Book Reviews: An Actual Dozen of Kid Stuff

If You Want to Fall Asleep
A little mouse can’t fall asleep, even with all the advice mom gives. He’s got plenty of make-believe characters to help—or hinder—his attempt, though the words rarely match the visuals.
Basically a paean to the power of imagination. Nothing particularly special about the artwork, but nothing wrong with it either; it does the job.
3.5/5

Fred Wants to Play
Fred’s fellow fishy friends don’t want to play with him when he’s really hyper, which he describes as having something bouncing around inside him. He tries to be cool, but can’t hold it in; must be hard to paint a frightened face on a tiny fish. He gets sent away and is sad. . . till he finds a new friend, of course, and they start a band.
Fred is an octopus—albeit an albino—so there’s plenty of underwater visuals. Some of the better ones are background events that have nothing to do with the story. I do wonder who made the sawfish the final authority, and what the sharks had to say about it.
On the down side, the text is tiny!
3.5/5

The Toad Who Loved Tea
Rhyming couplets set the scene for this kiddie romp, featuring a creature exactly as described in the title. But first we see how the toad brags about her adventures until challenged by a crow with the aim of a Cy Young winner, who then bullies the toad into going to a town full of—gasp—humans!
The Eeyore of this group is named MuddyBum. Awesome. The rest of them are as gullible and easily swayed as. . . well, humans. Tungtang is a bit of a sneak and doesn’t care about the havoc she causes. Other great names include Lord and Lady Lobsterpants and Brittanicus.
Best part was the on-point description of smoking, as well as the awesome town slogan: “The town where our smiles make up for the constant rain.”
Fun, and funny.
3.5/5

Harvey’s Hideout
A little muskrat is making a racket while building a raft, and his sister tells him to stop it so she can write a poem. They really don’t like each other, even after Daddy’s punishment. It takes loneliness to get them to stop with the bickering.
Wow, that first page is really brightly painted! The author is very specific about the decorations of the secret den, and the illustrator made sure the visuals matched, which might be the most fun part.
So treat your siblings well. . .
3.5/5

Time to Get Ready, Bunny!/¡Es la hora de alistarse, Conejito!
Simple paintings illustrate a bunny—who sleeps with a toy bunny, a little weird—doing everything but getting ready to go out—not wanting to get out of bed, dress correctly, eat breakfast, etc.—all in both English and Spanish.
Pretty simple all around. Not sure what this will do other than show children new ways to procrastinate, as I didn’t see any moral or lesson.
3/5

Let’s Hatch Chicks!
A chicken decides—yes, that’s the word used—she wants to become a momma. With more words than is usual for these kinds of stories, along with the requisite bright artwork, this book tells the story of how that happens.
The explanation of how some eggs become chicks and some don’t wasn’t well done; even I didn’t understand it. Here it’s a long process, with help from humans and other chickens. There’s also fun facts and such throughout, as well as descriptions of what’s going on, told outside the story. There’s even a day-by-day account of what’s happening inside the egg. There’s also a chapter on playing with the chicks, and not just for the kids.
It’s all matter-of-fact and definitely informative, but I don’t know how much fun kids would find this.
3/5

Emma Has a Dilemma!
Making quite a visual with blonde sausage curls, overalls, and a bratty face, Emma has a breakdown at getting an F over not knowing the difference between nouns and pronouns. By the looks of her stern parents, she has reason to fear. Luckily there’s a grammar fairy to teach her on a magical chalkboard, all done in rhyme.
This is the first book by a mother/daughter combo intent on a series about teaching grammar. It’s a little fanciful and the rhymes are sometimes forced, but overall it seems like a better way of learning this subject than the usual stodgy version.
4/5

Little Pierrot Vol. 2: Amongst the Stars
More of the same philosophical little boy who loves the moon and has a talking snail as a best friend. It’s almost a comic strip, but it’s a lot more metaphysical than outright funny.
Some highlights:
Who’s slower? A snail, or a kid dressed as a snail?
We’re all in agreement: everyone loves Emily.
A good point: werewolves and ghosts are phony, but talking snails exist?
Timing is everything when girls come to your bench at lunch. . . or when you’re fishing a sandwich out of the garbage.
Bagpipes make it rain!
The artwork is at times striking, somewhere between Impressionistic and watercolor, but always in muted earthtones.
3.5/5

