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)

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)

Book Reviews: Empathy and Emojis

If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look On My Face?
Many years ago I saw Alan Alda on a TV show, something about scientific frontiers. While that’s mentioned in this book, he focuses on one particular subject, that of empathy.
It all started with an encounter at the dentist’s, where the man couldn’t get his point across to his patient because he couldn’t stop thinking like a dentist. From there Mr. Alda moved to doctors, stating, “People are dying because we can’t communicate in ways that allow us to understand one another.” Another great quote is, “Not being truly engaged with the people we’re trying to communicate with, and then suffering the snags of misunderstanding, is the grit in the gears of daily life.” There’s some fascinating points where he talks about using acting practices to get doctors and others to communicate better. It didn’t take long for the realization to hit: “Developing empathy and learning to recognize what the other person is thinking are both essential to good communication.”
Here’s a little hint to make this book more interesting: read it in his voice, feel it reverberating inside your skull.
Most of the chapters are small, some only describing an encounter, story, or lesson that led to his conclusions, but it seems to work fine. In explaining how to better explain things, he explained everything really well. Even a book about making communication accessible can be full of jargon, but thankfully this one wasn’t.
4/5

Emoji Adventures Book 5: The Pet Unicorn
Told in first person by a kid/emoji named Annie, this story revolves around her and three others—Dot, her sister with heart-shaped eyes; Kevin, her evil twin; and Billy, a soccer-playing poop—who try to find a unicorn to claim the missing poster reward, only to find it cooler to have an actual unicorn to play with.
It takes a while to get to the first photo, with the quartet inside the fro-yo shop, showing them to be actual emoji heads on stick bodies, with hands to hold ice cream cones (but no stomachs). And yes, Billy is a poop emoji. Annie is a cute brunette with a big smile. Once I see it I can accept this ridiculous reality and treat the story as it was intended. On the other hand, the unicorn is full-bodied, not an emoji (how many times do I have to write that word?). Not forgetting other parts of social media, the chapter titles are hashtags. (Dumpster pasta should have been a hashtag too.) And of course they literally live in Emojiville.
There’s plenty of humor here, which is really the only thing it needs. Examples:
“The Ancient Egyptians were a lot more sparkly than people think.” I know exactly who to spring that line on.
“All I want to do is take this unicorn to a field of flowers and braid its mane.”
“Shakes her mane around like she’s at a heavy metal concert.” But later it’s said that unicorns like Taylor Swift, which pretty much explains everything.
And I’d gotten so into thinking of them as kids that I didn’t get their disgust when the unicorn licked Billy.
Quite an enjoyable little story, though I can’t help but think it would have been just the same without the emoji conceit. If there’s a moral here, it’s on the last page: always take the reward money. The author lists his Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram at the end; bet he gets inundated with emoji suggestions for the next book. And I can’t help but wonder if the upcoming Emoji movie is based on one of these books (is Sir Patrick Stewart really playing the poop?).
4/5

101 Things to Do Instead of Playing on Your Phone
I love it when the title tells you everything you need to know. However, I’m reading this on a tablet, so it was a little hard remembering it’s meant to be a physical book, which makes things like Draw a Selfie and Coloring very difficult, though not as impossible as Cutting out the Paper Airplane.
Kids’ games abound, my faves being I Spy and Cloud Zoo. Smile at someone, see if they smile back. Play Fashion Adviser has too much opportunity to turn to the dark side. I particularly like the Giving Awards one, though the fun in it is coming up with the right awards.
But there’s also quite a bit of stuff like Write Your Grocery List for Tonight’s Meal or Bucket List where it’s the same as doing it on the phone, and would be simpler. Still, most of it is fun stuff, as well as things to think about.
4/5

Wolf
A philosophy grad student at Northwestern, who despite seemingly being a good girl keeps getting into perilous dumb situations and poker games, comes across the dead body of her advisor just as he was planning to ruin her career. In addition to that there’s a Russian mafia plot that makes things convoluted, with too many characters to keep straight and flashbacks that spoil the flow.
But the author’s main purpose in writing this story is the rape culture and drugging found in colleges today, especially at frats. There’s an avenger that kicks ass—literally—but unfortunately she’s not the main character. Instead we get Jessica, the Montana cowgirl philosopher with a love of Nietzsche, who at least three times in this story passes out, either stone drunk or drugged. Yet at the end there she is getting drunk again. Did the author really intend to make her protagonist seem so stupid? Or is it trying to impart the belief that even the smartest can fall prey to drugs and evil guys. . . over and over and over? Still, you’d think that, short of admitting she was an alcoholic, she’d learn not to drink so much. It’s hard to respect people, especially those who think of themselves as so intelligent, who can’t figure things out.
Despite that the writing is pretty good, with plenty of droplets of humor. There’s a cute mention of Star Trek: The Next Generation near the end that fans will love.
3/5

;o)

Book Reviews: Graphic Puns

She sang, “What do you do when you run out of sunblock?”
“Like you with wine, you open another bottle.”

