Book Reviews: Mermaids, Edens, and Beauty

She claimed my music selections were like a dinner of only desserts.
I hope that’s a compliment. . .

Urban Mermaid
Problems of a shy young female mermaid who can’t find a guy. Then she finds a guy, but he’s human, which is a big no-no in the quasi-human/quasi-fish community.
There’s a cute interesting prologue on how mermaids came to be, but basically this is a love story, which is different than a romance, as they get together relatively early in the story. In fact, about a third of the way through they’re already engaged, and you wonder what’s gonna take up the rest of the book. It’s actually kinda amazing that there’s so much here, but it never stops being interesting.
There’s one point where he takes a mysterious phone call, where it seems he’s going to sell her out to a Sea World-type place, but that’s about the only time when we’re made to wonder about his sincerity. Everything else is about his doubts as to how he’ll fit in with a mermaid community. She has them too, though she’s generally feisty and pugnacious enough to persevere.
I will say the writer went way overboard on the wedding dress description, but other than that I thoroughly enjoyed this. Every once in a while there’s a touch of humor, always surprising but never snarky. Even the wedding was fun. I’m looking forward to the sequels, where I hope there’s more interaction with dolphins.
4/5

Stay With Me
A woman having an affair in San Francisco has her boyfriend tell her that he’s moving back to New York and they were all about sex, so she doesn’t tell him she’s preggers. Years later he comes back into her life, now engaged to her distasteful cousin yet still thinking he has all power over her.
The attempt at suspense in the second part was ridiculous; who else could it possibly be coming back into her life? Other than that the writing is well done. The bad news is, as much as I really want to like this character, I can’t. She’s so stuck on this asshole it’s actually painful to read. And there’s no redeeming him, he’s far too disgusting. At a certain point I thought, “If this ends with them together it’ll ruin the whole thing.” Then I wanted to go to the end and check, but somehow refrained.
Near the end it changed to his point of view for the first time, which was jarring.
This was a hard one to judge. The story is not too bad. Perhaps if the male character wasn’t such a complete ass, it might have worked; I wonder if the author being Italian had anything to do with it. The fact is this guy is so unredeemable that I cannot picture any woman putting up with his shit. She doesn’t seem to suffer from the kind of low self-esteem that would lead her to this. I found myself having no respect for her, and that ultimately doomed this.
2/5

Endangered Edens
Basically a travelogue heavy on animal encounters: Puerto Rico, the Arctic, Costa Rica, and Everglades.
This is a short book even before you take into account all the photographs, but that doesn’t make it any less fun. The writing is entertaining enough, and there’s no heavy evangelizing; he gets his point across without dropping anvils on your head, or even your foot.
The photo of the polar bear paw print is amazing, seemingly more so than shots of the bear itself as far as trying to understand the size. I just wish there’d been even more on the Arctic drilling; on the one hand I don’t want it to go into the proselyting I mentioned wasn’t here, but it was so thoroughly beyond the scope of anything I could have imagined. . .
Thoughtful and entertaining. Light, but all the better for it.
4/5

The Beauty Volume 1
A graphic novel concerning an STD that makes you beautiful, so of course just about everyone wants it. And then there’s those who don’t want it and are militant about it, to the point of bombings and other forms of terrorism. When a Beauty dies on the subway, seemingly combusting from inside, the protagonists are sent to investigate. There’s also a conspiracy led by a politician—of course—and an assassin who’s seen far too many Day of the Dead celebrations.
As you might expect, there are Beauties everywhere. The female cop is a gorgeous redhead, the male cop’s wife is a gorgeous brunette, and so on. The cop looks a little delicate, which is why it’s funny that she’s the testosterone-fueled potty-mouthed Alpha. In this area the artwork is marvelous, better than any I’ve seen.
There was one point where I wondered if I missed something: why did the male cop and his wife break up? Did she cheat? Did she suspect him of cheating? How did they get the disease? I had to reread this, because it’s too subtle; I know what I’m supposed to think happened, but it could have been done with a little less subtlety and still not insulted my intelligence. . . or lack thereof.
Extras: all the covers and bios.
Really enjoyed it, and not nearly as much in the horror genre as the forward had me dreading.
4/5

;o)

Advertisements

Poetry Tuesday: Poem of the Cid

As I do sometimes, this is a piece of a larger poem, in this case the opening of the famous Poem of the Cid, from around the year 1140 in Spain. I think I like it because it reminds me of Ozymandias.

He turned and looked back to see the towers
tears running from his eyes
Doors left open without locks.
The porches bare of either pelts or coverings,
Perches empty of falcons, empty of molted hawks.

