Book Reviews: Erotic Motorcycles, Teachers, and Time Travel

I feel like instead of the usual funny line or snippet of conversation, I should post a nude photo or some such when it’s a review of erotica. . .
Nah. There is a photo I can recommend, of Katherine Heigl in a black leather catsuit, out there in the vasty internet, if that helps.

His Human Rebel
Fourth in a well-written series of male alien master/female human slave stories, this one features a more common soldier rather than aristocracy, as well as the most delightful lead character so far.
Unlike the previous reasons for buying up humans, this time a whole bunch are brought in from a jail to help the war effort. And in fact Cambry does learn to fly, but once Lundric has her in his sights that becomes secondary. . . though she does have a hidden agenda of her own.
There’s a formula to these dominance erotica stories, so I don’t worry about the plot too much. The guys almost always act like entitled Neanderthals, so it’s the female protagonist that will make or break a book. There’s some similarities in them as well, as they start out feisty and learn to love, or at least obey. But the women are sufficiently different to make them unique and entertaining.
In this case Cambry’s pretty awesome, my fave of all the ladies in this series, and that’s saying a lot. Too bad her trust issues keep her from being honest with him—not that he’s earned it, but still—but that’s the way of most romance novels, even the sci-fi erotic ones. Lundric’s even more Neanderthal than most, especially at the beginning, but if she taught him to treat people better then I guess her “sacrifice” was worth it.
4/5

Stay After Class
College senior virgin desperately wants her cork popped before her next birthday, because a psychic told her to. She’s got her sights set on her art professor doing the honors, but the last thing she expected was for him to take her on a long frustrating journey to that point.
I’m not sure how I feel about this. On the one hand it’s a well-told romance, but on the other. . . I can’t imagine her being that patient with someone who, as much as he wanted to do right by her, was manipulating her the entire way. He certainly wouldn’t have done that with an older woman, or one not as innocent. Despite his claims, it felt like this whole long timeline was more about him; she could have been more open about what her deadline and the dating app meant, but he treated her like a child far too much, and his excuse of “protecting” her was the ultimate in condescension.
As for the characters, Amanda was a lot of fun, as was her BFF. Even their emoji use was on point; the cherry with the fireworks was particularly hilarious, as well as the band-aid. As for him, he seems to be a genuinely nice guy who simply has no idea how to treat a modern woman; he seems to be stuck in some sort of weird age of chivalry, mixed with some Neanderthal “She’s mine” crap. Every other character seemed to be differing shades of evil.
I will admit the author almost got me by including a musical piece by one of my fave musicians, Jesse Cook, but I’m pretty sure I didn’t give any extra credit for that.
3/5

Slave to the MC
In the second book of a series—I did not read the first—a smart sassy part-time stripper deals with trying to pay off her mother’s debts while being the sexual plaything of an entire motorcycle gang, including the wives.
This story is unusual: it’s one thing for a submissive to be such with one master, but to be a more than willing slave to a gang, not just in sex but having her entire life controlled. . . that’s not seen often. The good thing is that, even as she fights it, she realizes she enjoys this kind of thing, which makes it a lot easier to take. She’s surprisingly introspective, and pretty damn smart, at least in her thoughts if not in her life choices.
Wasn’t particularly a fan of the story, since I hate all the gangster stuff, but some of her thoughts were intriguing, and if she’s willing—as she always is—the sex scenes are pretty hot in a primal way.
3.5/5

