Book Reviews: Toads, Racing, and Mad Women

“I love men in uniform,” she purred.
“There’s Santa Claus. Go get ‘im.”

Stinky Cecil in Terrarium Terror
A toad who’s the leader of his little pond gang gets captured by a school group and placed in a schoolroom terrarium. Though his new friends are a bit annoying, he comes to enjoy himself just in time to be rescued. A children’s book with a little bit of an edge, for a children’s book, anyway. Cecil the toad is so delightfully snarky, and of course stinky when he needs to be.
There’s a harsh reminder—probably sad for the first time—of a fly’s five-day lifespan, but his heart will live on. . . I mean his soul. A gerbil-piloted helicopter is indeed faster than a turtle; everyone gets their own cute little headsets. And for a smart toad, Cecil can’t even handle an apple.
The artwork is fine, and there’s an educational appendix. Fun for adults as well as children.

Dead Man’s Switch
After having enjoyed the upcoming entry in this series, I had to go back to the start of the series, which takes place at Lime Rock racetrack on the east coast, a venue I’d only heard of and never visited.
Kate is of course the main suspect, and it’s a little strange to find her younger and not as mature. She gets the dead driver’s ride, which is why she’s the main suspect. As with the other book, the murder mystery is well done but not extraordinary. There were too many characters, and therefore suspects, but in the end the resolution was acceptable. The important thing in these books is the racing detail, which is fantastic. I wish I’d been able to read such vivid descriptions before I took the racing class, would have made things all the more fun.

Sons of the Devil
This was a strange one, even for a graphic novel, starting with a literally bloody bludgeoning before moving to Venice in the here and now, where a not-so-tough guy gives in to his dog and carries him rather than let him walk, to show his sentimental character, I suppose. Adding to that, he helps a lost kid, which makes him late enough to work to be fired, where he goes off on his boss with his fists. But the boss cuts him a break, so he only gets community service. Then he finds his foster brother killed, and he’s knocked over the head when he finds the body, so of course he’s suspect.
There’s intimations of a cult in his past, and a girlfriend who’s way too good for him; I don’t understand how she puts up with him. It doesn’t take long for him to go ballistic yet again. It’s infuriating how unlikeable this protagonist is. I should be rooting for him, instead I don’t care that he screws up again and again. There’s a moment when he’s in group therapy where he says there are no excuses, even being adopted and growing up in crappy places. He’s right, and that’s why I feel absolutely no sympathy for him. Good riddance to this story.

College Bound
A beautiful young woman who keeps losing her temper and making wrong choices agrees to be something of a sex slave so she can earn enough money for college. But of course it’s much worse than that. . .
There’s a lot to both love and hate in this character. She’s got a fantastic sense of humor, but she’s a stubborn idiot that is her own worst enemy. Over and over she loses her temper or simply strikes out at her captors for no reason. After a while it becomes hard to have any sympathy for her.
At least the title’s funny, once you read far enough to understand it. There’s one chapter that goes, “Two hours later, the FBI showed up and arrested everyone in the house.” That’s the whole chapter; now that’s funny. But in general this was simply too weird to accurately describe or even understand. It’s far more about control than sex, and in the end I have to say I didn’t like it very much.


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