Lily Pond
Rhyming couplets tell the story of Lily Pond, who is not a place but rather a frog. She likes to think about the future—jobs, marriage, kids, travel—on the eve of her eighth birthday.
The highlight of the text is an interesting manufactured rhyme for “twice.”
From the cover it’s easy to see how the artwork is going to be, and it’s fun. The clay models look strikingly 3-D even on paper or pixel. This book is worth it just for that.
4/5

Calling Dr. Zaza
A little girl plays doctor with her toys in what might be the most brightly colored book I’ve ever seen. She’s got the costume and all the accoutrements needed in the medical profession, like they’d been given to her for her birthday or something.
What I didn’t like was little Zaza going through the entire book without a single change of expression, like she’s just going through the motions and can’t wait to do something else. The artwork itself is colorful though broad, without much specificity. On the one hand that might be because it’s targeted for little kids, but on the other hand the subject matter might be more suitable for those a little bit older.
3/5

Celebrate with Zaza
One of Zaza’s toys is having a birthday, so it’s a perfect excuse to throw a party.
I’m confused: wouldn’t the present she got for the toy be considered regifting?
Unlike the previous book in this series I read, Zaza does appear to be smiling a few times. On the other hand, the colors are a lot more muted than that previous one.
3.5/5

Good Morning, Harry – Good Night, Daddy
In this story a little boy goes through life with mom, grandma, brother, and dog, while his father works as a conductor on an overnight train. They meet at the end of the book, in the morning.
Interesting rhymes. I found it strange that the kid just goes through life as though this situation was normal—probably doesn’t know any better—and not once does the story mention he’s missing his dad.
Bright enjoyable artwork, especially the first drawing, with a landscape full of birds and a setting sun, the characters tiny in the middle. It’s reversed at the end, with the sunrise, still as beautiful.
3.5/5

;o)

Poetry Tuesday: Be Indomitable O My Heart

In the fifteenth century there was a king close to what is now modern day Mexico City who liked to write poetry. Weird, huh? Make sure to spell his name right if you google him: Nezahualcoyotl of Texcoco.

Be Indomitable, O my heart!
Love only the sunflower;
It is the flower of the Giver-Of-Life!
What can my heart do?
Have we come, have we sojourned here on earth in vain?

As the flowers wither, I shall go.
Will there be nothing of my glory ever?
Will there be nothing of my fame on earth?
At most songs, at most flowers.
What can my heart do?
Have we come, have we sojourned here on earth in vain?

(If you’re familiar with my poetry choices, you might see the pattern: I love poems with the same theme as Shelly’s Ozymandias.)

;o)

Book Reviews: Graphics and Comics

I’m Not Your Sweet Babboo!
I don’t have to describe Peanuts to you, do I? Of course not. So I’ll just mention some of my fave jokes.
The book starts with Sally talking to a building. . . and the building thinking, if not talking back, the same way Snoopy does. So all is normal.
Peppermint Patty enrolls in dog obedience school. That’ll end well. At least that’s different than the usual fare.
There’s a cat called World War II.
It’s a really good friend who holds your head after your grandfather tells you that reading too much will make your head fall off.
There’s an almost-Goth girl named Truffles.
Snoopy’s not a rescue pilot, he’s the actual chopper. Woodstock is the pilot.
Tree-biting is a thing not limited to woodpeckers.
Bunny-print needlepoint is the thing to do when on guard duty.
The Beagle has landed!
Ends with fun facts about helicopters, with some heavy scientific explanations. Even shows how to make one. . . out of paper, that is.
4/5

Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files: Dog Men
Starts off with everyone dying, but of course that doesn’t last.
I’m not heavily familiar with this long-running series, only read a few here and there, so I don’t know how often Dresden goes out of town, but in this one he leaves the comfy confines of Chicago for rural Mississippi. The bigger mystery is how such a huge dog can be so calm in a VW bug for such a long ride.
Dresden makes a good point about his heart breaking and his stomach heaving being a comfort whenever he sees violence or its aftermath, but then that might be part of the stubbornness he admits to. I would have come up with that same reply if Listens-To-Wind hadn’t beaten me to it.
“You’re kidding, right?” “Yes.” Stoic old native American my ass. I was thinking more Yoda, but they went with an Indiana Jones reference instead.
“I was ready. I was confident. Usually that meant I was fucked.”
“I’ve seen golems covered with less mud.” Classic.
So many references! Scooby, Silence of the Lambs, Usain Bolt, Alien, Lord of the Rings. . . ANOTHER Indy reference.
There’s a lot that’s good here, and funny. But I am getting tired of going through so many stories without Dresden learning. All his obtuseness and anger-management issues get boring after a while. There’s no hero arc; it’s more of a flatline.
3/5

Pierce Brown’s Red Rising: Sons of Ares
Issue 1
With humans having colonized the solar system, there’s a very strict color-coded caste system that essentially treats the vast majority as slaves to the small elite. But there’s a rebellion growing in the lower levels, led by a guy born elite but never good enough to be accepted by them. Whether revenge or social justice, he’s ruthless.
The dialogue bubbles are in different colors, which I think stand for what caste the speaker is in. That’s about the only interesting thing I could pick out in this intro chapter.
3/5
Issue 2
The rebellion has been found out and is under attack. But before they can escape the story goes to flashbacks, explaining how Fitchner became the way he is now. It basically tries to show that survival makes one do all kinds of things they’d rather not. There’s too many memories for any of them to make a lot of sense, as each is done pretty quickly before the next one starts.
2/5
Issue 3
The scene changes from Mars to Triton, a moon still being terraformed. Fitchner is in charge of a work group, but the caste system follows him. At first it seems like he doesn’t even consider the rest of them human, having hardened his heart to survive rather than acting like an elite Gold, but when an earthquake hits he can’t help himself. This leads him to find love and family, and explains what the present-day raid is all about.
This chapter was a lot more interesting, just because it involves people more than the previous.
3.5/5
Issue 4
Still in flashback, Fitchner and his companions move to Mars, where he’s now in a corporate environment. But because he married a woman below his station, he’s easily blackmailed into becoming an assassin.
“I’m going to be an aunt!” Funniest moment in what is really a dreary depressing tale.
2/5
Issue 5
The flashbacks have almost caught up. Fitchner’s wife is captured by his old friend, who has become one of the brutal bureaucrats that wants to keep the bloodlines pure. Rejected by Fitchner, he wants revenge. . . but bites off more than he can chew.
There’s no way I’m expecting a happy ending here, but there really hasn’t been anything that would lead me to believe this is an actual rebellion, or that Fitchner could be any kind of leader. It totally comes off as him doing it for himself, without caring about the masses.
2.5/5
Issue Six
Long confusing ramble of a rescue operation to end it. By most measures it could be said that the whole operation wasn’t worthwhile. At the very end there’s a time jump to lead into the previously written story, wrapping things up finally.
2/5
This is a case of not knowing what I’m missing, because I haven’t read the previously released one; this is a prequel to that one. Despite the story it tells, there’s not much here that’s joyful, or even that new or interesting. Had I known more about it coming in I probably wouldn’t have read it.
2.5/5

Jimmy’s Bastards TPB Vol. 1
Right from the first glimpse of the hero you see he’s totally meant to be Bond, though on the closeup he reminds me more of Bruce Campbell.
His rescue/assistant is named Olga Trolltunnel, and is even more eye candy—to put it nicely—that any actual Bond girl. His Q is over-the-top Cockney. And his M is definitely nothing like Bond’s boss. Of course he gets a hot new assistant, though she’s not impressed by him or his methods at all. Thankfully she’s got a sly wit and plenty of sarcasm.
Some of my fave moments include the hatchet to the head, which is so old-fashioned and unwieldy it wouldn’t have fit in Dr. No, but whatever works.
Wow, that’s a huge crowd of offspring; looks like they fill a stadium.
This Rupert acts remarkably similar to Ruprecht in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.
The Cockblocker is a fantastic name for a supervillain, and if it also describes his power. . .
“That’s the young bugger who rogered my wife!” Surprised this sentence only occurs once.
There’s one of the bad guys who looks so much like him I was not surprised to hear him called Junior. The temper tantrum was something else.
“Radical solution.” Nice.
“Come and get it! See how you like. . . BAM!”
“Cunt-seeking missile.” Wow. Sheer poetry.
She’s the one who does the parachute trick, not him.
Always have a puppy on standby.
This started off slow and weak, but built up steam as it went along. Thankfully it got funny, and a bit philosophical. The story didn’t finish, though.
A few pages of covers gallery.
3.5/5

