Book Reviews: Literary Stew

The Messy Joys of Being Human
Despite the title, this is a self-help tome.
Even though my first thought as I plunged into this was “I’ve heard all of this before,” I couldn’t help noticing that it was transmitted differently.
I think the most admirable quality this author possesses is the ability to be optimistic despite everything that’s happened and continues to happen around us. On the other hand it’s got a light style that makes me wonder how much I’ll remember when I’m done.
I love that she’s a fellow grok. . . person. Someday we may share water.
Years ago this would have been called new age; now it just feels normal.

The Sign of the Serpent
This volume, second in the series, revolves around Marisol and her search for the killer of her father, as well as going after Mannix and Indra for killing the council or something.
For the most part it feels a lot like the first, which is mostly a good thing, but in the end I didn’t like this one as much. The ending was the problem, as while I enjoy puzzles, it’s only those I have a chance to solve, and I wasn’t given the opportunity here. There were simply too many switches: Is the bad guy good instead? Is the bad girl just a pawn? Mood whiplash.
As always I like Marisol, but she wasn’t nearly as smart in this one; clever, but being dumb at important times to service the plot. Annoyed by the cliffhanger ending.

Romancing the Rogue
The owner of a castle dies, having forgotten he’d taken charge of an orphan years ago. The new heir gives her a month to find a husband and move out. Her old crush shows up, but she wants nothing to do with him, whereas he realizes his mistake and wants her now.
This is an earlier book than most I’ve read by this author. It’s not as fabulous, but you can see the underpinnings of the technique and humor she would develop in her later series. Definitely worth the read.

Life, Death, and Cellos
Bad seafood leads to a corpulent conductor—I love alliteration—suffering a heart attack in the musical saddle. Then the orchestra’s problems really start. There’s a Strad involved. The new conductor is having an affair with more than one cellist.
There’s a lot of musical explanations, intended to teach us non-musicians, but even this is too technical, so it came across as boring. Listed as a mystery, but it really isn’t. Told in a tongue-in-cheek style that tries to be like Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, but despite some humor it’s nowhere near that level.
My fave characters are Erin and the cop who gets obsessed by the Strad. We’ll probably be seeing more of him in the sequels, which are sure to come.

Big Nate: Payback Time!
Collection #3000 or so of the long-running comic strip, featuring an almost-loveable grade school loser and his silly shenanigans.
As a former soccer goalie, I was a little insulted by the first plotline, but I’ll let it pass for now.
He wins more often than he has before, but Nate wouldn’t be Nate if he didn’t fall on his face all the time. But I like that he’s always optimistic, no matter how misplaced.
I’m so glad my father doesn’t watch YouTube. . .
Nate’s talking about how cool it would be to be a profiler while I’m watching Criminal Minds.
There isn’t much left to say. If you liked it before, you’ll like it now. If you’ve never seen it, it’s worth a try. Think of it as a slightly edgier Peanuts.

Book Learnin’
I’d read one of these comic collections, and gave it my highest rating, so of course I took a chance on this one.
The first section is on art, very little of it memorable. The best joke was on hat fashion.
“Giraffe pimp” snuck up on me.
A whale singing about big butts is just wrong.
Don’t tell anybody I laughed at the car/plane joke.
Do make copies of the certificate at the end.
Unfortunately this volume wasn’t anywhere near as good as the first. Even on its own it didn’t bring that many chuckles.

Lucy: Speak Out!
Is there really anything left to be said? They’re Peanuts comic strips. After doing collections loosely based on topics like dancing, these feature a certain character, though in this case Lucy is not in every plotline.
Funniest: Santa Claus and his rain gear.
I will never forgive for “barking up the wrong tree.” “Flaw in the ointment” wasn’t any better.
Never knew Marcie had a crush on Chuck.
Find out what happens when Lucy DOESN’T pull the football away. . .
At the end there’s a section on the author’s support of women’s sports.

Unicorn Bowling: Phoebe and Her Unicorn Series Book 9
Another collection of my favorite comic strip.
Phoebe nails it when she says Dad is waxing nostalgic again. He does tend to do that a lot.
Oh lord, I’d forgotten how silly Marigold looks in a bowling shirt. Makes me miss the legwarmers. . . but not the bikini.
The best plot this time around is Phoebe joining Marigold at Unicorn Camp, which turns out to not be that different from human camp, especially with Sue showing up.
So, if you’re familiar with the strip, there’s nothing new here, and that’s a good thing. If you’ve never seen it, give it a try.


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