Book Reviews: Cheaper by the Dozen

In celebration of Labor Day—or something—here’s a mishmash of genres, including non-fiction, poetry, erotica, and comic strips to go along with three entries of my now-favorite historical romance series. . . okay, my ONLY historical romance series.

A Study in Shifters
As you might expect from the title, this has a Sherlock Holmes connection, in this case featuring a descendant of his who’s also a shapeshifter. . . except she can’t shapeshift anymore, after a bad mission she feels really guilty about.
She can still sniff like a jaguar, though. When we meet her she’s trying to solve a locked room puzzle, though there’s no speckled band in sight. She’s rich and lives in Paris, but is sent to investigate a murder in a fancy school in England; never would have thought a book about a shape shifting Holmes descendant would be full of teenage-y cliquey high school stuff.
She starts timid, still scarred by her previous failure, but as she regains her confidence I like her more and more. Given how much time was spent detailing her previous mission, it’s no surprise it has a bearing on the current one.
There’s a lot of mention of her inner jaguar, as though it’s a separate entity, as is her rational Sherlock mind. Strange to think her brain isn’t integrated, but by the end it’s somewhat resolved.
The ending felt tacked on, obviously there just to make a hook for the sequel. Other than that, I thoroughly enjoyed this.
4/5

Saving Worms After the Rain
After starting with the history of a small town in Pennsylvania, with far too many people to keep track of, we finally get to the story of an autistic boy, who also happens to be psychic. As the book goes along and the boy grows up, I see some of the reasons for the long winded opener, though not all of them.
There are some really interesting touches with Aspen’s character that are thoroughly unexpected. I’d definitely fist bump him.
It’s a short book, but all the better for it. The only part where a longer story would have helped was the rushed romance, but other than that I’m quite satisfied.
I look forward to reading more of Aspen’s adventures, and I hope many families of autistic people read this too.
4/5

Lord of Chance—Rogues to Riches #1
Somewhere on the Scottish-English border, two people are running from their declining lives in London. They match wits in an early version of poker and she wins. In order to help each other, they pretend to be married.
Then their troubles really start.
I couldn’t believe what was written about marriage by declaration, so I looked it up. Never should have doubted, as this author has always been meticulous about her research. I can just imagine her coming across this tidbit and wondering how to use it in a novel, and of course her imagination was up to the task.
Early on I thought the lady was in for a huge disappointment. The jewels are one thing, as real as possible, but the story of where they came from isn’t necessarily true. Even though I was more or less right, the author provides yet another twist at the end.
They make the most of their marriage—except for sex—while it lasts. On the one hand I like their relentless optimism, but on the other it’s obvious it won’t be that simple, or else this would be a really short book. If there’s one thing I don’t like about her, it’s how often she puts herself down. She’s got esteem issues, we get it, which makes it difficult to accept—even though I love the idea—when she becomes a forerunner to Lucy (from Peanuts) and her psychiatry booth.
Since romances always have to end happily ever after, it’s no surprise so many things went right at the end. But it’s not really about plot as much as characters, and after a slow start this pair grew on me. One could say they earned their happy ending.
4/5

Lord of Pleasure—Rogues to Riches #2
Lord Wainwright has a reputation as a flirt, and much worse. Camellia has always tried not to be noticed, or appear in the scandal rags. A masquerade offers them the opportunity to get to know each other and fall in love without knowing who the other is.
Reputations are at stake in the second story of this series, though not in the way one would assume. In fact, part of the delight of this story are the subverted expectations, along with how they want to break free of the constraints their very opposite lifestyles have hoisted on them.
Camellia is one of my favorite heroines, forcing herself into the role of a wallflower for the sake of her family, and not complaining when her parents arrange a marriage for her, so her younger sisters can now be courted. But when she turns into Cinderella she finds she loves the role too much to give it up. To my surprise, it wasn’t that hard to like Michael as well, even if he’d been enjoying his reputation and going through life as a rich casual jerk. Seeing his change and growth is even more intriguing than hers, especially because he doesn’t do it to please the woman he’s fallen in love with.
4/5

Death in Paris
Man does faceplant into his soup and a former lover thinks it’s murder. She and her best friend, both Americans in Paris, do the Miss Marple thing. No one believes them, of course.
The author interrupts many scenes to talk about the restaurant or café the characters are in. I like the local color when they’re out and about in the different neighborhoods, but eventually it becomes too much, especially the descriptions of the food.
I don’t know if I’m supposed to hate the husband, but I do. There’s a scene where he orders her to stop snooping, and he comes off as such a jerk. There’s an attempt at redemption, but even then he behaves like an ass rather than a loving partner.
I did like the introspection that there’s more to a person than just their crime.
I accidentally, jokingly, guessed the killer. But it truly annoyed me that she went in to face the killer instead of waiting for the police as  promised. That dropped her likeability score a few notches, and worst of all perpetuated one of the worst clichés in the genre. The story would have been much better served if she’d waited outside and the killer had tried to escape, forcing her to follow him.
I liked it, but I could tell it was a debut.
3/5