Divinity III: Stalinverse
This takes place in an alternate reality where the Soviet Union invaded and took over all of Europe in WW2. Funnily enough, they placed McCarthy as their puppet US president. Now there’s plenty of protests, so the Soviets send one mean-looking dude to put them down, while around the world other agents show how they fight against rebellions.
There’s double agents, fantasy elements, humans on Mars. One of the bad squad is named Baba Yaga, so there’s some humor here. But the cliffhanger at the end of issue #3. . .
For what started out as a promising plot to have such a. . . pedestrian ending dropped my enjoyment a notch.
3/5

Lady Mechanika V.3: The Lost Boys of West Abbey
This story is all about Jewish mysticism and immortality, so it helps to have an Anglo-Indian detective helping out, I guess.
Mechanika has grown quite a bit; in earlier issues she would have bitten off the head of the cabbie who intimated she needed a man to take care of her, but here she just laughs it off. Lewis’s grin at that is golden as well. And at the end I fully expected Singh to try to kiss her, with a possibility that she might let him rather than break his face. That’s how different she’s become, and I like the change.
The cover gallery is always fun, imagining Mechanika actually deigning to pose for the artist. Her saloon girl costume is my fave.
This one seemed a little darker, both in tone and actual colors. Innocents always die in these stories, but when kids are being sacrificed. . .
3.5/5

Ocean of Secrets, V.1 Manga
Orphan finds new family, though it’s ominous that she’s a replacement daughter for one who died. Don’t know if her new sister tried to kill her, but she goes overboard and sorta drowns, waking up in another reality, on a flying ship with a brother/sister pair.
If it wasn’t for the hair, I wouldn’t be able to tell the two girls apart.
There really isn’t anything new here. I’m not one to call it a Mary Sue, but this had that definite vibe, especially how Lia instantly offers to go rescue Albert when he’s arrested. It all circles back in the end, though it feels too coincidental and convenient. For how long it was, it could have been a tighter story. And what happened with the pirates?
All in black and white, which didn’t do the story any favors.
Last 20 or so pages are extras, with author interview, character designs, and a sneak peek at another story.
3/5

Army Of Darkness/Xena Warrior Princess: Forever and a Day
Xena has lost a major battle and Gabrielle is dying, so she calls Ash for help by ripping up a piece of paper (yes, I know what the paper is, but it sounds more ridiculous this way). He’s in the middle of wooing—sexually harassing—an intern at the S-mart when he whooshes back in time, only to have Xena not recognize him. Turns out he whooshed to the wrong time and has to go back, waiting for the second issue to get it right. . . nope, not then either. It’s suddenly Ancient Greece’s version of Groundhog Day. Totally with Xena when the fourth issue comes along and she yells, “Again?” It takes till issue 6—the last one—to find out what’s going on.
As soon as I saw this pairing my initial thought was, “I hope there’s a line where she says, ‘You look familiar.’” But apparently they’ve met before.
Best lines of Ash being Ash:
“Keep it up and you’re gonna see just how hard I blow. . . I mean. . .”
“Must. . . bite. . . tongue. . . must. . . bite.”
“Steve. . . really?”
Ash has always been smarmy and a jerk, but he managed to still be likeable. This version of him. . . not so much. And being a fan of redheads, I would have stayed with Amber.
I recognize this is supposed to be completely silly, but somehow it’s even past that. Yep, too silly; never thought I would say that. I feel like I should have enjoyed this a lot more. I love the title, though, as well as Ash getting a little Bubba Ho-Tep in there at the end. . .
10 pages of covers and ads.
3/5

;o)

Book Reviews: For the Kid In You

“Did you say hell pit or help it?”

