Travel Tuesday: On Makeshift Bedding

By Vidya, somewhere between 500 and 1000 AD in India.

On makeshift
bedding in the cucumber
garden, the hilltribe
girl clings to
her exhausted lover.
Limbs still chaffing
with pleasure, dissolving
against him she
now and again with
one bare foot
jostles a shell necklace
that hangs from a
vine on the fence–
rattling it
through the night,
scaring the jackals off.

;o)

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Book Reviews: Kids Like Animals

If 13 is a baker’s dozen, what’s 11?

Creature Files Reptiles: Come Face-To-Face With Twenty Dangerous Reptiles
This book is filled with photos of fearsome looking creatures full of fangs and claws, with small diagrams that show what part of the planet to find them, how big they get, and a fang file. There’s also a danger gauge, and even though the Gila monster’s spit is venomous, that only ranks a two. The undisputed winner is the black mamba.
I’m old enough to be surprised when I come across an animal I’ve never heard of, in this case the tuatara. Native to New Zealand, called a living dinosaur, luckily is a 0 on the danger gauge. The gharial I’ve seen, even if I’ve never heard the name. That long skinny snout is a dead giveaway.
Most astounding fact: the green anaconda can grow up to thirty feet! And a book like this can’t end without everyone’s favorite, the Komodo dragon.
But I would have given the leatherback turtle at least a one rather than a zero; those babies can bite!
4/5

Ultimate Expeditions Rain Forest Explorer
In 1924, a jungle explorer went into the Amazon, keeping a journal of the animals he encountered for a display at the museum that paid for his expedition.
Each page contains diary entries, a big photo of the animal in question, a few small ones, drawings, and fun facts, such as the jaguar having the strongest teeth of any cat.
The tapir always scores high on the weirdness scale, especially the fact they can hold their breath underwater for a good ten minutes. His encounter with a river dolphin is hilarious. And if you’ve ever wondered about Amazonian bats, they’re just as disgusting as any others.
Have to say, though, the photos, especially the dark ones, are too sharp to have been made with 1920s photographic technology. And some of the drawings have captions in small italics that are difficult to read.
3.5/5

The Girl Who Said Sorry
This is a book about teaching young girls to express themselves with confidence and without apology. The young protagonist here has to deal with people telling her she’s too girly, too boyish; too thin, don’t eat that cookie, all kinds of contradictions. Worst of all, she apologizes every time regardless of how ridiculous the dichotomy.
“You say sorry a lot!” So I said sorry.
The artwork is simple pencil sketches on a white background, until she has her epiphany. At that point it turns psychedelic, her words now coming in rhymes.
The funniest part was the bio, where, because she’s Canadian, the author admits she apologizes all the time.
3.5/5

Northstars Volume 1: Welcome to Snowville!
The appropriately named Polaris—at the North Pole—is the home of Santa Claus’s town, Snowville. His daughter, a cute redhead, is just as appropriately named Holly. She’s happy to have a princess visiting, though she’s not what she expected. After some getting-to-know-you they take off to the underworld with a little green guy and get mixed up a plot to take over Snowville.
Yetisburg Address? Wonder how many kids will catch that one. Grammar gets them past a dragon somehow. I like how there’s a little emoji face next to the dialog when the speaker isn’t pictured.
“Huh. That could’ve gone better.”
The moral is right to the point and very true.
The artwork doesn’t try to be realistic, but that’s okay. It has more of an old-school comic book feel, which isn’t much of a surprise since it seems to be targeted for younger kids.
3.5/5

The Anger Volcano
The first half basically runs through a bunch of metaphors for the topic, showing all the ways anger can manifest. Then come the solutions—like counting to ten, slow breaths, think of something else—followed by the results, hopefully. There’s a couple of repeats in there, or I guess reinforcement. Best part of it is that each page is done in triple rhyme, which proves very effective. Also helpful are the not-so-simple line drawings, which don’t try to overdo things and take attention away from the words.
4/5