The Darkness In Faith
A female serial killer hunts bad guys, but in a completely different way than Alexandra Sokoloff’s character does. For one thing she’s married, living a double life, finding her victims on the internet and then luring them in with the promise, and sometimes reality, of sex.
When I saw this title, I thought it was going to be about faith, but that’s the character’s name.
Found it clever to introduce a male character that seems destined to be the story’s antagonist, except she polishes him off quickly and moves on to the next one. But instead of killing her latest target, she falls in love with him, apparently because he just as twisted as her. She goes as far as to tell him what made her this way, which is how we know who’s who when she gets kidnapped.
The first thing you see on cracking open this book–metaphorically if you’re Kindling it, of course–is a music playlist, which to my surprise included two bands I know, Evanescence and Halestorm. To make this truly multimedia, there’s some photos scattered throughout, which didn’t do much for me. They came across as completely generic and really didn’t describe what I was reading about, too lovey-dovey compared to the much more dramatic action. And indeed, they’re stock.
I’ve no doubt the author wants me to be on her heroine’s side, but the fact is she’s just as sick and twisted as the guys she hunts. She’s not motivated by revenge or justice; she LIKES torturing and killing. The image of her sucking a cock after she’d just cut it off. . .
Maybe she’s doing it as a twisted sort of revenge, since she was tortured when she was younger. Maybe it’s a form of PTSD, and this is the only way she can cope with it: doing to them what they did to her. Still, that might be an explanation, but it’s not an excuse.
There’s no way to be psychologically prepared for this, because the author keeps going one step further. This was too much for me, so I can’t say I enjoyed it, but the insights were sometimes fascinating.
3/5

Dominic
For those familiar with the author’s works, it doesn’t take long to discover that this story is the reverse of Stolen Flame, the first in her famous series. This time it’s told from the male’s point of view, the hard bitter security guy who can’t help but fall in love with Flame.
This book reiterates why I loved the character of Vivian so much. Even though they love each other, even though he’s become so cold in the last few years, she’s the intelligent rational one. She makes the smart decisions for them, not the emotional mistakes of the former Marine.
If I had to compare, I’d say I liked Stolen Flame more, but both benefit from the other.
4/5

How to Self Publish Inexpensive Books and Ebooks
The title tells you everything you need to know, and in keeping with that, this book itself feels inexpensive.
It’s written matter of fact, like a textbook in a class you don’t care about, even though this will only be read by those who do care. There’s plenty here on why you shouldn’t use most companies, with some grudging examples at the end of those chapters that might be okay. There’s huge sections that list publishing companies, which can make for boring reading if not outright skipping. While I’m not saying it shouldn’t be here, as for reference’s sake it’s necessary, it does render an already small book even tinier.
The most interesting chapter was on doing your own publicity.
I don’t have anything against this book other then it’s dry and boring, but then it’s basically a reference book, not meant to be exciting. Still, it didn’t give me much of an impetus to want to read it or do anything with the info.
2/5

The Book of Onions: Comics to Make You Cry Laughing and Cry Crying
Another collection of small-paneled no-continuation comic strips, usually featuring a round head in a suit. The artwork makes you laugh, and then the caption cranks it up another notch.
Right off the bat, the first page, “A Love Story for the Ages,” made me laugh. Good start.
Other faves:
Jogging! I’m on the side of the animals.
Revenge!
What do guitars have to do with capital punishment? Find out here!
“Tell me I’m beautiful.” That’s the second Mirror Mirror on the Wall joke I’ve read this month, and both were awesome.
Kleenex and gun-toting pandas, back to back.
So many more I could have mentioned, but had to draw the blurry line somewhere. Just go check it out for yourself.
5/5

Emotions Explained with Buff Dudes
An unconventionally drawn comic strip that’s more the thinking kind of humor than strictly LOL. For example, there’s a great one on how life gets better when you lower your standards. And speaking of that character, it’s not good when Life is the antagonist.
Some faves:
“Never again” was too poignant.
I love the Godzilla boop.
Pessimism is the new “Why are you hitting yourself?”
The internet does not like being cheated on.
Gee, I wonder if this author has student loans!
Emotion is scarier than logic. I’ve always said that too.
Brains, looks, or skinny?
Cup ramen is cute as well as patient.
Told you spiders were asses.
The art is simpler than most comic strips. The main character looks about eight years old. Neither of those facts is a bad thing here.
3.5/5

Stupid Poems 14
I’m not a fan of stupid, but when someone is this self-aware. . . I figured it was worth a shot. Thankfully these turned out to be the fun type of stupid, evidenced by the opening entry, rhyming couplets featuring an opera dragon’s missing part.
Some of the rhymes are forced, and meter is rarely enforced—damn, that’s catching—otherwise this would have been truly fantastic. . . but then they wouldn’t be stupid.
Swan Knight is my fave. The author is obviously an opera fan; good thing I am too, but there’ll be a few people who will have no idea what’s going on in some of these.
The milk one was thought provoking, though I’d be more interested in the first guy who thought a lobster could be eaten.
As far as the love poem goes, I wonder if it’s occurred to him that the problem with his love life might be him making up stupid poems about her. . .
3.5/5

Lord of Night—Rogues to Riches #3
Aristocrat—former aristocrat, now—runs boarding school for unfortunate girls. Early version of cop saves her and a new charge from a ruffian. He’s more interested in finding out who’s been pilfering from rich homes. . . you can guess where this is going.
Best scene: Dahlia and Heath “shaking hands.”
Though I like the main characters, as well done as all the others in this series, I’m not into this story the way I was with the previous two, plus the other I read out of order. It’s hard to pinpoint why I feel that way; perhaps the peripherals weren’t as interesting, though the boarding school certainly had its fun moments. Still worth the read, though.
3.5/5

