to stop her and brings in a friend . . . Professor Pyg.


As it turns out, “Pyg” (aka Lazlo Valentin) is a contract killer who impersonates serial killers for a living. Sofia sic’d him on the city and let him improvise. Valentin admits that he got caught away with the role, but the plan was going well until Carmine showed up.

Gordon accuses Sofia of having her father killed, and she says she gave him a chance, but he didn’t appreciate her work. Valentin then reveals that while there was a shooter in the van that killed Carmine, he (Valentin) actually shot Sofia from the bushes to make sure she was hurt, but not too badly.

Gordon says Valentin will rot in Blackgate, but before he can make good on that threat, Sofia shoots Valentin, rips off her neck brace, and stands up (in another homage to Dark Victory). She tells Gordon that no cops died under Penguin’s rule, so every one that’s died since is his fault. She continues, saying that she needs him at the head of the GCPD so she can control him.

Gordon realizes that it’s all about revenge for Mario from the start. Sofia agrees and says that if he arrests her, she’ll implicate him and all the cops will have died for nothing. The GCPD will crumble, she says, and another crime boss will take her place. Sofia says Gordon’s punishment is to live with the guilt while pretending to be a hero. She then calls the GCPD on her cellphone and lets it ring. After a moment’s hesitation, Gordon takes the phone and takes credit for bringing down Professor Pyg.

Back at the GCPD, Harvey turns in his gun and badge, insistent that Gordon took down Pyg and Penguin without his help.

And over at Arkham, Penguin rants in his cell, yelling about every person he’ll get revenge on. He’s interrupted by a male voice (one that’s quite Heath-Ledger-esque) calling through the vents. The voice promises that they can help each other out, but Penguin doesn’t believe him. The voice promises that he’s resourceful, before showing his . . . er . . . face.


Plot B: A Butler’s Battle

Alfred walks into the aftermath of a party that the cops shut down because of a noise complaint. He finds Bruce in bed with two chicks (all fully dressed, thankfully) and wakes the three of them up by pouring water over them.

Back at the mansion, Alfred attempts to make conversation with Bruce, but the boy simply tells him needs to clean up a mess in the Rolls-Royce.

Later on, Bruce notices a bunch of suitcases in the study and asks Alfred what they’re for. Alfred says it’s part of “Operation Save Bruce Wayne.” Bruce surmises that Alfred wants to go to Switzerland and asks if he’s going to kidnap him. Alfred says that’s not what he’s going to do; he’s going to appeal to his better nature, even beg if he has to. “If for no other reason, do it for me,” Alfred says.

But Bruce claims that he’s barely thought about Ra’s or his parents in the past few weeks, and all Alfred is offering him is pain. Alfred insists that Bruce is miserable deep down and just avoiding the fact, but Bruce insists that he’s not who Alfred thought he was, or who his parents wanted him to be, and says he’s okay with it. But Alfred isn’t, and when Bruce tries to leave to meet Tommy, Alfred grabs him by the wrist. Fed up with the argument, Bruce rolls up his sleeves, ready for a fight. Alfred begs him to reconsider, but Bruce isn't having any of it.



The fight is intense. While there are a few moments where Bruce gets the upper hand, Alfred points out that weeks of slacking off have made him rusty. Alfred wins the fight and hits him across the face. Bruce then angrily storms off despite Aflred’s attempts to apologize.

Later that night, Bruce returns. Alfred, relieved, offers to let things go and let Bruce deal with things his way. But Bruce reveals that he left to meet with his paper and draw up emancipation papers. Alfred is no longer his guardian, and he threatens to show the police the bruise on his face if Alfred doesn’t leave.

With no other choice, Alfred packs up his things and turns out the lights as Bruce enjoys himself at a nightclub.


Plot C: The Man Who Regrets and the Man Who Forgets

After Penguin falls, the Sirens get the Iceberg Lounge from Sofia. Tabs isn’t happy that they’re back to bartending, but Babs insists that it’ll just be a cover for their weapons business. Tabs then picks up a record player and gets ready to head out somewhere.

“Music to soothe the savage beast?” Babs asks.

“Something like that,” Tabs replies.