30th Century: Escape
A military woman from long in the future sends troops back to the 27th to fix history so humans don’t get genocided, but instead of heading the mission she slips off to the 21st to start a new life.
This story had a lot of potential, but the writing was surprisingly stilted for someone who’s published so much. On the other hand, this might be his first work of fiction, and if so the inexperience shows. The conversations feel wooden and the descriptions lack style; oddly enough, that happened more and more toward the end. Having read other sci-fi erotica recently, this simply pales in comparison. In fact, it’s odd that it is listed under erotica, as there aren’t any sex scenes until the last half, and even then it’s lackluster, pedestrian. One of the main reasons is the use of the word penis. . . exclusively; apparently the author lives in an ivory tower or cave where he’s never heard of another word for the male organ.
It’s not just the sex scenes, though; there’s not a lot of emotion in the writing, period. She cried, she felt sad, that’s it; no elaboration. By contrast, the science stuff goes on for pages. Her dissertation defense lasted far too long, making me think this was the whole point of the book, with the rest just framing. And most of the science was far over my head even when she was asked to explain it in layman’s terms. Annoying.
Some of the writing is just ridiculous. “You are the mother of the children. . .” Did you really think she didn’t know that, Jen? Another example: “Jennifer gritted her teeth, hoping she was not talking over his head. If she was, would his attraction to her die?” Seriously? What a modern 21st century woman, let alone 30th. More to the point, in the few scenes we get of the 30th century—as well as the 27th—they show worlds that don’t seem all that different from today, especially socially as compared to technologically. That makes no sense; not much thought was put into that. Another problem was all the characters I had to keep track of, particularly the women, as some of them had similar names.
I wanted very much to like this, which might account for some of the disappointment. I enjoyed the premise, all the way up to her being alone on the island. Once she was rescued it went downhill. Jennifer is for the most part a likeable lead character, though there were times when she was simply too good to be true. The anthropology and archaeology of the Pacific Islands was interesting, as it fit into my own hobbies, but in the end it didn’t lead anywhere, so I suspect it was just the author’s pet.
And it was so sad that we never saw the dolphin again. . .
2/5

;o)

Book Reviews: Non-Fic Be Sick

“Did you just fall in love again?”
“Let’s label this one ‘severe like.’”

{Apologies for the title. My editor insisted.
No, I don’t have an editor.}

A Way of Life: Zen Monastics at Work and at Play
Photographs of a Vietnamese monastery through the eyes of an American.
The shots are often grainy, which lends itself well to the documentary aspect of the book. One of the first shots shows two women in profile walking past a lake, a red bridge before them. The background is foggy. It’s beautiful.
But mostly it’s about the monks. There’s a bald one with glasses, smiling as he/she paddle a rowboat. The masked monk on a riding lawn mower seems a little incongruous. There’s shots of them playing basketball, volleyball, badminton, hopscotch, and some sort of hackey-sack in a parking lot. Not what is expected from a monastery. There’s also a music section, the highlight of which is the little girl watching the cello player.
Some of the photos are complimented by sayings or poems, which does serve to make them a little more special, but even though there’s some beautiful images here, most of the photography looks like stuff taken at a backyard family party. Not all that interesting, unless the point was somewhere in the vein of, “Look, they’re just like us!”
3/5

Directing the Sitcom Joel Zwick
There’s nothing else that could explain this book any better than the title it already has. Mr. Zwick, who’s been doing this for decades, gets asked questions and answers them, period. A big part of this is the questioner, who is also in the business of show, as Tom Hanks puts it in the foreword—Yay for Bosom Buddies!—knows exactly what to ask the experienced director.
But despite the short length, it took forever for me to get through this. Sometimes it became too technical; I know some of the stuff as a professional photographer, and I’ve been on set shooting stills, but at times it just went right over my head. Oddly enough, less than half the book talks about the shoot itself—or as they call it, the film school portion—which I’m guessing is what most people are looking for when they buy this book. The highlights of this section are explanations of camera terms, such as extreme close up and cowboy, along with four camera setups, perfectly illustrated with basic drawings.
In the end, I liked the stories about the actors and other Hollywood people more than the craftwork.
3/5

Big Nate: A Good Old-Fashioned Wedgie
Just in case the title isn’t enough, the cover shows a kid giving another kid a wedgie. Believe it.
I’ve read this comic strip before, and despite the fact the main character is a total butt monkey it’s pretty funny, even hilarious at times. In this edition Nate’s back on the baseball team, though quickly benched for rapping from the outfield, falls in love for the millionth time, sees a past crush return from Seattle, offers to help dad with his manscaping, helps his buddy with a diet, binges on X-Files, and talks like Stewie from Family Guy.
Best lines:
“Historians are still debating that.” Works every time.
“Scooby Doofus!” Wish I’d thought of that.
4/5

If My Dogs Were a Pair of Middle-Aged Men
I can’t tell you anything more concerning what this book is about that isn’t already in the title; I do love it when it’s so on point.
Some of these jokes hit a little too close to home, some are kinda gross, but mostly it’s just taking usual dog behaviors and ramping them up to hilarious heights through rudimentary artwork that somehow makes it even funnier. The pooping and bathtime scenarios go into “I can’t believe he went there but I’m laughing so hard” range.
3.5/5