;o)

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Book Reviews: Not Comic Strippers

Dad: Daddy’s Girls
One father, four daughters. As a man in a similar family situation told me, “I have no idea what god I offended.” Don’t know if it helps or hurts that they each have different mothers. (Though I have no doubt some male readers are pounding their chests with a V sign and muttering, “Respect!”)
Though not in traditional comic strip form, there’s one mini-story per page, with about eight panels each, usually pitting man against girls. You can guess who wins most of the battles. Luckily it’s all pretty good-natured.
A heart attack scare means he wins. . . until he finds out he has to take suppositories.
My favorites are the athletic little redhead and the baby who, even when she can’t walk, beats the old man at a dance video game.
Things can be tough for a teenaged girl—or younger—when her middle-aged father’s an actor in commercials; bad enough he’s the Sniffle Guy, but modeling underwear. . .
I can commiserate with him about putting together kids’ toys feeling like building a log cabin, but I’m glad he didn’t complain about reading to all his daughters, not just the baby.
“I admit it. I’m not the perfect father you thought I was.” Truer words. . .
Despite the sometimes-not-so-playful acrimony, there’s an underlying gentle sweetness to it all. Makes it more than worthwhile.
And if I ever meet a woman named Pandora, I’m definitely calling her Panda. . .
4/5

Big Nate Goes Bananas!
Another volume of the comic strip featuring the loveable loser who is completely different than Charlie Brown.
Some of the plots are recurring, such as the name of the baseball team—Cupcakes is infinitely worse than Cream Puffs—and Nate actually sticking up for his sister, while others I haven’t seen before, like uncle Ted babysitting, and Nate being a trendsetter.
But really, after so many, what is there left to say? If you liked these in the past, you’ll like this one too. If you haven’t seen it before, check it out. They’re usually funny.
4/5

Sister BFFs
The title tells you all you need to know, and the cover informs as to how basic the artwork is.
My fave line: “You monstrosity!” Other highlights:
There’s a panel that is unintentionally funny to everyone outside Britain, or I guess the Commonwealth: Whoever could have thought it would be a good idea to have separate spigots in a sink for the hot and cold water?
They make up by watching cat memes.
“You’ve a stubborn face, but I’ve done my best.”
“Instead of losing a ball, you gain a ball.”
Some of the text conversations are funny, others go too long.
“Just a normal braid, yeah?” “Obviously.” Uh, no. . .
They do love to body-slam each other. They’re worse than big brothers, and that includes fart stuff. And poo stuff.
It’s actually my job to wear and review pajamas. I’m at work.”
“Why do my hands smell like vegan people?”
I can do without the sound effects that describe exactly what I’m looking at, like “shuffle.”
Back to the artwork. The hands and feet are incredibly tiny compared to the rest of the body, making for proportions that look strange. They both have permanent duck lips. There are times when too much is stuffed into a bubble, making it incredibly hard to read.
All in all, funny enough for a gander. Makes me glad I never had a sister. . .
3.5/5

Sharky Malarkey: A Sketchshark Collection
Since it’s a collection, there are different sections, some better than others. They shall be named: Megan, shark, lady, and dance party.
Obviously Megan is the first, which serves as a good intro for the kind of humor in this book. One of my favorite lines was, “Interrupt me again and I will leave you at the nearest Scientology center!” Another good one is “He’s a Man’s man!” Some of the jokes don’t work, some are too meta, but for the most part this is an entertaining collection. The best jokes are probably the most ridiculous ones.
BUT. . .
It’s bad enough that Megan has the cat from hell—oh, wait, that’s all of them—but she keeps a cat while being ALLERGIC to them? See that flying out the window? That’s any sympathy I might have had.
I didn’t find the shark section funny at all. The only one where I nodded had to do with dogs and babies. Oh well, guess I can’t make a “jumping the shark” remark there.
On to the lady section. The “vertical mermaid” is going to give me nightmares. When someone likes you because you’re “real,” don’t ask them what they mean.
Even the finale dance party gets meta.
I wish I could give it a higher grade, because I did enjoy parts, but there were other sections that I would have skipped over had I known how much I wouldn’t like them. Oh well.
3/5

Goldilocks and the Infinite Bears: A Pie Comics Collection
There’s no defining plot to these hilarious bits of insanity; this is more like those one-panel strips that have a slice of life, except these are longer. None of that matters, as this is one of the funniest books I’ve ever read.
On to the best jokes.
Right off the bat I laugh at the joke that names this collection: how cold the porridge is, and how many there are, and why.
Frogs can do anything with social media.
“I like my glass a little stained.” What started off as a bit of social commentary turned into a well-crafted and slightly naughty joke. Awesome.
“East Hell?” Sure.
Some of these are more incredibly clever than LOL funny, like the Shakespeare lost opportunities.
“Aw, I’m their boo!” I can picture Trump in that role.
That thing about certain badly-named animals. . . totally me.
Yep, don’t trust that road-crossing chicken!
Puppies are so an element.
I admit I had the same thought about Little Red Riding Hood.
Murder-spikes and rainbow tails of pain. Perfect.
Totally get the Rudolph thing.
The dragon that barfs peanut butter could get a job anywhere, even if it is chunky. . . especially since it’s chunky.
“Let me check the rescue/sexual favor exchange rate first.”
Something felt really good inside when I read the blurb on the back and saw that the author writes for The Onion.
5/5