Over in the Narrows, Ed yells at the hallucination!Riddler in his reflection to leave him alone. The Riddler insists that they always had more fun when he was in control, not Ed, and wonders why he’d want to give it up.


Ed yells at his reflection again, and Grundy shows up, asking if he’s angry at the mirror. When Ed denies it, he asks, “Ed angry at Ed?” Ed admits that Grundy’s right and leaves to get some air.

After Ed leaves, Grundy hears music coming from a record player. “This was the end of Solomon Grundy,” a chorus of children sing, over and over. A detonator releases knockout gas, and Tabs enters.

When Grundy wakes up, Tabs has him tied up in some sort of abandoned garage or warehouse. He asks what she wants, and she reminds him that he called her Tabby during their fight. She tells Grundy that Ed isn’t his friend and tries to get him to remember how he kidnapped and tortured them before. It doesn’t jog his memory, so she kisses him, but that doesn’t work either. Tabs decides that since she had to hit him on the head to get him to remember the last time, she’ll have to hit him again.


“So you’re going to remember me, Butch, or I’m going to beat your head in,” she says, turning the scene from heartfelt to creepy in less than a minute.

Unfortunately, Tabs’ . . . method doesn’t turn up any results. She says she’s sorry and that she tried before leaving Grundy on his own. However, after she leaves, he wakes up, stares at his reflection and asks, “What the hell happened to me?” And it sounds like Butch is the one asking, not Grundy.

The Verdict

Plot A: I wasn’t surprised to learn that Sofia was behind her father’s death. The real shocker was that she’d been behind Pyg from the start. I’m not sure how to feel about that, to be honest. Pyg was such a unique, philosophical villain that it seems like a shame to have him revealed as just another assassin without a personal motive. But on the other hand, the reveal shows just how much Sofia’s been manipulating Gordon from the start, and it makes all of his victories hollow. So I’d say the twist works well enough.

On an unrelated note, this episode finally capitalizes on Zsasz’s frequent appearances this season by having him play a big role in the episode. Zsasz’s decision to side with Sofia is what turns the tables on Penguin. The question is, will he switch sides if and when he finds out she had Carmine killed? Time will tell.

And I suppose it’s time we address the elephant in the room: Carmine Falcone’s death. Yet another important Batman character has bit the dust, joining the ranks of Sal Maroni, Nora Fries, and Ra’s al Ghul (for now, anyway. I still refuse to accept Ra’s’ death). Is his death unnecessary? I don’t think so. I think Carmine’s death serves as a means to show that Sofia is every bit as ruthless as her comic book counterpart. I was getting a little tired of her acting helpless, and she finally drops that facade in this episode.

As for Harvey, all I can say is that we’ll have to wait and see if his retirement sticks this time. I certainly hope not. Gordon’s in over his head, and he needs an ally. He need Harvey more than ever.

Plot B: I thought Bruce stabbing Alfred in the chest was bad, but this is honestly worse. Much, much worse. And according to an interview with David Mazouz, this bad-boy phase could last longer than I expected.

But while I’m sad that Bruce has shunned Alfred and hope it doesn’t last too long, I’ve got to admit that the fight scene was great. It shows just how far Bruce has come since season 1, but also reveals that he’s got a lot left to learn.

(Honestly, feelings aside, I’ve just got one question about this development—how could a lawyer or a judge honestly think it’s a good idea to leave Bruce Wayne to his own devices? He’s been kidnapped at least four times in this series.)

Plot C: I could’ve done with a little more of Ed, but this episode is already pretty stuffed, so I can understand why he didn’t get a lot of screen time. It’s interesting that his subconscious has already realized his affection for Lee and is fighting against it. Here’s to hoping that she doesn’t meet the same end as Kristen and Isabella.

As for Tabitha and Grundy/Butch, I’m a bit annoyed that the writers seem to be going back on Grundy’s transformation. As much I love Butch, Solomon Grundy isn’t supposed to remember his past. I want Gotham to stick to its guns on the change. It feels like a cheat to have Butch go back to his old self after all he’s been through.

Overall, I’d say this was a pretty good episode, but I’m still more excited for what’s to come, especially when it comes to Jerome and Oswald. Just check out this trailer:



Got any thoughts? Theories? Comment below, and have a merry Christmas!