The Daily Bongo: January 2014

cover of Laughter of Dead Kings by Elizabeth Peters

Thursday, January 23, 2014 -- Evening

Laughter of Dead Kings by Elizabeth Peters
Everyone who has read the Vicky Bliss books always wondered if, and what, the connection was between Sir John Tregarth and the Emerson clan of the Amelia Peabody Emerson books. Before Laughter of Dead Kings came out, there were many rumors that this book would answer all the questions.

The adventure started out with the theft of King Tutankhamen from his tomb in the Valley of the Kings. Feisel, from Night Train to Memphis, contacted Sir John because who else would ever think of stealing Tut? Well, obviously, Sir John would never do such a dirty deed to his friend, So Vicky and Sir John decided that they would have to investigate the crime to help Feisel and clear Sir John's name. Of course, Schmidt got involved. At first, Schmidt was going to spy on Sir John for Schmidt's new amour, Suzi, who believed that Sir John was guilty. Schmidt joined forces with Sir John and Vicky, and before you know it, the trio was on the scene in Egypt to find Tut. There's lot so action, twists, and turns before the mystery was solved, and the entire ride was great fun! It was fun to look for hints about the Emersons in the book, and a few things showed up. First was the compound that the Emersons lived in while on their archaeology trips, the home after the river boat. Then a character that can only be Elizabeth Peters herself showed up. The author admitted to buying some manuscripts from the Tregarths and of stealing others from the family estate's attics.

What I loved about the book was the ending. We do find out that Sir John is connected to the Emerson family, through the youngest granddaughter. As Sir John said, although Ramses was an only son, with three children, those children bred like rabbits. And we get the ending we all wanted since Vicky met John: the marriage proposal. I was left with a warm glow. It's sad that we won't have any more Vicky Bliss or Amelia Peabody Emerson books. I suppose we will all just have to continue the adventures in our imagination.

cover of Happy, Happy, Happy by Phil Robertson

Sunday, January 19, 2014 -- Afternoon

Happy, Happy, Happy by Phil Robertson
Lately, the Robertson family, of Duck Dynasty fame, has raised strong feelings amongst people. If you say you like the family, or support them, then you are labelled racist and homophobic. What bothers me is that some of the discourse seems hateful, and that is strongest on the side that is trying to silence the Robertsons. Personally, I am atheist, but that doesn't prevent me from appreciating the strong family values that the family has. I thing Duck Dynasty is a funny show, and I like how tight and supportive the Robertsons are of their extended clan. The Robertsons make it obvious, mostly with the dinner prayer at the end of each show, that they have strong religious beliefs. If you don't like it, don't watch it.

I wanted to learn more about Phil Robertson, so I got his book, Happy, Happy, Happy. Robertson comes across in the book, just as he does on the show, a man of strong belief and few words. Robertson wasn't always a good family man, and he detailed his past troubles with alcohol and family absence. However, he eventually turned his life around, and that was mostly due to finding religion. After reading the book, I have a much stronger admiration for Phil's wife, Kay. She put up with a lot of bullshit from Phil in the early years of their marriage, and yet somehow, she managed to provide a stable atmosphere for her boys.

Say what you will about the Robertsons, but one thing you can't say is that Phil Robertson isn't honest about his flaws and his beliefs. After reading the book, I have a clearer picture of the person Phil Robertson is. He says some things that I roll my eyes at because his views can be naive and simplistic. I found it hard to believe that PHil had a Master's in Education, but obviously, the image of an uneducated redneck we see now is a well-crafted persona. Love him or hate him; Phil Robertson is indeed an interesting character.

Franny K. Stein, creation of Jim Benton

Wednesday, January 1, 2014 -- Afternoon

Franny K. Stein, Neil Flambe, and Amulet
Since the end of term, I have been catching up on the stacks and stacks of magazines that had been piling up. I read old celebrity news, old science news, and a plethora of fitness articles. The most entertaining part of the catch-up was seeing how the celebrity news was reported when I knew the outcome because it was so old. Jennifer Aniston pregnant! No way Jose, if you saw her recent bikini pictures in Mexico.

Because I was reading so many magazines, I wasn't really reading books. I am still working on Laughter of Dead Kings on the Kindle, and I have been reading some kids' books in print format. My nephew will be turning six in a few weeks, and I have been trying to improve my literacy in the type of books that might appeal to him. One of the book series that had caught his attention is the Franny K. Stein books. Franny is mad scientist kid, modeled on the concept of Frankenstein. Remember, Frankenstein was the name of the scientist, NOT the monster! The Franny K. Stein books, of which there are seven so far, revolve around Franny's misadventures with science. Neil Flambe, creation of Kevin Sylvester Franny loves science, and she thinks that all the kids in her grade school should love science. However, they are interested in other things, like making cookies or collecting stamps. Franny creates a lunchmeat monster to save her teacher from the garbage can creature concocted from Franny's fermenting lunch (Lunch Walks Among Us). Franny creates a Dooms Day device, but then her lab assistant, a mixed breed mutt called Igor, accidentally eats the device, and in the process, activates it. Franny has to shrink herself to journey into Igor's stomach to deactivate and retrieve the device. (Frantastic Voyage) The books are first chapter books, and my nephew loves the books so much that he keeps on looking for new Franny books. I think the books are fun and perfect for a boy, or girl, who loves mad science.

The other kids series character that I have been reading is Neil Flambe. He is a creation of Canadian author, Kevin Sylvester. Neil Flambe is a 14-year-old master chef. Cover of the first book in the Amulet series, The Stonekeeper Neil Flambe can cook anything, and he also has a powerful nose for odors. Because of his powerful nose that can pick out the slightest smell and identify it, Neil gets involved with the local police, namely Sean Nakamura, Police Inspector. Neil helps Nakamura solve mysteries, and in the first book, Neil Flambe and the Marco Polo Murders, Neil helps Nakamura find the person who is murdering the best chefs in the area. Of course, the clues all point to Neil being the culprit, so he has to clear his name. The back story revolves around the journeys of Marco Polo, and a deadly poison that Polo discovered on his journeys. Neil gets help from his older cousin, Larry Flambe, and Neil's girl friend, Isabella. There are only four books in this series, and the books are geared toward the older reader, maybe fifth to sixth grade. My nephew will have a bit of time to grow into the Neil Flambe series, but I hope that he does give them a try.

I've also been reading graphic novels, and the Amulet series by Kazu Kibuishi has been entertaining. The story revolves around Emily Hayes, who becomes a stonekeeper. She, her mother, and Emily's brother, Navin, go to live in Emily's great-grandfather's house after Emily's father's death in a car accident. Of course, Emily has to save her mother, who is captured by an arachnopod. Emily and Navin have to journey to another world to save their mom, and then they have to stay there to save the world. This is another short series. There are five books out, with a sixth expected in September 2014.

The world of kids' literature is booming, so my nephew should have plenty of books to catch his attention. Let's hope that he gives the books a chance. You know how it is with kids. Right now, he is in a "I don't want to read because books are dumb." We'll have to hope that he sees the joy in reading before too much time passes.