;o)

Book Reviews: Assassins, Detectives, and Playful Ghosts

“You’re afraid of opening a bottle of champagne?” she hooted.
“Hey, I’m afraid of opening the tube of biscuit dough!”

Tijuana Nights
In a prequel to the main story, taking place in London, McKenna’s boyfriend cheats on her with her best friend, then demands a whole bunch of money as well as half of the house she was given by her aunt. What’s a poor historian to do? But just when you think she’s wholeheartedly throwing herself into her escort debut, there’s a huge twist that leads into the main story. So rather than becoming a high-priced hooker, she helps out her new buddies in taking out a drug cartel while they train her to become a high-priced assassin. There’s a lot of violence and car chases and even some sex, though possibly at heart this is a love story, even if it takes forever to come out.
This was more enjoyable than I ever would have thought at the beginning, no doubt due to the smart sassy lead. She was so much fun the guys around her didn’t matter all that much. I do give the author credit for making all the bad guys distinct, not just in their jobs in the cartel but also their personalities.
There were a couple of things that annoyed me, though. For one, in between the two stories I would have liked to have seen how she explained her client’s death to the madame. More importantly, I really didn’t need all the brutality so vividly described. But other than that it was a fun ride.
4/5

Shine: Wild Love
A lonely college professor with a sad origin story—child bride, then ran for three days straight to get away from the fanatics who killed 13 of their own, THEN her adoptive mother and husband die of cancer, but not before she finds out he was cheating on her—suddenly finds herself with three boyfriends.
Having such a bad history with men, she’s unprepared when a fireman and then a policeman come on to her, adding to the poetry professor she’s already dating. It’s rather amusing that, once all three have resigned themselves to the idea that they would have to share her, she doesn’t give a single thought to having them one at a time, going right into a foursome. It’s certainly a different type of love story, but other than the obvious Mary Sue of it all, it works well.
The scene with her mother and sis-in-law is the best, both hilarious and heartwarming. Also heartening is her ability to finally stop playing it safe and let herself embrace the situation. It helps that her best friend is encouraging her every step of the way, but it’s her character development that really sells the story.
4/5

Dark Crimes
There’s been a literal deluge of British crime stories in the past few years, both written and on TV. Yet I keep reading them because most are at least okay, while some are quite well done. This is one of them, as an experienced police detective inspector—female, which in the end doesn’t matter—is tasked with finding who killed a local woman, only for the case to evolve—or devolve—into a hunt for a serial killer.
This lead detective, Sophie Allen, is simply awesome, the story also excellent. More than once I had an idea that she thought of a few paragraphs later, so I’m liking her; it felt like I was whispering in her ear. She’s also quite modest, admitting at various times that they’d gotten lucky, as well as sharing the credit. As in other stories in this narrow niche, there’s a lot of characters, far too many to remember, though all the ones on the police force have their moments to shine.
There’s the same glossary of Brit terms for Americans that this publisher puts in all the books, as well as a character guide, though I still insist this would be more useful at the beginning.
Just wish this publisher would come up with better titles. . .
4.5/5

Johnny Boo Book 7: Johnny Boo Goes Like This!
Johnny Boo is all white, as a ghost should be, and has hair like Donald Trump. His friend is a smaller ghost shaped like a comma. A giant pencil appears and scares them. Then they figure out how to use the pencil, which leads to some crazy shenanigans. The hair comes off, is transferable, and makes animal noises.
I’m not sure if this is for little kids, in which case it’s great, or it’s a bit of adult satire, which is also great. It’s gotta be the former, but it means the supposed grown-ups will enjoy it too.
Some classic lines:
“Boo power is loud!”
“Was that a magic VOOMF?”
“I’m just your friend who sometimes eats you.”
No one in this story has a future as a hair stylist. I have to say, though, that tiger was awfully tame. . .
3.5/5

;o)

Poetry Tuesday: Turkestan

By Ch’en T’ao, 9th century China

Thinking only of their vow that they would crush the Tartars
On the desert, clad in sable and silk, five thousand of them fell. . .
But arisen from their crumbling bones on the banks of the river at the border,
Dreams of them enter, like men alive, into rooms where their loves lie sleeping.

;o)

Book Reviews: Graphic Novel Edition again

“I thought you were a genius.”
“I am, but that’s not all I am.”
“Smooth.”