;o)

Travel Thursday Snapshots: Madonna Inn

“Wow, the fun starts in the parking lot. . .”
Looking around, I thought that, if forced to go somewhere with it, I’d call this a German or Swiss fairy lodge, the difference being that instead of following just one motif, it included too many. Right in front of me was a round brown-thatched structure seemingly made out of rocks, with a similar wing flowing to the right. Extending the wing, though going above the road in a way I’d seen in small German towns, was a mouth-watering representation of what the house of the witch in the Hansel und Gretel story musta looked like. In the other direction from the lobby there was more of an English Tutor feel to the building, complimented by the small garden in front of it.
Taking out the tiny digital camera and setting it for wide angle, I tried my best to encompass the whole thing but failed, so I reminded myself to do it before I left tomorrow, then concentrated on the juxtaposition of the cobbled-together-rock chimney and the cupola on top of the main building. Remembering how I’d always wanted to visit this place, I couldn’t help but grin as I made my way inside.
Just from simply seeing the exterior and the lobby, I wished I could look in on all one hundred and nineteen rooms, if the sign in the corridor was up to date, even though I’d checked every single one out on the website before choosing. . . or, you know, grabbing the one not already reserved. There were some obvious ones, like Cloud Nine, Just Heaven, Hearts & Flowers, and Bridal Falls, plus overly cute sets like Ren, Dez, and Vous, and Merry, Go and Round. Other names weren’t as interesting, but the décor sure was: Caveman, Jungle Rock, Highway Suite, Utility Room. . .
Of course it would have been a lot more fun had Katie not been forced to cancel at the last moment. She could have easily passed for a Suthin’ blonde “Daisy Mae,” and no doubt could pull off an “Austrian” mountain beauty, but neither room was really suggestive of their names; Daisy Mae, as a matter of fact, was a cave. “Romance” would have been good, but not so early in the relationship. Of course that had been back when I’d made the reservation, and things had certainly changed since, but she didn’t need to know that.
In the end I’d gone with “Swiss Belle.”
During all the signing-in nonsense someone had taken my bags up to said Swiss room, so the walk through the corridors was quick and easy, and just a few minutes later I was getting my first glimpse of my one-night abode. I spent the next ten minutes gaping, first going over to one of the rock walls and carefully banging a fist against it, wincing as I scraped my knuckles; yep, that’s the real thing. Next I moved to the window, which in this place was of course no ordinary transparent viewing device. I wasn’t sure it could be called stained glass, because it looked damn thick, and didn’t have bright colors, but quickly I left that alone and concentrated on the scene, which depicted Swiss-looking cows and a flower that I thought I might have seen in those same Alps. Next to my leg was a rock outcropping jutting out of the wall which served as a small table, looking appropriately weird but also fun-funky. I followed that up to the roof, where I saw wooden beams the likes of which might have been spawned in a beerhouse, leading to a seemingly sparse-looking chandelier. Not as fun to shoot, I mused, but then I had no model to work with anyway.
The bathroom wasn’t rock, instead decorated in pretty floral wallpaper, so I left that alone for now. The next thing that caught my eye was the headboard, a surprising shade of green that looked to be cut in the shape of a cactus, of all things. Not very Swiss there, I sighed, counting it as a miss despite liking it.
Tossing myself on the bed for a rest before dinner, I grabbed the brochures on the table on the way down. “The motel is a monument of unremitting, flamboyant kitsch: Alp exterior, Swiss country with a gingerbread fairy motif, lavish pink rooms. . .” A twenty-eight-foot fake gold tree! I need to find that! Then I came to most likely the place’s most famous attraction: “The rock waterfall urinal is a fixture along California’s Central Coast. Many tourists come to visit the urinal, to the embarrassment of males who genuinely need to use the facilities.”
I reminded myself to hit the floral-wallpaper head here before finding the restaurant, then persevered in my reading. “Anybody can build one room and a thousand like it. I want people to come in with a smile and leave with a smile. It’s fun. What fun do you think Paul Getty got out of his life? Hard to argue with that kind of logic.
After making a mental note to be on the lookout for the thirty-three-foot-long sofa, I let my stomach do the talking—or just grumbling—and headed back the way I’d arrived, looking straight ahead so I wouldn’t be distracted by the trademarked—really!—Pepto-Bismol-like-pink color scheme. Compared to that, the pomegranate décor of the restaurant—for lack of a better word—was a thin slice of heaven, although the prices were not. On the other hand, I’d never forgive myself if I didn’t try the bacon-wrapped filet mignon, and that was that.
Not in the mood to go back to my room after dinner, I nosied around and quickly found the entrance to the coffeeshop, known in these here parts as the Copper Café, featuring a wooden door set in a rock wall; I took a photo of it while imagining my six-foot-blonde almost-date sniffing the shrubbery hanging above the door. Then I sat by a huge window etched in what she would have called a Wild Rose pattern. Grinning, I pretended she was here, hearing her dulcet tones describing the table tops, then focus on the chairs, which had a huge cushiony seat but only skinny piping in a heart shape for back support, which would no doubt have my back aching before long.
Once Katie-in-my-mind got started on the wall displays I sighed and went up to my room, hoping for a fresh attitude in the morning to explore the rest of this palace of kitsch. . .

