Book Reviews: Parenthood, Armadillos, and Secrets

“Put it in!” she begged, then waited for his look of shock before adding, all smirky smirk, “perspective.”

Science of Parenthood
This book posits that being a parent is like being a scientist, and lists a few reasons at the beginning to prove its point. The best one basically states, “Always underfunded and overbudget.”
Everything is shown as though this is a scientific textbook, though hilarious, thankfully. There’s a flowchart on whether you should have another kid, a crop of new disorders like “mourning sickness,” when your previously favorite food now makes you sick during pregnancy (cartoon of woman hugging boxes of mac and cheese), and the invention of a new science: Paleosexuality, which includes the Ice Age. I skipped the chapter on poopology, though I thoroughly agree with Pavlov’s Highchair. More helpful is the chapter that translates texts and emails for the passive-aggressive, though not so much the chemistry of post-birth sex.
I’m not sure if this is intended to help parents at all or is strictly for entertainment’s sake, but it certainly skews toward the latter. At first it feels like this is going to be long book, but there’s so many graphics it just flows. . . like a chart. There are some wickedly funny moments, but then there’d have to do be, with so many jokes. Like the Old Airplane and Naked Gun movies, one gag after another. If you don’t find one funny, just turn the page. . .

An Armadillo in New York
The title tells you all you need to know: drawings of an armadillo wearing an orange and white bandana doing the sightseeing thing his grandpa told him about in Noo Yawk. That simple.
It is cute watching him try to talk to the lions in front of the library, and the drawing of the Guggenheim was so realistic it almost gave me vertigo. I don’t know what an armadillo’s usual diet is, especially one from Brazil, but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t consist of pretzels, churros, or tacos. But he has to experience everything his grandfather told him about, which includes going to the ballet. There’s a running theme where his grandpa keeps mentioning Lady Liberty in his journal and he doesn’t know who that is.
It’s a short story, but at times very endearing; I can see this inspiring a kid to want to travel.

The Dreadful Fate of Jonathan York
Subtitled: A Yarn for the Strange at Heart
Mr. York is in a swamp, lost. He joins some fellow travelers to an inn to spend the night, where payment is the telling of a story. The first is about a little girl who loved ice cream so much she went to see it being made, and what started out as a sweet poem turned into something altogether opposite; you know it’s not a conducive workspace when a sign says, “Dilbert cartoon posters will be hanged.” This stanza was particularly enjoyable:
“You human folk are all alike
And if I may be mean
You’d rather send the world to heck
Than alter your routine.”
The second story was a testament to the lengths people will go for love. . . except for the twist ending; dude, you are so marrying the wrong woman. . .
The third story was shown and not written, with small cameos from Andy Kauffman, Elvis, and Amelia Earhart. It’s an alien nightmare, though the sign that says “No flash photography” is bilingual, so there’s that. And in a later panel there’s a flash going off, though we don’t see what happened to that rebellious photographer.
But Mr. York has no story to tell, so it’s back out into the nighttime swamp to meet many more strange denizens, some with accents. Then things really get weird when he’s forced to participate in a treasure hunt. . .
This is more a book with illustrations than an actual graphic novel; there are no dialogue bubbles or such, simply text at the top, bottom, or sides of each page. Not that I know anything about artwork, but this seems more “sketched” than “drawn,” and I think it’s better for it; makes the weird happenings all the more different from the ordinary. Especially when you’re tricking monsters into eating giant rocks.
So all in all it’s an enjoyable piece of fluff, wittier than expected if you look closely.

The Returning Tide
A woman—told in first person, so you don’t find out the gender for a while—goes to Cornwall in England for the first time in 30 years; the story is told both in the present and the past.
There isn’t much plot here. We know she has a secret, but most of the book is stories about how she lived in France, Australia, and New Zealand, with her two kids and the three men in her life.
Any suspense as to what the secret is about is removed about halfway through, when she gives enough clues for anyone paying attention. Yet because she doesn’t actually reveal it till the end, it’s a letdown. Even worse, there’s no ending; it just chops off. If the dastardly intent is for me to come back when the sequel is written, then it’s a failure.