Ozy and Millie
Being a huge fan of Phoebe and Her Unicorn, I couldn’t resist checking out the previous strip the author did, and unfortunately I couldn’t keep myself from making some comparisons. Still, it was more than funny enough on its own.
The dragon is either “wise or messing with everyone.” Author’s words. Ozy is way too Zen even for a cartoon. Millie somehow reminds me of Phoebe, but more in her look than in her manner. Personality-wise they’re completely polar opposites. Their moms, on the other hand, are a lot alike, and I’m okay with that. On the third foot, Phoebe’s dad and the dragon have nothing in common. Maybe the dragon and the unicorn. . .
On to the best parts.
There’s little difference between a hippie and a vase.
“I really don’t understand laws.” “Yes, I’ve noticed that about you.”
I’m with Millie: I’d like a six-foot-tall grape too.
There’s a lot more academic philosophy here than in. . . any comic strip ever.
I don’t think the Tao would have approved of stealing a cookie, but Ozy was right to take it.
“You are a little girl.” “Oh right.”
I wanna see what an exaggerated sigh looks on paper!
“The DMV administrator shoots like an Imperial stormtrooper.” I very much doubt that sentence will ever see the light of day in any other situation. Similarly, the glossary at the end is unlikely to be repeated.
At the end there’s a tutorial on how to draw the characters. Remember, “He’s a chill fox.”
The artwork doesn’t vary all that much, though it does seem to have more diversity than the unicorn one. The one thing I didn’t like was the dragon’s font; it was difficult to make out.
If this had been written by someone else, or if I’d seen it before I became a fan of Phoebe and Her Unicorn, I probably would have liked it a lot more. The problem is in not being able to stop myself from comparing. Still a solid read, though.
4/5

Little Pierrot Vol. 3
The further adventures of a too-smart kid and his snail sidekick, this time finding him in puppy love with a classmate.
This is the second in this series I’ve read, and much like that other one, this collection of comic strips isn’t so much a LOL kinda thing as much as designed to get a slight chuckle and a thoughtful stare. For example, all the kids dress strangely, but Emily looks like she’s all grown up. . . in the 19th century. Too bad it wasn’t real.
There’s a strange yet beautiful illustration of some kind of mythical creature—maybe a tiny troll—and a soccer ball.
Things grow quickly out of hand in the “Can you see that?” game. An elephant with wings dancing ballet would usually be at the end of such a joke, not at the beginning.
I didn’t find this one as entertaining as the previous, possibly because it was trying to be more adorable than usual with the first love thing.
3/5

;o)

Book Reviews: Comic Strip Coolness

Moran Cartoons Vol 1 Sleeping Dogs
I remember The Far Side fondly. This strip might just top it.
Right from the first one, Prairie Dog School, you can tell this is both going to be smart—no lowest common denominator here—yet savage.
A high proportion of these actually made me laugh out loud. From the anteater that likes spicy food to the native dancer who prefers the macarena, these humorous illustrations take some kind of anthropological viewpoint and turn it on its head, like making me feel sorry for both Bigfoot and Littlefoot.
Other favorites: Art gallery. Terminator. Big bang theory. Right to bear arms. Bad dogs. Berserk Vikings. Cowboy biologists. Spock and Picard. Quacken! Light a cottage to Freya. The Flash and bugs. Blizzard of Oz. Flamenco dancing is in your blood. Do I come here often? The fall of the Roman Empire. Prickly Pear. Mailman training. Gone with the Wind. Sniper graduation parade.
But my absolute favorite is the metal detector.
The artwork isn’t much of a much, just sketch-like, but it hardly matters. And don’t think I didn’t notice that car with the lovely UCLA logo on it. . .
5/5

Birding Is My Favorite Video Game
A one-panel comic strip—I guess you would need at least two panels to make a strip, but whatever—concerning the animal kingdom. It sneaks up on you, but once you get over the first couple of shocks you realize this is hilarious!
Bird call mnemonics! Cool! But there’s no way I’ll remember them.
That is not the word I would use for the turkey vulture.
The three-way crash on the tree was one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen.
A new contender for world’s smallest violin!
“Parasitism is the sincerest form of flattery.” Wow.
Snakes fall prey to talking villain syndrome.
“The blood of mighty dinosaurs courses through my veins!”
Best wedding photo ever!
Attenborough gets his table turned!
I can’t believe how many times such easy jokes made me laugh so hard! Even something as simple as Top 10 posts and dating profiles!
“Snakes are typically self-governing.” Wow again! And “Many birds do not recognize its authority.” By the way, the horny one “only thinks of you as a friend.”
What would a turtle butt selfie look like?
Species index at the end, including Reading Attenborough.
5/5