Annabel and Cat
A story of friendship between a little girl and her cat. They put on plays, do arts and crafts; I can see a cat holding up a mustache to its face, but using scissors is too much. They also like to jump into piles of leaves, usually a dog activity, amongst many other adventures.
The prose is easy for little kids, as is the artwork. Can’t help but wonder, though, why this was done with a cat when a human best friend would have worked just as well, if not better.
3.5/5

Kit and Kaboodle
If there are two animals that really enjoy peanuts, it’s elephants and monkeys. So what happens when an elephant has a bag of yummies and won’t share?
If you go through the pages fast when the monkey’s juggling the dishes, it looks like a little movie. No matter what he does, and some of the attempts are pretty impressive, the elephant is not enthralled.
In the end the elephant did have a point, and the monkey’s revenge was kinda harsh. But yeah, they could have both done better.
3.5/5

Mi Gato, Mi Perro/ My Cat, My Dog
Told in both English and Spanish with a drawing in between, this tells the similarities between cats and dogs as seen by humans, though the cat might have different opinions. In the end they figure out how to coexist.
With its simple language and artwork, this is right in the wheelhouse of preschoolers.
3.5/5

My Favorite Animal: Dolphins
What are the odds that I open this book just as Flipper is on TV? (Seriously, that just happened!)
As it should be, the title tells you what you need to know. Told with plenty of lovely photos, and despite this being for children, I did learn some interesting facts about an animal I have studied thoroughly for years.
There are small tests given throughout with the answers in the back, along with a glossary.
4/5

The (Not) Sleepy Shark
Like the title says, Amelia the Shark is not sleepy, wandering around talking to her friends and doling out common-sense advice.
When the school of fish said they were hungry and the shark said, “I know the feeling,” I thought the next page might not be appropriate for kids, but luckily it didn’t go there.
Kind of a strange setting for a story, and I don’t know how educational it is, but in the end it was okay.
3/5

Superheroes Club
Lily wakes up happy to go to school, then promptly gets buried under a pile of clothes. She’s still happy, though, because she comes out of the pile fully dressed exactly as she wants to be. From there it moves to “What I did last summer” at school, and ends up with a bunch of her classmates helping her help others.
There’s a clever moment where the script is positioned to include the name on the dog’s collar.
I really liked the teacher, even if he was wearing a bowtie. He ends up getting wet.
The artwork is as bright and colorful as the message, like an 80s superhero cartoon, which just might be its inspiration. And I can’t help but be reminded of one of my favorite musicians, Lindsey Stirling, when I see this little girl. . .
4/5

;o)

Poetry Tuesday: Moods

Mona Douglas was only 16 when she published this in 1915. A brilliant person from a brilliant place, The Isle of Man. For those who’ve never heard of it, it’s an island between England and Ireland, and full of fairy people; I’ve seen them!

Dawn on the hills, and a breeze across the heather,
Lark-songs that fall from the solitudes of blue,
Haze on the bogs with their tufts of golden feather,
And a light that makes the whole world new.
Dusk on the hills and the shadows on the heather,
Ripples of flame on the waters far away,
Light on the crags, where the cattle roam together
In the glory of the dying day.
Noon on the hills, and the mist upon the heather,
Fast-driving sleet, and a wind that will not cease —
Lo! there’s a joy in the stormy winter weather
Which is greater than the joy of peace!

;o)

Book Reviews: Space Love

His Human Vessel
In the continuation of a series I’ve grown to love, an alien doctor buys a slave for breeding purposes, as his race was almost wiped out, but he’s a man—or alien—of science and claims not to want her. She knows better.
Not quite as good as the previous four in the series, but still better than most stuff in this genre. As always I enjoy the human female characters; it was easy to feel for her and her dilemma, even feel sorry for her. Despite him being the supposed authority on human females for his kind, advisor to the ruler and all that, he’s just as clueless, if not more, than the previous guys. Sometimes that was fun, sometimes annoying, but in the end it worked out well that way.
4/5