Pico Bogue: Striking the Balance
Two kids and their parents, in sorta comic-strip-like storytelling, though more drawn out.
Before anything starts, there’s an amazing drawing of the protagonist inhabiting a tiny part of a vast landscape. It’s really beautiful. And at the end there’s a snowy counterpart, though I don’t think I’ve ever seen a kid piggyback on a snowman before.
“You are what you eat. That makes me nasty.” Wow, tone is set from the first page. These two tiny kids are wise and snarky beyond their years.
The one where he almost gets run over by a car isn’t funny, but then I’m not sure it was meant to be.
“I’m scary as a trumpet.” Probably my fave.
He makes a certain kind of sense when he talks about Christmas gifts.
That little girl sure bounces back quickly from all those falls off the sled. And the last one proved just how amazing she is, my favorite character.
There’s a slightly impressionistic tone to the artwork, making the words and situations all the more surreal. Added to the humor of most of the jokes, it’s well worth reading.
4/5

;o)

Magic: Andrew Goldenhersh

Also known as Goldenhands, Andrew is my favorite magician. It helps that he’s married to one of my favorite musicians–more on her in an upcoming blog–but he’s won plenty of awards and done numerous big shows to prove he’s one of the best prestidigitators out there.
And even though I’ve seen him do this trick before, this is the first time I was able to photograph it, which made it all the more fun for me. Hi Elmo!

;o)

Book Reviews: Lawyers, Profilers, Assassins, and Diplomats

Derailed
This is a small prequel to a novel I’ve already read, in which a “chosen one” teen had to fight dark forces to save the world. . . stop me if you’ve heard this before. This story tells about the first meeting between the probably doomed lovers, events that were mentioned in the previous book. Syl has a huge crush on violin-playing Rouen, going to her concert and then heavily involved in the train crash that brings them together and separates Syl from her friends.
Gotta admit, it feels kinda weird reading this after the main event. What I most liked about the main book was the humor, and that’s as evident here. It does explain why the dark fae can’t sense her, but I would have liked more on Glamma. More than anything, I wasn’t able to really picture the train crash and its aftermath, which made it difficult to follow.
3/5

Proof
Second book in a series about a former hacker/now-ethical lawyer who keeps finding herself in huge conspiracies but can never back down. This one is different in that she’s no longer with a huge law firm, now doing the attorney version of the down-on-her-luck private investigator. In this story she realizes her late grandmother’s watch has been stolen, and tracking it down leads to much bigger crimes that threaten her life and those of her friends.
I love how this author, in both books, takes a small detail and turns it into an entire plot. That takes skill and imagination. But unlike the first one, this time it felt a little more convoluted than it needed to be. I didn’t like it as much as the first, especially in the beginning, but since it was on nursing homes and that’s important to me right now, I kept reading. Thankfully in the end that didn’t turn out to be an issue. There were some intriguing new characters and everything wrapped up in the end.
3.5/5

Profiling Nathan
Cold female FBI agent falls for tattoo artist to whom she’s delivering a message. Not very likely, but that’s what makes these stories fun, right?
Right off the bat she says, “I was recruited during my last year of college and started training at Quantico right after graduation. That was sixteen years ago.” By I quickly forgot that, because she reads younger. As for him, he’s got quite a past, including some fantasy elements that tie in to the rest of the series, which I have not read, but that only comes into play here once.
Throughout the entire story it was hard to pinpoint if this was a procedural or a romance; turned out to be the latter, as there are many scenes that were strictly getting to know each other and didn’t advance the plot at all. This is especially true of the entire nudist colony setting. After finishing the romance part, it sets up for the next sequel.
I really like that this isn’t a 300-page epic like most in the genre, filled with thoughts of “I want to, but I can’t!” The romance, plus the murder mystery/serial killer plot that I figured out by chapter four—writer made it a little too obvious—took about 120 pages.
4/5