Ménage à 3 Volume 1
Guy in Montreal comes home from work to find his two roommates doing each other, and more importantly about to move out, leaving him with no way to pay the rent alone. But don’t worry, they put out an ad for him, highlighting the need for applicants to have cute butts. That sets the tone for the shenanigans in the rest of this pretty huge volume.
Cute girl gets her face stuck in new girl’s cleavage. No better way to introduce a character. I don’t think it’s going to matter how cute her butt is.
“Less talk, more waffle.”
Generally I hate tats, but that Canadian beaver is awesome. So’s the anger thermometer.
Don’t hug a new desk until you know where it’s been.
It’s good to be bi. . .
Of the three in bed, the cat looks the most surprised to be caught.
“Don’t worry your tight little buns about that.” Not the character I expected to say that. . . no, never mind, just not the one I wanted to.
Zii’s makeout warmups are hilarious.
Smartest stripper ever!
Ah, that proctologist excuse. . .
Of all the musical acts in the world, Red Hot Chili Peppers having a wardrobe malfunction would be the last choice. . . except for maybe the Red Hot Chili Pipers.
Wow, that Charlie Brown parody. . . no words.
“Didi’s not in this? Bah, I’ll come back when you’re done.” Get out of my mind, dude.
Over three hundred pages, all those opportunities, all those girls. . . and he still can’t get laid. . .
4.5/5

Little Moments of Love
A tiny girl is in love with a bearded man who towers above her. Thankfully he loves her too, enough to put up with her occasionally over-the-top weirdness. How small is she? She’s so tiny she fits in his hoodie. . . while he’s wearing it.
Each page is in the standard four-panel comic strip format, and there’s rarely any dialogue, but they are superb in showing the little things in relationships that make humans fall in love, or stay in love, despite obstacles. It’s sweet and charming and most of all hilarious.
The one that really got to me was when she says she remembered everything. . . while he waits for her to come back for her purse. The almost-embarrassed smile is just perfect, especially considering how broad the artwork is.
Sometimes she’s a little mean and tries to pass it off as endearing, like putting her cold hands on him, or zip-tying him to a chair. I don’t know if her fetish is his butt or his beard. . . though I suppose it could be both. I definitely don’t want to spend hump days with her. Thankfully the cuteness outweighs those moments, like the “It’s my lips!” routine. There are tiny touches throughout that makes this all the more special, like when she grabs onto the edge of the panel with her tiny adorable hands. His best moment is showing off his kissing-forehead magic to his friend; his thumb is the perfect capper.
“Nope. Never letting go.”
The quick shower thing was right on the mark; at least the author can make fun of herself.
And that’s probably the cutest author pic ever. . .
4.5/5

Buni: Happiness Is a State of Mind
The first image you see, besides the cover, is this strange bunny-like creature rocking out with headphones; it looks incredibly awesome. But let’s face it, this comic strip is where optimism goes to die. The pseudo-bunny starts each page happy, but just a few panels later something horrible has happened to him. . . and it’s hilarious.
Some of my faves to look out for:
Sushi and hugs: both so wrong. . .
I will never forgive this author for what he did to the redheaded mermaid!
Christmas delusion. . .
Cupid’s arrow doesn’t work on squirrels.
Easter Bunny has quite a racket.
This is the first person/animal/fictional creature I’ve seen who can have just as much fun playing with a popped balloon.
Books attacking TVs could become a thing.
Sharks are dangerous out of water too.
If T. Rexes had keytars, they would not have gone extinct.
Tinder is great for pollination.
4.5/5

;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)

A Bit of Everything

Presto!
The bigger half of the famous magic duo tells you how, among other things, he lost over 100 pounds in what is genuinely a small amount of time. Even after reading this it’s still hard to believe it happened, but at least he’s not claiming it was magic.
There’s a lot of repetition; he tried to make it funny, but I found myself skipping quite a bit. Same with his really long list of stuff he’s eaten. And in case you ever wondered if you would see recipes in a book written by Penn Jillette, here they are.
This was a tougher read than expected; there’s plenty that’s lighthearted, but even more that’s not. It’s no surprise to note that the humor is the main attraction here, despite the topic. But what really surprised me was that I didn’t read it in my head in his distinctive voice.
3/5

Aches and Gains
If you want to know why the author wrote this book, here’s his reason: “As a physician, nothing is more frustrating than watching your patients suffer and feeling like you can’t do anything about it.”
Amid long stories about celebrities like Patrick Swayze, JFK, and Elvis, used to illustrate particular chapters, there’s brief explanations about various illness and injuries, followed by several treatments, with emphasis on unconventional methods. Of course some chapters are going to be more important to each reader than others, so it’s easy to skip a few that you might have no interest in. For instance, when I was reading one of the chapters toward the end I was wondering if stem cells would be included, and a few pages later it was (and it turned out to be much more involved than a simple injection, and painful!). At the same time I passed over subchapters that featured diseases I’d never heard of and wasn’t likely to get. Because everything but the kitchen sink is included, it gets boring quickly. Listing every medicine doesn’t help. At this point it becomes more of a reference book in case it does become relevant to you.
There’s suggested further reading after each chapter, as well as episodes from the author’s podcast. I tried a few, but like this book it was long and rambling. I do have to say it got better as it went along. Though there’s still plenty that went over my head with the not-well-enough-explained medical terms, I did feel like I ended up grasping more than other such “for the masses” medical books. Maybe it was the word use, maybe it was the tone. Perhaps the experience he has from the podcast makes him seem more approachable here too. Still could have been better, though.
3/5