Her Mate and Master
From the same series as above, but with a twist. Unlike the previous stories, rather than buying a human slave, this young heroic alien goes undercover to rescue one of the last females of his race, who also happens to be the daughter of his sensei. Of course things don’t go as planned and they have to make a run for it, with him desperate to have her but not about to dishonor her—or rather her father—despite her obvious willingness.
Even though she wasn’t human, she wasn’t that much different than the others. The story was pretty much the same; not that that’s a bad thing, but something a little less formulaic would have been nice.
I liked the female character, but not as much as the previous human ones. The story didn’t seem as fun either, though still good.
3.5/5

Alpha’s Temptation: A Billionaire Werewolf Romance
A former hacker wants to go legit with a corporate job, and ends up trapped in an elevator with the big boss, though she doesn’t know that at the time. Turns out he knows exactly who she is, though at that point he’s not aware she’s the only person ever to beat him in cyberspace.
He’s a usual rich asshole, as well as a werewolf, the loner type. But of course he wants her, and despite all her previous feelings about men she gives in rather easily. This is one of those rare stories where I didn’t feel all that great about the heroine; I should have liked her, especially her wicked/nice personality, but she didn’t work for me. I hardly ever like the guys, and there’s no exception here.
3/5

Second to None
Seven years ago he lusted for his friend’s wife, so much that he cut himself out of their lives from the guilt. So complete is his withdrawal that he didn’t know his friend died. Now they reconnect, and of course he’s a hunky millionaire. She wants money for her children’s services center to expand to dog therapy.
This novella is classified as an erotic love story—though the sex scenes lacked any real heat—but it was the other elements I enjoyed more. For instance, I would have preferred more of her great kid. What really annoys me, though, is that this romance wouldn’t have happened if he wasn’t rich.
It’s strange, because usually when I like the main characters, the story doesn’t matter as much. And I didn’t mind the story, but I still feel disappointed, partly because it was money and the death of her husband that allowed this to be a happily ever after.
3/5

Gunnar
In what is thankfully a short story, Vikings raid a village after a festival, when everyone is drunk and easy pickings. The leader goes off to rest in the previous lord’s room and finds a gorgeous blonde tied up waiting for him, expecting the previous ruler. Though a virgin, she’s smart enough to play along so as not to be punished. Blindfolded or not, she figures one is as good as another, and of course ends up enjoying it.
Feels historically accurate, but I’m not interested enough in this period to look it up myself. I do like that it was more than just straight-up sex, despite the short length. No big deal, just fun.
3.5/5

Tempted & Taken
A Russian lass, having taken a friend’s identity, is on the run in Texas, where she wants to be mentored by a rich handsome computer genius. . . and have sex with him too. He has a large improv family of brothers, mostly from his time in foster care; I have not read the previous books in this series, so that’s all I know.
These types of books are rarely about plot; all that’s needed is that it not come off as stupid. This story actually did a pretty good job of getting the leads together in a realistic way. As always, I think it’s a good book if I like the female character, though in this case I think it’s well-written anyway, with plenty of little moments to keep me entertained. There was one scene about ¾ of the way through that seemed to drone on and on, but other than the fact I don’t think a Russian mob would simply let things go without being honor-bound to revenge, that’s the only negative I have for this.
I was disappointed, however, in not getting a shot-by-shot account of the skeeball game. . .
4/5

;o)

Book Reviews: Sci-Fi Twist

Here There Be Dragons
In a future where two huge conglomerates fight for supremacy in space, a law enforcement official investigates one of them, because his brother works for them. Instead of doing his job he falls hard for the local AI genius caught between the two companies.
This is the second in a series, and I wish I’d read the first, because that one had the Del/Sun story, and he doesn’t get much here. Some of the world building might have been in that one too, and therefore missing here. On the other hand, the best parts are the descriptions of the company headquarters and other places—the party near the end comes to mind—as well as the accounts of the ships moving through space in their unique way.
The strangest thing is that this book is billed as an erotica, but nothing such happens until near the end.
3/5