Twisted Threads
An abstract intro with rhyming couplets does nothing but prove that this author is quirky.
A Japanese mafia assassin—female and reluctant—gets one last assignment before she can be free. All she has to do is figure out which one of the passengers on a cruise ship killed a family member of the boss. Who would have guessed that an assassination mission would somehow turn into a star-crossed romance?
Unfortunately there were far too many characters introduced when the story gets to the ship. With all the setting and introductions I was completely bored. Halfway through a mysterious figure is introduced, as if there weren’t enough characters already. The last part got confusing and ever so complicated, too convoluted. Still not sure what happened or who did what. Not at all surprised at who showed up on the plane at the end.
On the other hand, the writing was pretty good. There’s one point where the main character is “eating” a tear. That’s awesome. I did like the main characters, her more than him. Snippets about her past were confusing, but that’s probably because this is part of a series that I haven’t read.
All in all, a shorter, tighter book would have been better.
3/5

Undiplomatic Episodes
A career diplomat for Great Britain discusses some of his adventures and accomplishments in a surprisingly conversational and occasionally humorous manner.
I started this book in August; I finished it in December. Part of that is attributed to its awfully slow start. Until the end it’s a chronological autobiography (the last section is on epic parties) and the dullest parts are at the beginning, especially his school years. His time in Iran, for example, was a thousand times more interesting.
Here’s a nice example of his writing style: “This was at a time when the Cold War was still going strong and the Russian bear was still very much growling.”
But there were some moments that didn’t ring true. . . not that I thought they were lies, but I can’t believe he was that cheery during certain mishaps. Only in retrospect can it feel like a great adventure.
Bats, roaches, giant toads, claustrophobia=least favorite parts.
There’s a much needed break in the middle, photos and drawings and a couple of maps.
I’m not trying to make light of it, but as someone unfamiliar with the whole thing, it seems like it doesn’t take much to get knighted.
All in all it was mostly fun and well told, although it was sometimes tough getting through the lists of food served at parties, what the royals were wearing, or what birds were spotted. I particularly enjoyed the travel descriptions, especially when he talked about places I’ve been and loved, like Dubrovnik, Finland, and Australia. Never got to see much of Iran outside the archaeological sites, so learning about that was fun too.
But I will forever question his sanity, because of that bat cave expedition. . .
3.5/5

Little Book of Lagom: How 2 Balance Your Life the Swedish Way
There are a lot more uses for Goldilocks now than there used to be, even astronomically speaking, and this could be one of them, as it is a philosophy of “not too much, not too little, just right.” Having visited Sweden often, I can attest that a lot of people really do think this way. . . which is one of the reasons I visit so often.
There’s tips to make your home more energy-efficient. There’s a crafts article on how to turn an old t-shirt into a tote bag, as well as other clothes that can be reincarnated as draft stoppers or rugs. The part about storing your clothes vertically in the drawers was a revelation, as was the advice to eat before shopping for groceries. On the other hand, the recipes meant nothing to me, as almost every one has ingredients I’m allergic to or can’t stand. Same with the garden.
Like many advice books, there’s a lot of what’s usually called common sense, even if it isn’t. . . common. It really doesn’t feel much different than other similar books, simply using the Swedish connection as a way to supposedly differentiate.
3/5

;o)

Book Reviews: Ran Out of Erotic Metaphors

Alpha’s Prize: A Werewolf Romance
“My eyes crack open, gritty and sore. I’d rub them if I weren’t in wolf form. Where am I? I rise and knock against metal bars. Oh fates. I’m in a cage—a fucking cage.”
That early sentence says a lot, though from the title you probably didn’t need the wolf mention. A female werewolf on vacation in Mexico gets imprisoned by the local pack to breed with their young alpha; seems inbreeding’s a thing. But because this is a romance. . . well, you can figure it out.
There are a lot of viewpoints used, especially at the start. I get the need to introduce all the main characters, but it was a little confusing. But more than anything, I really wish this book had been more FUN. Everyone’s miserable, even when the story shifts to Paris.
I’m more used to Ms. Rose’s sci-fi, which I like a lot more than this werewolf stuff. The main male character started out as a douche but redeemed himself, so that’s a good point. I liked her from the start. There’s some interesting cultural stuff amid different locales, but despite the good writing, I didn’t enjoy this nearly as much as I feel I should have.
3/5