Cloudia & Rex
A strange graphic novel that doesn’t do a good job of explaining things. It goes from a quick intro about a human family moving to a new city straight into gods—particularly Death—and annihilation, with some Aztec warrior-looking creature as the bad guy, both powerful and psychologically slimy. But without any attempt at explaining, it lost me right away.
Thankfully it had plenty of funny moments. For instance, it’s not just looking at phones that causes car crashes; it’s trying to swipe them from your teenage daughter in the back seat too.
Best line: “We are trapped inside of a teenage girl.” Words no god ever wants to say.
Other winners: “I am quivering in irony.” And “Where the heck is my superhuman mom strength? I’m supposed to get braver and stronger when my child is missing!”
That is the least scary Death ever. Plushies of him would sell out.
The ending is so Wrath of Khan, but everything else is so confusing. Lots of color, plenty of humor, but I wish I hadn’t bothered trying to understand the story.
3/5

Rough Riders Volume 2: Riders on the Storm
When a secret cabal tries to take over the world in the late 1800s/early 1900s by fronting the anarchist movement, it takes someone like Theodore Roosevelt to gather an elite unit of famous/semi-famous commandos to stop them. And apparently it’s for the second time, though I haven’t read the first volume.
When a story starts right off with the assassination of McKinley, it’s normal to wonder if Teddy might be behind it. I didn’t know Jack Johnson; considering he was a boxer, that’s not surprising. All the other characters are familiar. . . well, not Monk. Some of the tech is steampunk, but the eye scanner goes way beyond that. (Ah, got it. Again, didn’t read the first volume.) Annie Oakley is drawn much more attractively than in real life, but then that was the usual in the early days of cinema.
I’m not going to give you the context to this, because it’s just as delicious. When Edison screams, “I’m a national treasure!” the only reply can be, “We should drop you (off the train) just for saying that.” Yep, this just plays into everything I hate about Edison. This is also why Tesla is more often featured in fiction. . . and why I loved the moment when he mistook the priest for an admirer. That goes double for the surprise villain at the end.
“You couldn’t handle this even if I came with directions.” Okay, I officially love this Annie Oakley, especially when she ogles the guys as they strip and still beats them swimming.
Totally unbelievable for so many reasons, but enjoyable.
3.5/5

Unicorn of Many Hats (Phoebe and Her Unicorn Series Book 7)
My fave unicorn—and that’s saying a lot—and her human sidekick are back quickly after a new original graphic novel not long ago. This volume doesn’t contain a whole story like that one, but does appear to be all-new material—none of them seem familiar to me from the daily strip, anyway—in, I’m guessing from the size of the panels, Sunday format.
I can’t believe someone as geeky as her dad complains about all electronic devices being the same shape. Will you ever see an apostrophe—rhyme!—riding a unicorn car again? But the best thing of all: we finally get to see Marigold’s house!
At this point there’s nothing much left to say. This is easily my favorite comic strip, and one of the best ones out there. Even though it isn’t a complete new story like the last one, it’s still the same ton of fun as the others.
4.5/5

Casey and Aon – A Cybersafety Chapter Book For Kids
Young geek gets a new robot that he has to train. The robot doesn’t know much yet, wondering what’s in the ketchup tube, for instance. But at least he cleans up his messes, even if he doesn’t know what a reflection is.
Once on the tablet the curious robot wants to check everything internet-y, with the kid stopping him and explaining why he shouldn’t, which is the gist of this book. The kid speaks well above his age, and some of his words will probably need explaining to the young readers, but the book does impart a good dose of caution that even a few adults could find of value.
Huge chunk at the end dedicated to glossary, discussion points, and so on.
3.5/5

Firefighters and What They Do
I do love it when a title tells you everything you need to know.
This book is mainly made up of drawings that show the equipment and how it’s used. Most kids probably don’t realize firefighters do more than just put out fires.
Ends with a little maze game.
Really simple, as in preschool, in fact it says it’s for toddlers, so believe them.
3.5/5

Take a Look. More Fun Together!
A bear is asked if he’s alone, and he looks to be, but turns out he isn’t, according to the words and then the next page. Same with a rabbit, and so on.
At first glance the artwork looks strange, with plenty of spaces that make the whole look uncentered. Turns out there’s a good reason for that, but I won’t spoil it. Some of the changes are pretty clever.
A fun timewaster for kids.
3.5/5

The Mutts Spring Diaries
Another volume about a dog and cat—with a lisp—who are best friends and do everything together. This one was more educational than the one I’d read before, especially when it comes to pet adoption, but I still find it hard to tell them apart.
To my groaning amusement, I really liked the snapping turtle pun
“Meow.” “What kind of accent was that?”
“Veni vidi oink.” Simple joke, but effective.
It sucks when you can’t get a song out of your head, doubly so if you’re a bird.
A lot of the Sphinx’s lines are old Benny Hill jokes.
These are very simple lines and drawings, which remind me of Peanuts in a way. There’s a cute innocence to these characters, like when the turtle is mistaken for a talking rock. The guard dog is not the biting type, but he can Riverdance.
My absolute favorite is the bird on a piano.
4/5

;o)