Atomic Robo Volume 10: The Ring of Fire
A military operation is trying to stop the end of the world, threatened by some biological monsters from what I assume was Volume 9. Not having read anything in this series, I was sure I would be confused, and right at the start I am. The main character, considering the title, doesn’t show up for a while, as somehow he went into the past and now his team is hunting for him.
The writing on the whole was well done, particularly the sly bits of humor. There’s one caption that simply reads “26 days and 5000-ish miles later. . .” which made me smile. Another good one was, “As the chief safety guy, it’s my duty to yell at people so we can get through this alive.” This made the story easier to take, as there were some points where there were simply too many plot lines going at once.
Things became more difficult toward the end, as I did not enjoy the deus ex machina Robo comes up with; why’s it always gotta be Nazis? But the worst part, a huge plot hole so bad it makes me drop the rating a point: what happened to Robo running out of power? After that mention it’s never brought up again and doesn’t seem to be a problem.
There’s nothing I can particularly say about the artwork. Not bad, not great, got the job done.
3/5

Bloody Mary
In an alternate reality that features World War 3, a female assassin who dresses like a nun and looks like Annie Lennox goes around the European continent dishing out her brand of justice.
Though she’s very much stone-hearted—some flashbacks explain why—there’s still humanity in her; it’s both hilarious and sad that in all the chaos around her she’s lamenting her upcoming 40th birthday. And I will say she’s drawn with great legs, when she’s not wearing the nun stuff.
In the first story she’s given the chance to go after her nemesis, along with a buddy from the British Army who’s simply gone nuts because of a head injury. There’s one point where he’s telling the other soldiers the story of how she got to be the way she is, which was a good use of exposition; then she adds to it by telling him a new story.
However, just when we’re supposed to think these are good guys—or at least better than the other side—they gun down some innocent cops responding to a call in the free city of Amsterdam. I was not happy with that, and if it’s done to prove these guys are no heroes, mission accomplished.
But of course the bad guy is worse, saying he needs to kill in order to not go insane. . . ugh. The only way she can match him is to become just as crazy, and at that point I thought they story went downhill. Plenty of carnage, such as people falling into helicopter blades. At one point she shoots a grenade strapped to one soldier to take the whole squad out.
There’s a second story, in which a religious nut takes over Noo Yawk City, and she’s sent to kill him. Her price: rebuild the Statue of Liberty. These authors and illustrators seem to find great joy in killing characters in the most gruesome ways possible, but they also include a flashback to her as a child, explaining why the Statue of Liberty is so important to her. This small moment of humanizing was important, considering what she’s become.
If there’s one moment I won’t forget it’s when Clara snipers the chopper pilot! Never seen that before. . .
3.5/5

Back to the Future: Untold Tales and Alternate Timelines
A collection of stories that weren’t told through the three movies, with a framing device involving Doc’s family from the third movie.
Some of these plots are intriguing, though you can see why they would never be included in the movies. The first involves how Doc and Marty initially met, which was cute and, though somewhat preposterous, a fitting intro to their partnership. After that we get how Doc made it onto the Manhattan Project, followed by the government wanting his time machine to stop the Cuban Missile Crisis, and so on. Old Biff faces off with a dinosaur. Doc is visited by both George and Lorraine, eager for dating advice from Marty, and misunderstandings ensue, of course.
At the end he’s ready to bring his Old West family into the future, but the book veers off into the wife’s life story. Though it’s a bit jarring to the flow of the entire book, it was a sweet and clever background to a character who really should have had more screen time in the third movie. “I believe that my escapades convinced my parents that one child was more than enough.”
There’s always one shot that stays with me, and in this graphic novel it was Clara in full Victorian regalia posing on a train. There’s another that features panels of everyone saying each other’s names, with Copernicus adding a funny “Woof!” One more: Lorraine with a cute “Eeep. . .”
The illustration is fine, though the characters aren’t drawn true to life. More than anything, it was enjoyable, and that’s all that’s really needed.
4/5

Golem
In a future where Italy has become a world powerhouse with a giant economy, thanks to a young new leader, the dumb populace is happy with the benevolent dictatorship and rampant consumerism. Bread and circuses; nothing much has changed. But as always happens in such cases, there’s a resistance made up of individuals who want to be free.
That premise is simple to understand, but getting through the story is a lot harder. For instance, there’s a long fight sequence in a traffic jam which I found very confusing, especially when added to the dreams of the main character, a seemingly normal kid who turns out to be the key to everything. At times it was hard to tell which side was which; couldn’t figure out who deployed the pain ray until well after. So much is done on the freedom underground taking the kid away, because his dad was a big deal, but then he escapes far too easily, wanting to rescue his mom and the girl he likes. And of course he gets captured by the government’s security people, which is far worse. It’s not till near the end that why find out what the whole thing is about, and it’s told in flashbacks: the kid’s dad invented something that will put all the corporations out of business, and now the resistance wants to give it away freely to everyone to break the hold of the huge businesses and their puppet government.
The art is, considering this is an Italian work, more like anime, with bright colors and everything bubble, thicker than usual. There’s long stretches without dialog, almost impressionistic, but just there for their own sake. The final battle was a bunch of panels where I had no idea what was going on, as though drawn for its own sake. The deus ex machina is just a huge “Huh?”
Image I’ll never forget: Two young women in a bank, dressed like flight attendants, staring down at an old man who’s collapsed. “You can’t die here, sir.”
Extras include some early drawings and attempts at explanations, like how the secondary characters follow zodiac signs. Didn’t clear anything up.
3/5

;o)

Book Reviews: Godzilla, a Sheikh, and a Memory Man Walk Into a Bar

“You kiss your own ass with that mouth?”