Zandian Pet
As in the last installment of this series, the female lead is not a human slave that her dom eventually falls in love with, but one of the last surviving Zandian females. In fact, she’s the sister of the main female character of the previous book. This one is accidentally found in a sex den that caters to aliens. She doesn’t mind, as she’s been in what she considers worst situations before.
This chapter of the long-running series was, in a word, typical. It should not have been, given where it started, but it has definitely settled into a formula, which is too bad. It always consists of the two protagonists making dumb decisions. The sex is great, the bondage well done for those into that, but I wish the psychological aspects were done better. One thing that kinda bugs me is that the guy in these romances is always the first one who spots her!
3/5

Off Limits
The execute assistant has the hots for her billionaire boss, who on the one hand can’t forget his dead wife and the other has nothing but one-night stands.
A quarter of the way through and I was completely bored. Various cycles of “Will-they-won’t-they” are interspersed with “yes-they-will,” leading to regrets and starting the cycle again. Hardly anything else takes place or matters. With all that introspection, it was easy to get distracted. One of the bright spots was the discussion on flowers, which was surprisingly deep and funny, one of those moments that is in no way necessary to the story but adds to the enjoyment. That, however, was more of an exception.
It’s amazing to me how these books, which are basically about the start of a relationship, can last for so many pages. I liked some of it, mostly because I liked her. As usual, I didn’t like the dominating ass she’s into. Just felt like it went on for too long.
3/5

The Traveling Sex Game
If you see a suitcase or purse or such with ribbons hanging from it, it could mean the owner plays a sex game. Ribbons signify what kind of sex you want. It’s supposed to be an anonymous hookup, but it doesn’t always work out that way.
This book is basically sexual vignettes reminiscent of Penthouse Forum, held together by small bits of reporting and sexual psychology. After the reporter’s intro to the game and a few interviews, the book moves to individual stories. Unfortunately this guy’s writing style didn’t do it for me; felt like he didn’t have much experience writing. The sex scenes were kinda matter of fact; obviously these were hookups and not romances, but they could have been longer.
2.5/5

Saved
A woman not-so-mysteriously comes back from the dead, only to find her reunion with her fiancé is not how she thought it would be. (I don’t feel that’s a spoiler, because with the dream at the beginning overdoing it to such a huge degree, the “major” twist wasn’t at all surprising.)
In a genre known for stubborn characters, this one goes beyond. I’ve climbed mountains more pliable than this guy. I liked her, but most sane women would have cut their losses no matter how deeply in love they might have been.
Just when he has a breakthrough, thanks to the last person he or we would expect, things go to crap again. Despite it being a cliché, this part was well done.
There were several parts I really liked, but more that I couldn’t stand. The last fight scene was too convoluted to picture. There’s a lot less erotica than expected, which is too bad because those scenes were written the best.
As a former Marine, the soldier patter made me laugh.
3/5

His Human Bride
Funny: when I started this I had no idea it was a sequel to a book I’ve already read.
In the first book, a nurse/scientist helps a Roswell alien escape captivity and flees with him off Earth, wanting to help cure his people of an epidemic. Now, after spending pretty much all of the voyage having sex, she faces her toughest challenge: his mother, the queen. After a quest, needed because momma gave the thumbs down, it’s time for the final judgement.
As is pretty much expected from a romance, even if this one comes with a generous heap of erotica, there’s plenty of misunderstandings to go around, although this one has a bit of an excuse in that alien species think differently. On the brighter side, the characters are likeable, and no matter how stubborn Mom can be, she’s heaps better than the scientists and soldiers of the previous book.
But my favorite part is at the end: “I have to thank Carrie Fisher. I don’t know her. I never met her. But she inspired me so much it seems wrong to publish a book without thanking her. Thank you, Princess.”
4/5

;o)