;o)

Movie Review: Wonder Woman

Overview
This movie is what I wished Supergirl had been.
Don’t get me wrong, I like the series, but I don’t love it, feel so many things could have been done better from the outset. This movie gets them right.
One more thing: I’m not a fan of superhero movies. I watched the first two Avenger movies because of Joss Whedon, caught the first Thor on TV due to Natalie Portman, and one rainy afternoon when my plans were cancelled I saw the first Guardians of the Galaxy. Caught glimpses of an Iron Man on TV, but that’s basically it: never seen a Spiderman or Hulk, and the only Batman I ever saw was because Uma Thurman was in (boy, did that suck). So yeah, this was unusual, especially seeing it in the theater.
The day before this I mentally shrugged as I flicked on Doctor Strange on Netflix. Perhaps the fact that I couldn’t stand most of it inspires me to give Wonder Woman such a high grade, but that’s doubtful; even without that waste of time, The Wonderful Woman was superior in every way.

Writing
As always, this is where it starts. The plot goes back to World War One, and for the most part is a slice of life in the giant conflict until the two supernatural beings butt heads. Nothing wrong with it, but nothing groundbreaking either. And since the character had already been introduced in a previous movie, it was necessary to find a frame to set what is really a prequel, and the photo did the job perfectly.
Thankfully both the writing and directing are just as interested, if not more so, in the characters as the story and effects, especially but not limited to Diana. While most movies, even superhero ones, have humorous moments, they abound here, most of it coming from Diana not having the slightest idea how to behave with people who didn’t have the same idyllic upbringing as her on the Amazon island—when Steve first shows up, then amongst the crowds in London—particularly with men. My favorite was her trying to get through the revolving door at full charge. There isn’t that much humor after that, other than a few moments with the motley crew assisting them. But even more so, there’s some beautifully poignant instances within the ugliness of war, of which the most endearing is Diana telling an obviously shell-shocked Charlie to stay, because otherwise no one would sing for them. The acting is fantastic here, both their faces perfect, but it’s the words that make the moment memorable.
While most superheroes seem to have a personal motivation for doing what they do, be it vengeance or wanting to prove themselves, I very much like that the writers made Diana’s inspiration, as naïve as it is, simply wanting to do what’s right. And while it’s one thing to write a strong character who can also be romantic and funny, they gave her a special quality not often seen: kindness. There aren’t many superheroes who show compassion, but she has it in abundance.
It’s always hard to tell how much of the battle scenes is scripted, as writers usually throw in the kitchen sink and then see it whittled down due to safety or budgetary restraints. But if there’s one moment from the final battle that had to be in the original script, it’s her levitating over Ares, showing him she wasn’t the least bit bothered after all his attacks. He’s obviously disturbed by that, goaded into overplaying his hand, launching basically everything he had at her, never figuring it would rubber right back at him.