15 Fave Books of 2015

It’s possible for a movie critic to see every movie released, though I couldn’t imagine doing it. It’s be a lot harder for a TV critic to see everything that came out this year, though probably not impossible. But there’s no way for someone to read every book or listen to every song released.
My point is this list isn’t the best books of the year; this is simply my favorite books of the 220 or so I got to peruse this year. And to make things so much easier for me, I won’t do them in any kind of order. . . um, they might be chronological, but not from best to worse or vice versa.

Included are links to my reviews as well as the author’s website.

AlphaStephen Brayton
Female private eye in Iowa martial arts her way through
the bad guys.

Random ElementsKate Donovan
Actress/wannabe FBI agent deals with stalkers, costars, and Machiavellian series creator.

Sweet GirlRachel Hollis
She’s sweet because of the food she makes, not her disposition, but one guy tries to change that.

Cold MoonAlexandra Sokoloff
FBI agent and vigilante serial killer square off for the third time.

InsiderOlivia Cunning
Young journalist goes backstage with metal band; love somehow ensues.

Investigating SherlockNikki Stafford
Everything you wanted to know about the show, just in time for the one-off.

Citizen of the Galaxy–Robert Heinlein
One of the famous author’s sci-fi classics done as an excellent graphic novel.

I am Sophie Tucker–“Sophie Tucker
You may not have heard of this over-the-top actress from the past, but after this you’ll never forget her.

Worrier’s Guide to LifeGemma Correll
All your worries laid out in graphic form so you can laugh at them, and yourself.

History of War in 100 Battles–Richard Overy
Excellent synopses of exactly what the title says.

Secret Kindness AgentsFerial Pearson
Teens learn to be nice rather than cynical; this one will warm your heart.
(bonus—her TED talk)

The Customer Service RevolutionJohn R. DiJulius
Why it pays to be nice to your customers.

Wrapped in PlasticAndy Burns
Just in time for the Twin Peaks reboot.

Jem and the HologramsKelly Thompson
Everything a graphic novel should be: fun!

The Silver ShipsScott Jucha
This first contact story is the best sci-fi of the year!


Almost there. . . if this was a top 20. . .

Beauty and Chaos/Tokyo’s Mystery Deepens–Michael Pronko
Pointed articles on all the little things that make Tokyo so fascinating.

Summer of FireKitty Pilgrim
A tour of Europe while trying to hunt down a killer (or just stay alive).

Field Marshall–Daniel Allen Butler
Definitive biography of the one and only Desert Fox.

The Future of SexLexi Maxxwell
If this is indeed the future of sex, it’s in good. . . hands.


Poetry Tuesday: Mix Ink With Tears

By a Persian poet named Sa’di, who died in 1292.

This I write, mix ink with tears,
And have written of grief before, but never so grievously,
To tell Azra Vamiq’s pain,
To tell Laila Majnun’s plight,
To tell you my own
unfinished story.
Take it. Seek no excuse.
How sweetly you will sing what I so sadly write.


Book Reviews: Sex, Spanking, Murder, and Racing

Margaret Smith
If she had been the Virgin Mary, she would have said no.