Godzilla in Hell
A graphic novel where the title is so literal it tells you all you need to know. Hell can’t handle Godzilla any better than Tokyo.
I had a strange thought right before I jumped into this: are they gonna have Godzilla talk? Or anyone? Turns out it wasn’t so strange; there’s absolutely no dialogue, and only a few boxes of texts, until halfway. But I’m definitely glad the authors didn’t make the monster a thinking creature, simply reacting to all the attacks from the beasts in hell.
Apparently Rio is now in hell, according to a certain statue. There’s a point where there’s signs saying “Submit to Hell!” and such, but he’s simply an animal who can’t think, so all pleas are ridiculous, even when the fairies say they worship him. (Yes, that’s a weird sentence.) But of course most of it is fighting with other monsters. Even when he’s impaled on a pointy building he keeps going; guess since he’s in hell he’s already dead, right? Even being eaten alive can’t stop him.
Nothing much I can say about the artwork; it’s usual. This is equivalent to a shoot-‘em-up movie where there’s no need for much plot, just action sequences.
3/5

The Sheikh’s Reluctant American
Amid the background of an American oil company wanting to buy land in a fictional Arab kingdom, a local prince and the daughter of the oil baron, both trying to please their respective daddies, fall hard for each other.
I don’t read romance often, but the setting alone made it worth the try. It helps that it’s also listed under erotica, and the sex scenes are pretty good. The two lead characters are well done, but the rest are one-dimensional.
I like the geographic settings, and the sandstorm scene was excellent. Having spent a month in the desert of Oman, I’m grateful I never had to go through that.
4/5

As The Crow Flies
London cop transfers to the boonies, which no one understands, even if it’s the area where he grew up.
Read this in a couple of hours. There’s two plots: identity theft of recently deceased, and investigating the death of a friend who fell while climbing. I like how the two plots are distinct, yet his investigating style meshes with both. He’s a bit of a jerk with other cops, though. And bad cops are becoming much too common in British mysteries.
If there’s one problem early on, it’s that the author thinks he’s explaining the nuances of recreational climbing, but it’s not working. I’ve done it myself, though no expert, and I couldn’t follow the explanations.
But the major problem is the ending, which is frankly ridiculous, completely ignoring what had been written earlier in the death scene as well as witness statements. That brings the final grade down, but up to then it had been a fine if simple procedural.
3/5

Transient City
In a moving city on some planet far away from “Old Earth,” a man with an enhanced memory helps solve crimes, only to be given the lead in finding the killer of the husband of the girl who was his first kiss when he was a kid. The great mystery is in figuring out who’s pulling the strings.
Wow, right away it shows why having such a memory is not a good thing. It hurts both physically and psychologically, especially remembering perfectly how his crush was when he knew her, and of course how much she’s changed now that she’s an adult. But the big idea of this story is a city that moves, every once in a while taking off to mine for minerals in a new locale. Despite this seemingly futuristic notion, a lot of this world is the same as ours, possibly further back, as police reports are still done with paper and pencil, with only vague references to computers.
I wonder if there’s anything to the corporation being named Agamemnon. . .
Every once in a while something like “fortnight” or “mate” sneaks in. But what really struck me was a couple of the characters being incredibly similar to some famous ones from the 60s. If you’re  a fan of the adventures of Modesty Blaise and her pal Willie, here we have Duchess Blaze and Chilly, a bureaucrat and a miner who moonlight as assassins. The male character in particular is doppelgänger, with the Cockney, the books, all the girlfriends, being a knife thrower, so on. About the only difference is that this guy is totally psycho.
As for our main character, Victor is an everyman—albeit one with a gift—trying to get the job done when no one else will, and trying to keep his old crush and himself alive. He’s smart enough to know he’s being sent on the boat trip to keep him away from Kathy; up to them I wasn’t sure how good he’d be, but this show of intelligence made me like him more. But if there’s one character I liked the most, it would have to be Shoes, a Greek chorus on a skateboard. . . ish device.
This book was fun. Not perfect, but solid.
4/5

;o)