Directing
Like a referee in a sporting event, I’m of the belief that if I don’t remember much about what the director did, then it was a good job. I can’t think of any particular scene in this movie that stands out from that perspective. Of course I’ve seen Patty Jenkins’ other film—being a Charlize Theron completest—and while it was thoroughly deserving of the acting Oscar, some of that is always attributable to the directing.
In this case she shows a more than knowledgeable grasp of special effects and battle scenes, as well as comedy and sweet moments, some of them romantic but others not. Perhaps it’s the pacing that deserves the most merit, with enough respite given between the grittier moments for the audience to rest and reset. More to the point, this did not feel at all like 2 hours and 20 minutes.
If there’s one particular moment that deserves some mention, it would have to be when Diana finally realizes what Steve had said to her—she hadn’t understood him due to momentary loss of hearing—just before the plane blows up above her. The view of the explosion over her shoulder—even though she’s lying on the floor—followed by the quick cut to her face is perfect, as is leaving the camera on her for longer than usual so Gal could run through all the emotions of the moment, which are discussed in the next section.

Acting
There’s an easygoing rapport between Gal and Chris, but my favorite relationship, brief as it is, is between her and Lucy Jones. It’s easy to tell when Diana is appreciating Etta’s humor; it feels like they instantly became sisters. This is the first relationship she’s formed with a woman not from her island, and she seems happy to realize things won’t be that much different from that particular standpoint. The men, of course, are a different matter.
As I mentioned above, the moment when Diana tells Charlie he needs to stay because otherwise there’d be no one to sing for them is superb. It’s easy to see how much he needed that validation, especially after freezing during sniper duty. Gal’s face is so perfectly sweet, and you can see in his eyes that he’ll follow her anywhere from that moment on. There’s an earlier scene when Steve tells the boys that the money’s run out and they should go home, and they all refuse, partly because they’re enjoying themselves but mostly because Steve’s their guy and they’re loyal. But in this instant it becomes Diana’s gang, though it helps that Steve becomes her follower as well.
As for possibly Gal’s best acting moment, if it’s not the one I just mentioned, it would have to be the same as I wrote about in the directing section above. Right before her heroic second wind, when she’s seemingly trapped and out of the fight, she takes a sideways glance and sees Sameer, Charlie, and Chief huddled together, preparing to die, and feels like she let them down. Then the plane explodes above her, and there’s so much to see in her face—disbelief, sorrow, rage—all culminating in the moment when she realizes her destiny, even more so than her No Man’s Land trek.

Cinematography
Other than island of the Amazons, there’s surprisingly little in the way of landscapes, unless you count the trenches. Even the establishing shots are dark and moody. On the other hand, walking through the London of 100 years ago is always a pleasure; particularly enjoyable were the train station shots, reminding me of the similar scene from The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles.
Though the colors aren’t as dark as the broodiness of other such films, there’s definitely a lot that’s muted. Every yellow, for instance, seems to comes out as an earth tone. That’s fair in the trenches and No Man’s Land, but there were other places where I would have wished something different. In fact, the only place I can remember being at all bright is the German reception, where she dances with the secondary big baddie while the sword is tucked down the back of the beautiful blue dress she stole from the rich matron outside. And though it’s a bit of a cliché, the fire they’re looking at as Steve tries to pseudo-romance Doctor Poison is gorgeous to watch.
The stuntwork, especially the battle on the island, is spectacular, with some tricks I don’t think I’ve ever seen. The firing-arrows-while-swinging moment, as well as the jump/flip with multiple arrows, are wonderfully realized, the latter all the better for the slow motion. Wonder Woman’s battles—the trenches, the town, inside the baddies’ base—are more imaginatively staged than expected, but of course it’s the final battle between the gods that takes the cake. Throwing cars around is always gonna look good, especially when you’re not Hulk-sized.
I don’t have individual sections for wardrobe, makeup, hair and the like, but as a photographer I have to take a moment to mention how incredible—even more so than usual—Gal looks in London once they’ve finally figured out her style. In the trenchcoat, with her hair back, her amazing facial bone structure is in perfect display. I’ve been photographing models for almost a quarter of a century, and I’m often baffled at how popular certain supermodels are, when I would never want to shoot them. This look shows exactly why she was so successful in her previous career.