Book Reviews: Comic Strippies

Phoebe and Her Unicorn in the Magic Storm
As had been hinted back on the comic strip’s internet page, this is a new story rather than a compilation like the previous editions. I don’t know if that’s what makes the difference, and it really is weird reading a long narrative when you’re used to four-panel little stories every day, but this is the best book in the series.
No surprise that the story starts with Marigold staring at her reflection and unable to look away. There’s a unicorn summoning dance. . . why was it not shown? Argh!
“Yes, I am Phoebe’s throne thingy.” Wow, Phoebe and Marigold actually hug! She lifts her leg onto Phoebe’s shoulder.
“Bossy girls get all the goblins.”
“Then I have to warn you there may NOT be a dragon involved.” So in addition to Max’s new unicorn friend in the strips, he’s now chummy with a dragon too.
The costumes alone are worth the price of this book. Dakota would make a better Albert Einstein, though.
The extras at the end include an electricity primer, how to make a phosphorescent drink, a magic trick, and glossary.
5/5

Zen Pencils–Inspirational Quotes for Kids
Big fan, read all the previous books, but I’m pretty sure this is the first time it’s been written with kids in mind. It’s still the same format: a short visual story set around a great person or a great quote. Some highlights:
If you ever wondered where the quote about “Choose a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life” comes from, it’s Confucius.
Teddy Roosevelt’s “The Man In the Arena” has had a huge resurgence lately, from Dr. Brene Brown to Lindsey Stirling. Another popular one is the Native American legend of the Two Wolves.
Haven’t heard Jack London’s “Ashes or Dust” in a long time.
There’s a lot of superheroes in this.
The basketball girl crashing into the pink smiling monster is hilarious.
Robert Kennedy’s is pretty timely.
As much as I can’t stand Churchill, his was probably my fave.
In the end I didn’t feel like there was that much of a difference between this and the adult version; the stories felt the same. I suppose the artwork was geared more for kids, but this should be enjoyed by adults just as much.
4/5

Wallace the Brave
A comic strip about a kid who likes school but doesn’t want summer to end. He’s got a strange little brother, an even stranger best friend, and I’m not sure how to describe the redheaded girl, other than she’s mostly mean. His parents are surprisingly cool, especially for a tiny place like Snug Harbor. Dad in particular is surprisingly snarky.
To the highlights!
That was a mean trick by the teacher.
Didn’t take long for that big nose to get him into trouble, and even a redhead should know the expression “hornet’s nest.”
“Got two different feet.” Love it when Occam’s Razor is employed in a schoolyard.
“Oddly disproportionate skull.” Wow, big vocab. And yes, backhanded compliments hurt just as much as forehanded.
Some birds spout Greek philosophy, I prefer the one who simply says “Truth.”
“I’m more the ‘Google images’ type.”
“For realsies?” Someone stole my line!
Now I know what that salt on the streets is for. . . mmmmmm, mud pies!
“Like a wildebeest playing a broken accordion.” Yep, I’d pay to see that even if the sound is horrific.
“Science everywhere!”
There’s a kraken on the map, but not close to the sasquatch.
3.5/5

Fowl Language: The Struggle Is Real
As the title hints, this is a comic strip about a family of ducks, mostly the father, and how he copes with his ducklings, which is to say not very well but always funny.
Unlike most comic strips, which usually appear every day, this one doesn’t have a set schedule, and sometimes goes weeks without new material. That gives this collection extra appeal. Also unlike most comic strips, if you read this on the gocomics website they’ll be a link below for an extra panel/punchline at the strip’s website; thankfully those are included here.
“Maybe he’s just screwin’ with ya” is indeed the answer to why kids do anything. Also “I think he’s buffering.”
“I don’t like the way planes taste either!” Genius.
Not as much “laugh out loud” this time, though.
4/5

;o)

Book Reviews: The Whole World Is Graphic

“Do I have to carry you?”
“Would you? Careful on the steps, I’m fragile everywhere except emotionally.”

Red Team: Double Tap, Center Mass
After whiling away the hours in traffic talking about her relationship—and chasing after a guy who runs into a pole—the two cops who’ve been punished for something that happened in the first issue come across an entitled brat with gang bodies in the trunk of his speeding car, which of course leads to all kinds of red herrings and tangents and conspiracies before they finally discover what’s up.
In case you ever wondered, being shot in the head will not stop someone from having sex.
My fave scene was him gently ripping into the SWAT guys for failing to clear the crime scene. On the other hand, I’m getting tired of the cliché of cops not clearing crime scenes due to lazy writing. . . just sayin’. Another highlight was the stroll through the art gallery, which was all kinds of awesome.
The sex scenes are intentionally hilarious. For instance, that’s one happy voyeuristic dog on the couch! There’s funny usage of arms and legs to block naughty bits, and how can she not be the perfect woman when that kind of “pillow talk” gets her hot?
I’m surprised that such a convoluted story actually wrapped itself nicely at the end. Still a tough ride to get through, and there were a few plot holes that would have brought it to a screeching halt if they hadn’t been ignored, but it wasn’t as bad as I feared after the slow beginning.
As far as the artwork goes, these are some really bright colors for this genre.
Over twenty pages of sketches and scripts.
3/5