Strange Music
For many years I thought there was nothing better than seeing a new Alan Dean Foster novel was out. I started reading him about 35 years ago, when I was in high school, and that was the Flinx series, which is still going, as proven by this latest book.
There was a bright spot for me at the beginning, where Flinx and his lady friend—finally!—are living on Cachalot, which was the scene of one of my favorite early books. But then he’s convinced to go on yet another mission, thinking that after all this time there’s nothing he can’t handle. As always, he’s wrong.
In this story the twist is that he can’t read the emotions of the natives of this new planet he’s sent to, or more precisely he can’t read them when they’re talking. The people speak in a singsongy tone, which I enjoyed at first but quickly gave me trouble, which surprises me. It’s a fun excuse for the author to be even more verbose than usual.
This is typical ADF in its worldbuilding as well. He loves inventing new creatures and geographies, and while nothing will ever be more wild and strange than the lifeforms in Sentenced to Prism, there’s some fun stuff here too.
If there’s a word for this, it’s “typical.” There’s a sameness to previous plots, not just Flinx but even his Star Wars novels, as well as Icerigger and Spellsinger. It feels like he’s more interested in going crazy in his worldbuilding and doesn’t worry about plot anymore. But even if this is a typical ADF story, there’s so much awe in his inventiveness, and his incredible humor, to worry about the frame. Just enjoy the work of a master wordsmith.
3.5/5

(OMG) Don Quixote and Candide Seek Truth, Justice and El Dorado in the Digital Age (LOL)
Candide—after he got tired of his farm—wanders into a bar where Don Quixote is entertaining German tourists with his stories. They feel a kinship and decide to explore this modern world together, with Candide’s ultimate goal to get back to El Dorado.
For someone who’s loved the book for decades, it’s more than a little weird listening to the thoughts of a grown-up and no longer-innocent/naïve Candide. Yes, at the end of that novel he’s lost that charm, but he’s far worse here. On the other hand, his luck hasn’t changed a bit; everything bad still happens to him.
“The conductor leaned in and pointed to his badge. ‘My real name is Cyrano.’” This is the first of many appearances by famous literary—and otherwise—figures. Started out enjoying the Sherlock cameo, until it became—can’t believe I’m saying this—too meta. Luckily there’s more of him later, though I do wish someone could write about him without shoving Moriarty into it too. The entire Star Trek scene was disappointing, anticlimactic; when you get Don Quixote calling Captain Kirk a coward, you know you’re in the wrong book. They appear again near the end, but that wasn’t much better. And those good ol’ Suthin boys Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn turned out to be much bigger jerks than Twain would have ever thought possible.
Proving I am much like Candide, the long philosophical conversations during travel, especially in cars, put me to sleep. This book would have been considerably shorter and tighter without them.
At one point I thought for sure Candide would run into every character from his book, and couldn’t wait to get to Cunegonde. When he did. . . well, it could have gone better, but I’ll bet he doesn’t regret it. Too bad the monkeys from the trip to El Dorado didn’t make it into this one.
I’ve seen the Who’s On First routine done with bands before, but never for this long.
Nuevo Mancha seemed a lot more realistic than Vegas.
There are no words more chilling than “You shall join the other eunuchs.”
So. . . that was longer and tougher going than expected. A silly romp through history and the world, with each new chapter seemingly sprouting at random. Same wacky adventures with a modern twist, featuring two of early history’s most talked-about travelers. Where else would you find so many fun historical characters together?
I’m not at all sure if watching Man of La Mancha a few months ago helped or hindered this reading. . .
3.5/5

Slayers & Vampires: The Complete Uncensored, Unauthorized Oral History of Buffy & Angel
It took a moment for me to understand what was meant by “oral history.” Rather than it being an audiobook or a Homer epic, this takes interviews and puts snippets into a chronological order that eventually makes sense.
In the end it works pretty well, even when you don’t recognize the speaker. A lot of them are recognizable, though, staring from Joss Whedon and including most of the actors and writers/producers. Especially fascinating was the chapter right before the show aired, when everyone was wondering if Buffy would be a hit or bomb.
3.5/5

;o)