I, Robot

"I, robot: to protect" by Mickey Zucker Reichert
"I, robot: to protect" revisits the world created by the master of science fiction, Isaac Asimov. Although Asimov passed away in 1992, the three laws of robotics he created lives on in books and movies. This book was authorized by the estate of Isaac Asimov. It is written by Mickey Zucker Reichert.
 
This book is a prequel to Asimov's work. It tells the back story of Susan Calvin before she becomes involved with robotics. It opens with her being a psychiatry resident at Manhattan Hasbro teaching hospital. Her patients range from the near comatose to a four year old sociopath. Susan makes some brilliant diagnoses/breakthroughs in her first few weeks.This causes her to be chosen for an experimental project using nanobots. While the experimental programs offers hope, it attracts the animosity of the Society of America who fear they will create a cyborg.
 
While the book has some problems, it is a worthy addition to the Asimov universe.

Vampires Plague Princeton

"The Accursed" by Joyce Carol Oates

Twined through the ivied walls of Princeton University, vampirism spread like a virus in 1905. Though not all fell prey, no one escaped exposure.

Who better to invent this contagion than Joyce Carol Oates, Princeton professor since 1978? She knows the streets, the customs, the genealogies and secrets both chronicled and disavowed. In "The Accursed," an unnamed fictional narrator reveals this "history," writing in the late 20th Century. Diaries, correspondence, hearsay, legend and conjecture combine to expose the visitation of vampirism at a particularly fecund period in Princeton's history. The environs are traversed by luminaries such as former president Grover Cleveland, burgeoning author Upton Sinclair, Sherlock Holmes, Mark Twain, Jack London and, most prominently, Woodrow Wilson during his tenure as president of the school.

Empty Mansions

"Empty Mansions" by Bill Dedman and Paul Clark Newell, Jr.

Huguette Clark was a very well-educated, sophisticated lady who inherited a lot of money, property, art jewelry and other valuables from her very wealthy parents. Although she had an amazing oceanfront estate in Santa Barbara, California and three uber-plush apartments overlooking Central Park, she preferred to pull the shades and retreat into one room in a New York City hospital. Although she was not ill, she lived in the hospital for 20 years!

"Empty mansions : the mysterious life of Huguette Clark and the spending of a great American fortune" by  Bill Dedman and Paul Clark Newell, Jr. uncovers some of the mystery of Huguette Clark, but leaves plenty intact. She was such a recluse that people who worked for Huguette Clark for decades never met her. But she was also generous and loyal, not just to employees but to their relatives.

Standing in the Shadows of Motown

Twenty Feet from Stardom

If you're waiting for  "Muscle Shoals" to be released on DVD and still in the holds queue for "Twenty Feet From Stardom" consider watching "Standing in the Shadows of Motown" to make it worth the wait. Like the other titles, "Standing in the Shadows of Motown" gives belated credit to the extraordinary musicians who created Motown hits like "What Becomes of the Brokenhearted" and "I Heard it Through the Grapevine." Dubbed the "funk brothers," these talented men descended into the creative snake pit of Motown Records on a daily basis and spun gold nearly every time.

Silver Bell

"American Kid" by Patty Griffin

Patty Griffin's 2013 CD "American Kid" is getting some competition from an earlier recording that was hung up in record company purgatory. Entitled "Silver Bell," Griffin here is electrified both musically and metaphorically. Always mixing a little rock n roll in her country, with a full band she cuts loose on "Little God" and "Boston." That is not to say her lyrics don't have their usual clever precision or heartbreaking themes. They wend their way throughout, possibly most devastating in "Mother of God" and "Top of the World," a song that received a wider audience thanks to the Dixie Chicks who covered it and several other Griffin tunes.

RedDevil 4

The new mystery "RedDevil 4" was written by local neurosurgeon Eric C. Leuthardt. Leuthardt researches brain-computer interfaces and is a leader in the field of neuroprosthetics. His expertise is evident in this compelling page-turner.

"RedDevil 4" is set in St. Louis in 2053. Most of the population relies on neuroprosthetics for communication and information retrieval. People communicate directly from brain to brain without speaking and are able to retrieve and review data without equipment. Not everything has changed, however. St. Louis still has separate city and county police departments, and dog walkers still carry small plastic bags to clean up after their pets.

Claiming what’s yours in Poland

Old people are so inscrutable! That's what you're thinking if you're Mica and you're stuck with your now silent grandmother in Poland as depicted in "The Property" by Rutu Modan. This graphic novel follows the two as their once unified purpose, to find the status of the older woman's property lost during the Holocaust, falls apart and divides them.
 
The grandmother changes her mind about researching the property upon arrival, leaving Mica confused and on her own. The novel mixes somber topics with light-hearted ones, as Mica makes her way around Warsaw without her grandmother.

Absurdity abounds in this graphic novel

"My Dirty Dumb Eyes" by Lisa Hanawalt is a very funny and very adult graphic novel. It's probably more accurate to say it's a collection of musings done in visual form. The book is not for kids.
 
Artist Lisa Hanawalt envisions beings with cat heads or horse heads doing things in a half human, half animal manner. She draws many animals, some wearing bizarre hats such as a Desert Hare wearing a Lazy Susan hat with hot dog and pancake condiments. Creating and exposing absurdity is her specialty.
 
Hanawalt's drawing style varies throughout. Her animals in hats are lifelike, except, of course, for the bizarre hats. She can also draw more simply, as when she shares "Tips for Living with a Significant Other." Her illustrated movie reviews are absolutely hysterical, and this book includes four. "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" gets a good recommendation "if you love apes." "The Vow" gets skewered.

Presidents’ Day Reading

"Lincoln's Boys" by Joshua Zeitz

If you celebrate Presidents' Day with history books, you are in luck. Two recent books about George Washington and Abraham Lincoln address lesser known aspects of the lives of our first and sixteenth presidents.

"Lincoln's Boys: John Hay, John Nicolay, and the War for Lincoln's Image" by Joshua Zeitz focuses on Lincoln's personal secretaries during his presidency. Hay and Nicolay formed a close and trusting relationship with Lincoln and his family. After the assassination they were given exclusive access to Lincoln's personal papers in order to write his official biography. The multi-volume work that resulted helped to shape the popular view of Lincoln.

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