Music
Unless it’s John Williams, it’s hard to differentiate—or perhaps it’s easy to write the style—between the music, especially the main themes, in superhero movies. Which is why the moment that stands out the most is Wonder Woman’s first battle, when she throws off her overclothes—finally revealing her costume—practically runs up the trench ladder into No Man’s Land, and singlehandedly attacks the German lines. Whereas most of the time you’d get the battle cry—think Indiana Jones—in this case it’s anything but; it’s so soft and heartfelt that at times it’s almost a dirge, which perhaps stands for a loss of innocence, but somehow adds to the enormity of the moment much more than bombastic horns and the like. Most times music supports a scene; this is one of the rare ones that adds to it. Something similar happens after the climactic scene, when it’s time to decompress before the celebration. And bringing in her theme from the Batman/Superman movie, with Tina Guo’s crazy cello, the moment she bursts into the enemy HQ was perfectly timed.
And Ares of course gets an appropriately evil-sounding theme.
In the end I would qualify this soundtrack as for the most part happily restrained.
As always I stay through the credits, not always looking for easter eggs, mostly enjoying the music. The full theme is appropriately heroic and triumphant, but then it changes to a song that in and of itself isn’t bad, except it completely confirms why I can’t stand Sia’s vocals. You do get that we’re supposed to understand what you’re saying, right?

“Feel”
This is what makes it more than just a great movie. Go online and look at all the photos of little girls dressing up as a superhero they can actually look up to. All that would have meant nothing if the film sucked, but in addition to not sucking, it had an undeniable spirit, not just good triumphing over evil, but the feeling that it’ll all work out if we pitch in together and do what’s right.
Whereas nowadays superheroes are written as jerks—I’m looking at you, Ironman, but Thor and Batman and others too—it’s a breath of fresh air to see an origin story that not only starts with innocent happiness but also ends with the hero not completely giving in to the cynicism caused by the trials she’s been through. Yes, she stops superheroing for a century, but in that time there’s no indication that her love for humanity has gone away. There’s something in the framing moments, when she receives the photo Bruce Wayne sent her, that shows she does still believe in the ideals she was brought up with, as confirmed by the one man who taught her most about humanity and she’s now staring at for the first time in a hundred years: Steve Trevor.
One last note, though not about the movie: this was the first time I’ve sat in the recliner seats at a movie theater, and though I’ve been to other movies where the whole place shakes when there’s a big explosion, I felt it a lot more here, and I am not a fan of it! So there. . .

Overall
8.5/10

;o)

Poetry Tuesday: Rome

By Frenchman Joachim du Bellay, written around 1558. The first verse might have been an inspiration for Ozymondius.

You, who behold in wonder Rome and all
Her former passion, menacing the gods,
These ancient palaces and baths, the sods
Of seven hills, and temple, arch, and wall,
Consider in the ruins of her fall,
That which destroying Time has gnawed away–
What workmen built with labor day by day
Only a few worn fragments now recall.

Then look again and see where, endlessly
Treading upon her own antiquity,
Rome has rebuilt herself with works as just:
There you may see the demon of the land
Forcing himself again with fatal hand
To raise the city from this ruined dust.

;o)

Book Reviews: Big Steaming Plate of Graphics

Generation Zero V.2: Heroscape
Having read the first one, and remembering thinking “To hell with the plot, where’s the next hilarious joke?” I gobbled this one up eagerly. And in case I’d forgotten, there’s the always-great “The story so far” on the first page.
The first volume had a superhero vibe, but this one turns fully sci-fi as the team has to go into other realms/worlds/reality spaces to take down the evil corporation that has taken over the town of Rook, Michigan. Unfortunately there’s a lot of talking and little action at first; it takes them being turned into anime to get things rolling. There’s also less funny, though there were still some hilarious moments, like the scary pregnant Stepford smiler, “I second your ‘hrm,’” and “You are all so totally under arrest. . . obvs.”
If anything, the whole story was even more confusing than the first one. More importantly, it just wasn’t as much fun as the first.
3/5