Lady Stuff: Secrets to Being a Woman
A series of cartoons about. . . well, you already know if you read the title.
Since this isn’t a story, it’s much easier to simply say there were a lot of hilarious moments here. This may be the funniest thing I’ve read all year. Some highlights:
The matching eyebrows (it literally made me laugh out loud).
“Pick a color” at the manicure place.
“My bed is warm.”
*Hugs sweatpants*
She lost me at “guac.”
“Summer cuddles”—not a name—is spot on.
How not to eat cookies.
Talking ice cream, no matter how cute, is friggin’ scary.
See, this is what I’ve been saying about garlic all along!
Sometimes when she’s in the blanket she looks like the cute little seal girl from Song of the Sea, but other times she looks like a nesting doll.
It’s all done in really simple drawings, but then this is about the humor, so it doesn’t matter.
4.5/5

Heart and Brain: Body Language
First, as far as the author’s pen name, I would like to point out that I’ve never met a Yeti who wasn’t awkward.
Second, I’ve read a previous collection of this comic strip, so I’m coming in with full awareness as to the brand of humor.
And most of all, Heart is so cute! And an airhead, of course. I have to assume there are plushies available.
Highlights:
“Pandora’s Web Browser.” That’s a thing.
“Give those back! I was making a point!” “Point taken.”
“They grow up so fast.”
“Protagonist!”
“Ssssshowtime!” and “Taste Buds!”
“Just song lyrics and movie quotes”. . . Yep.
See what happens when you roll your eyes. . .
Plenty of crazily humorous moments, well worth a perusal.
4/5

Renegade: Martin Luther, the Graphic Biography
Yes, someone did a graphic novel on one of the biggest names in the history of religion. And it goes in-depth, with plenty of stuff that isn’t in a quick look at his life, if we assume all this is actually true, especially the lightning bolt incident. Did you know he played the lute? I didn’t. Now we both do.
Some high points:
The whole story starts on a high note, as the first illustration is a Bosch painting. Later on there’s a panel that’s right out of Escher. Bonus points from me.
For a monk, he sure knew his spycraft. Junker Jorg indeed.
There’s a Groundhog Day page to show how bored he is in exile, funny despite the repetitiveness.
“The gospel should be told as if everything just happened yesterday.”
“God. . . was absent during the bloodbath.”
The downside, at least for me, is all the religious babble. To the end he holds to his simplistic, even childish views. “There are innocent people among them. God knows well how to protect and save them. . . if he does not save them, then it is only because they are villains.” Ugh. And even if a lot of the Catholic rituals haven’t changed in over 500 years, I still don’t understand them.
As for how historically accurate it is, I can’t help but wonder. I looked for any representations of him with the hipster beard, and couldn’t find any. The wedding: tuxedo and white dress? Hopelessly anachronistic, obviously trying to appeal to a younger generation.
“Assumes a pastorate.” Some of the language sounds silly to modern ears.
I will admit I learned a lot from this, if indeed it was all true; I have my doubts on that score. He was neither a saint nor a sinner, or perhaps he was a bit of both. If this was pitched as a story, no one would buy it, but as a history lesson it works.
3/5

Poe: Stories and Poems
Seven of the master’s most famous works rendered in visual form. Being a huge Poe fan might skew my opinion, but since my very favorite story isn’t in here, I don’t think it’ll be a problem. Was going to try to keep my comments to just the graphic novel’s depiction, but as usual my questions about the stories crept in when I wasn’t looking.
Masque of the Red Death:
Starts, appropriately enough, with a depiction of what the plague does to a human body. This is easily the most colorful of the stories, as it should be, considering the party rooms. This is also the most straightforwardly told, but that may be because it’s the first one.
As I’ve wondered in the past, why did Poe name this protagonist Prospero? And how did the plague enter the sealed fortress after a few months had gone by?
Cask of Amontillado:
I will say the coloring in these scenes, particularly the burial basement, are accurate if not beautiful to look at: mostly darkness, with only the harsh yellow of artificial light to illuminate it. And I always thought Poe was being ironic, or sarcastic, in calling that unfortunate character Fortunado.
Annabel Lee:
This is the first story where the characters are dressed modern rather than period. This artwork makes the whole theme seem even sadder, from the shot of him on his knees sobbing into the ocean to his finished fortress of sand. It feels like no woman has ever been mourned more.
The Pit and The Pendulum:
The story is all black with white lines, since he’s trapped in the dark, until he finds the pit. The rats were a little too realistic for my taste. And this has always been one of my least favorite Poes, as I’m not a fan of the “saved in the nick of time” trope.
The Telltale Heart:
This has always been the go-to when it comes to showing the power of guilt. If anything, it’s a little too on-the-nose here, not subtle at all, but then there weren’t that many pages to work with.
The Bells:
Really isn’t much you can do artwise to show bells. Bells can be happy or sad, but they’re just the tool. The bright orange of the fire looks nice, though.
The Raven:
The protagonist looks just like Poe in these grayscale drawings. The raven is exquisitely drawn, with patterns in its wings. This poem isn’t as visual as the others, so not as much to work with here, though I thought the artist could have made more use of the references.
Ends, rather fittingly, with his grave.
The artwork is more picture book that graphic novel. As you’d expect, it’s literally and metaphorically dark. But I do have to admit that the images make the reading go by faster.
At the end the author explains some of his choices, accidentally answering some of my own questions.
4/5

;o)