Wicked Lust
Lust might turn to love in Jackson, Wyoming, where a young woman who’s recently arrived has an ulterior motive for wanting to bed the tough guy who’s the head of security at the local watering hole.
While the plot might have been good had it been a lot shorter, my lack of enjoyment in these characters dooms it. Cain is exactly the kind of jerk that pisses me off; I will give him some slack because of his former relationship with a screwed-up woman, but I hate that he rationalizes the way he plans to use Sloane. He didn’t want a relationship with her; fine, she was up for a one-night stand. But he keeps getting together with her, knowing full well she’s falling for him, while telling himself he’ll just dump her when the time comes. He’s cruel almost to the point of sadistic, but according to a lot of these types of stories, this is “what women want.”
Sloane is a wonderful character, but she’s no jewel either. Like him, she’s got an excuse for what she does, but unlike him she owns up to it at the end. Though she’s obviously smarter, she often ignores her common sense, because she’s a “woman in love.” There’s no doubt she enjoyed her gangbang, but her reasons for going through with it weren’t convincing. Her best moment is when she comes clean not because of him, but because of her new friendship with the politician’s daughter.
Oddly enough, the most realistic character is the owner of the sex club.
This was much slower going than expected, especially for this genre; usually I breeze right through them. There are a lot of great sex scenes here, though due to the length of his book they’re a bit hard to find. Pretty sure I would have liked this a lot more had it been shorter.

Correcting the Coeds
This is a collection of stories taking place in the 1950s, when it was expected for men to punish their girlfriends/wives if they acted up or didn’t do what they were told. . . at least that’s what this book would like you to believe. So this is basically about how spanking can help love blossom. . . and I can’t believe I just wrote that sentence.
Struggled through the first story before finally giving up and moving on. The other three stories were much easier. The most fun for me was in reading about how different the world was 60 years ago, morally in particular. This was really brought out in the story with the girl who goes back in time from this era; I was with her every step of the way as she found out how weird society—and technology—were back then (though I’m sure they’d think the same of us). It’s particularly funny to see a woman who would have casually had sex with him being baffled by his insistence to remain chaste, despite how much he obviously wants her. That story also makes gentle fun of Canada, which I can fully get behind, in a loving way, of course.
The other two stories were fine, though after a while I got tired of the spanking scenes.

Dark Kills
A female police detective who lives for her work at the expense of her family goes even deeper into the hunt for a serial killer dispatching college students who participated in a study on psychic powers.
This is my second book by this author, and though I didn’t particularly like the first one, I’m not sure I like this one any more. There’s a lot of extraneous stuff, which is a little necessary in the mystery genre, but it helps if they make sense, and they really didn’t here.
Her partner is a complete jerk whom she puts up with because they’ve known each other since they were kids, and when the inevitable happens with him, she’s still surprised. It’s okay for your lead character to have flaws, in fact it’s most likely required, but being stupid isn’t one of them; who else would go out in a snowstorm to question a witness rather than spend time with their family? Then instead of heading to the hospital she goes off to look at the lake; the fact that she was lucky to come out of that alive only underscores how dumb she is.
The best bit was a character named after Bubba Ho-Tep, but that’s only for Bruce Campbell fans.

Avoidable Contact
Kate and Holly are up to their old shenanigans, though this time on a bigger—and longer—stage. Kate’s boyfriend Stuart is in the hospital after being run over right before the 24 Hours of Daytona starts. Then one of her fellow racers is killed, followed by a journalist. Even her newly-found half-sister is in danger. . . all during the 24-hour race.
The fact that this time she’s not the one who found the body—and therefore isn’t as much of a suspect—doesn’t change her willingness to solve the mystery, even while having to deal with bad guys on the track and in the pits when she’s not in the car. As always it’s the racing scenes that are worth the price of admission, with Colby—another female racer—joining the team, as well as the NASCAR star Kate crashed into in the last book.
I’m a little ambivalent about Kate’s character development here. While it’s great that she’s becoming a better person, her emotions still get the best of her at the worst times. But frankly it’s the storyline with her new family that is grating on my nerves; enough about them already. I know that’s not realistic, but it would probably boost my rating another star if this storyline was done.
Having said that, I still enjoyed this book tremendously, even when she wasn’t racing. There’s a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff of interest to the casual racing fan, as well as some new interesting characters that don’t get a lot of time here but are ripe for more in upcoming stories. The fact that Kate can go so gaga over a handsome guy coming on to her shows her to be more human than she sometimes gives herself credit, as well as being utterly hilarious.
Now that I’ve finished all the books I’m sad I have to wait so long for more!