Lady Mechanika Steampunk Coloring Book V1 & 2
“For ladies and gentlemen of all ages.” Nice.
Mechanika is one of the loveliest graphic novels ever drawn, so it’s no surprise the first attempt to franchise it is coloring books of the “Beautiful Victorian heroine.” Sounds like a perfect description.
These appear to be originals rather than taken from the graphic novels, as the first drawing is of an underwater scene not previously shown. (Even in the iron swimsuit she’s curvy and hot.) In most shots she’s holding a revolver in a Charlie’s Angels pose. On the other hand, the gorgeous redhead baddie from the first story makes an appearance, as well as others, so there’s that.
In the second volume the famous jeweled bird makes an appearance, as well as the infamous jetpack, and her costumes become even more outlandish, befitting every kind of climate on Earth. But the best drawings are the ones where she’s being Action Girl rather than just standing there posing. One of the drawings has her in a small skirt, stockings, and a cape; can’t help but wonder if her lower legs were included she’d be in knee-high boots, because it had a distinct 60s vibe.
It’s intriguing looking at these pencil drawings and imagining how they’re gonna turn out.
“Liked the artwork? You’ll love the stories!” Which is no doubt what this is about, right? Getting more people to read the graphics.
3.5/5

Dollface V.1
She’s known as “The Ball Jointed Witch Hunter,” which definitely sounds unique.
A spirit called Lila has come from the time of the Salem Witch Trials to the present, now housed in the body of a 3-D printed hottie. The title of the book is well named, as along with her pink hair and sexy maid’s outfit her face does indeed look doll-like, thankfully not in a creepy way. She’s got a human sidekick and a formerly human sidekick, who now looks like a reject from a ghost cosplay convention. The Necromicon is in there too, and Weird Science and Bride of Frankenstein are mentioned on the same page.
When she wanders into a bar, fielding compliments for the first time, she comes across an enemy when the witch icon pops into her head. Another time she throws herself off the roof and makes a perfect landing, celebrating with a woo-hoo that shows she learned about living in this century quickly. And her exclamation of “Oh fuck beans!” was particularly fun.
Unfortunately the action slows down in the middle as the story goes into a huge flashback to explain how she was built and her spirit came to inhabit the sex doll body. It also shows how Ivan became a ghost blob.
The authors must have thought that, in a story full of witches, animated dolls, and ghosts, nothing needed to make sense. Not true. And sadly it’s not nearly as funny as it hopes to be.
10 pages of covers and bonus.
2.5/5

Flash Gordon: Kings Cross
After a clever recap of past events via radio and movie trailers, the setting remains the movie theater as—is that The Phantom? Yes, twice; he’s got a redheaded sidekick now—they capture a poacher before heading off to Mandrake’s place to see what the next big crisis is. In the meantime Flash has to rescue Zarkov from some Russian goons. Then all they need is for Dale to show up so the plot can get moving, concerning tidal waves striking every coastline in the world.
Now that Dale’s become so serious, I like redhead Junior Phantom, so full of snark. Some of the best moments include:
“Close your eyes and think queenly thoughts.” “Really?” “Well, close your eyes, anyway.”
“Don’t apologize for loving me, darling.” Can’t believe Flash said that with a straight face.
Never expected to see Flash—or anyone—riding a giant bat.
This was not an easy slog; if it wasn’t for the humor I’m not sure I could have made it through. Got too silly in places.
15 pages of extras.
3/5

Great Divide
An apocalypse leaves the human race unable to touch each other and hearing the voices of those they killed, however accidentally. One survivor goes into a bar—it’s both a joke and it isn’t—and gets taken for a literal and figurative ride. From there it’s one survival test after another.
When I was halfway through I noted that I hadn’t found any point to this yet, as though the journey is the actual plot. I think the dog is the hero of this story, because the otherwise main character is best described here: “It’s hard to go more than a few hours without punching him in the face.”
The best line is “A big box of post-apocalypse puppies.” There’s a Star Wars reference that took me a moment to get. And I love that the biggest piece of currency is a Vampirella comic.
There’s also a dozen pages of exclusive digital content, starting with weblinks to music, coloring pages, an excerpt from a book written by one of the bad guys, and a collection of short stories. Then there’s variant covers and ads, especially for Army of Darkness, which was worth a good chuckle.
3/5

Infinite Seven V.1
Whenever someone gets kicked out of a plane, you always know a flashback is coming.
The basic plot of this story is: What happens when you kill an assassin? You get his job in the assassin squad, though you still have to go through virtual reality testing and the hazing of your fellow assassins, like the woman who shows plenty of bare midriff, even more cleavage, but has a mask over her face. She’s actually pretty intriguing, compared to the German who thinks he’s Ah-nold and names his gun Long Tall Sally.
The author didn’t do his research, or is stuck in the James Bond mode. These are not assassins, they’re mercenary soldiers. Assassins don’t get into firefights, trading quips along the way; they go in silently and take out their target without anyone finding out they were there until they’re gone.
Those making quick appearances include Sherlock Holmes (Cumberbatch edition), Bruce Lee, George Washington, Chuck Norris, Alien, Clint Eastwood, Chucky, and the bridge of the Enterprise.
There’s a cliffhanger, but it’s pretty ridiculous.
The plot is purposefully too outlandish to be believable, but that’s okay; the problem is in the details. As they say, fiction has to make sense, and there’s too much lazy writing here.
2/5

A Is for Asteroids, Z Is for Zombies
Instead of a good night story, a kid asks his dad about asteroids destroying the planet. Dad remembers a book a crazy relative gave them and checks it out before reading it aloud, a thoroughly smart move.
Though it masquerades as a children’s book, don’t you fall for it either. The looks the dad gives as he reads are priceless. Then, thoroughly scared, he hides in the most ironic place.
This author could teach a class on rhyming, especially with how badly it’s done in today’s music. Every letter gets a stanza, except Z, because zombies are so bad they need seven.
You need a particular brand of humor to enjoy this; I sure did.
4/5

Artful
The book that would nowadays be described as a spinoff of Oliver Twist gives pre-Victorian London a supernatural twist, as the one and only Dodger helps a woman he finds wandering the streets, which leads to much more than saving her from a territorial hooker.
For a non-streetwise lady who picked the wrong place to have a Roman Holiday, Trina sure figured out how to play him easily. Eventually she’s captured by vampires, led by Mr. Fang—really?—so the Artful one has to go save her again, for once sacrificing himself and his future prospects for the good of someone else.
So, turns out Fagin is a vampire. Okay. I suppose that explains a lot, as does what he eventually becomes. Van Helsing looks like he belongs on a ranch in Wyoming, not London. Besides, his son with the relevant name has a bigger part. Dracula wasn’t much of a villain here, used and then sunburned without much of a fight. But apparently vampires can use The Force.
“You’re the hero of this adventure.” Not much meta there.
As a sequel to Dickens, this falls far short. It’s an okay historical vampire story using characters mostly already created, but wouldn’t have been much different without them. It’s simply a literary shortcut. It’s too bad, for I’ve enjoyed this author’s Star Trek novels in the past.
2.5/5

;o)

Travel Thursday Snapshots: Tunisia after Djerba

(The Story of Djerba is in a previous blog.)
The ferry back to the mainland took only twenty minutes and wasn’t at all crowded, like most ferries on this sea. A call yesterday had nabbed me a car and driver, who grinned for some reason when told our destination would be Matmata. Commonly known as a Berber troglodyte settlement—which makes it sound worse than it was, considering how elegantly decorated some of the caves were—it had been a port founded by the Phoenicians, full of temples, the forum, baths, and a market, the kind of historical site where I could spend hours photographing and playing archaeologist.
Which I did, of course, but that wasn’t the actual reason for being here. Lunch wasn’t usually a highlight in my itineraries, except when it took place in a famous movie locale, in this case the interior of the Skywalker home in the first Star Wars movie. {The propaganda said it was the home of Luke Skywalker’s parents, which I promptly called them on; the English-speaking tour guide rolled his eyes and said new brochures were on the way, from a different printing company, that said “Luke’s aunt and uncle” in large print. Don’t know if that was truth.}
Despite its formal name of Sidi Driss Hotel, it was known locally as the Star Wars hotel, for obvious reasons, considering all the visitors it received. Since I can never get used to spicy food, I brought along my own provisions, but pretended to eat up as the owner regaled me with stories about the filming of the first movie, particularly how everything had been returned to normal after shooting, because no one figured it would be such a gigantic smash, but lucking out in that the crews came back and restored it to shoot Attack of the Clones.
As soon as lunch was over I smiled to myself, ready to immerse my photographic soul into shooting every inch of this place. The exteriors of this set were pretty far away, and best left for last, but the Mos Eisley exteriors, especially the cantina, from the first movie were a lot closer, and somewhere in between was the castle from Monty Python’s Life of Brian. And though it took a lot of slogging and I never had a chance to verify it was the right spot, the top of the dune where Luke watches the binary sunset was a bucket list moment.

;o)