Sarah at the Wedding
A little girl and boy are thrilled to participate in a wedding. The book takes you through all the stages from the kids’ point of view.
First of all, the little girl on the cover is so adorable, thrilled to be kissed. And before the story starts there’s a page of various items that might be found at a wedding, with questions like “What did they eat?” and my fave, “What did Dad lose?”
As expected it’s a simple telling, for kids who have never been to a wedding. The best part would obviously be getting to eat cake at the reception, as well as blowing bubbles and staying up late. There’s even an arts and crafts table at the reception, which is a new one to me. Everything’s done in a very cute style, with bright colors.
At the end there’s a page that shows how to make a veil and top hat, for all those play weddings kids love to do.
4/5

A Puppy’s Dream Comes True
A tiny dog narrates how he’s afraid of humans because they’re so big. He falls for a cute redhead and happily goes home with her, especially when he finds the shoe closet. What he can’t find, however, is a bathroom. And he gets named BabyDoll, which is fitting, because “I love looking cute!” The artwork feels like it’s out of the 60s, which makes the dog’s thoughts all the more interesting.
Then things turn weird. For one thing, this is a rich famous couple that walks red carpets. When they talked about adopting a baby girl—human, though it doesn’t make it clear—I thought Jolie or Madonna. And at the end there’s a message to help adopt children, which starts with “Thank you for your interest in our foundation.”
Um. . . what foundation? I thought I was reading about a dog. What does that have to do with a foundation? Great idea, so why not write about the joy of adopting a human? But I suppose the story is for kids and only the last page is for adults. Still, jarring enough to take me out of the enjoyment and drop it a point.
3/5

Georgie Makes a New Friend
A boy made out of gingerbread lives in a house made of sugar cookies—not gingerbread, because he’s weird, it’s pointed out—in the forest. Georgie didn’t like doing anything that was expected. He meets a nutcracker wisely named Bartholomew, who is just as unconventional as Georgie. They’re not all that smart, being easily distracted and trapped by a toymaker who wants to make them conventional.
Cute enough, though it feels really weird to have a gingerbread creature eating muffins. The theme of being yourself could have been tighter.
3/5

Sun Kisses, Moon Hugs
Short but sweet picture book showing how to deal with separation anxiety. Moonbeams, sunrays, rainbows are all used to carry love.
This may be the best children’s book I’ve ever read. Beautifully drawn, beautiful colors, great writing, especially the rhyming.
5/5

Beautifully Different
A paean to the joys of daydreaming and inclusion as a little boy wonders why some people make fun of others just because they look or act different. His father directs a daydream in which he flies to a world full of flowers and helps them survive a weed attack.
Bright colors, exaggerated human features. But what was the point of the gate?
4/5

Dreamland with Mommy
Imagination Time Travel: Mom directs her little son’s dreaming, but lets him choose the details, such as diving into a giant cherry pie and getting showered by elephants. The main point is solving a riddle, which from the end notes appears to be from the Koran. Not sure how many kids would have been able to solve it, or adults, for that matter.
Sometimes it rhymes, but not always.
3.5/5

A Cup of Tea?
Kid wants to play with his parents, who are too tired when they get home from work. At other times it seems like it’s going to happen when another interruption takes place, with tea always a part of it.
The artwork is watercolor-y and a bit strange, even though it’s mostly in a style I’ve seen from other children’s books. The writing is small and hard to read, at least on the electronic version. There is excellent rhyming, which is becoming a lost art. “Once again my adventures were undone by a kettle/it gets so much use now I know why it’s metal.” Wonder if a kid that young would know what a kettle is, or at least the name for it, but okay.
Can’t help but think that if this was written in the US, it would be a beer instead of tea.
Hadn’t realized I’d read another book by this same author; just like this one is about tea, that one was chocolate. This is a cute story, but I think the chocolate one was better.
3.5/5

Ya know what?
When a story starts in the bathroom it can only go up from there. Little Oliver would rather talk than go to sleep, and luckily for him he has a patient mom! Especially for a redhead. He’s also got all kinds of cute stuffed animals, which made it easy to understand why he wasn’t afraid of what was under the bed; good reveal of what was really going on under there.
“For little chatterboxes age 4 and up.” Perfect description.
Incredibly cute in all ways.
4/5

Welcome Home, Beaver
Already on the cover there’s a lot of stuff going on, but. . . why do beavers need scuba gear?
An adventurous young beaver—dressed like a lumberjack, of course—is on a log, rowing along a giant city with skyscrapers. Quickly he becomes homesick, so Akita the Adventure Dog! (must have exclamation point) takes him around the world in his balloon searching for it. I hope Akita is doing it on purpose, because if he can’t tell there’s no way Beaver could possibly live in a honeycomb then he’s the dumbest superhero ever.
Again, there’s a lot going on in each artwork. My fave is when they’re in the Arctic and the seals are playing ring toss with a narwhal. On another page there’s a prairie dog playing the accordion—that’s just evil.
On the other hand, some of this background material, added to make things funny, isn’t very realistic. (Yes, this is about a beaver and a dog in a balloon going around the world, but still.) For example, Fox has three kids in his cave. . . and a liquor cabinet with the bottles on top, where anyone can get at them. And a pantry but no real kitchen. Maybe it’s more my attention to detail that’s at fault here. I supposed the author/artist doesn’t expect kids to catch all this. For them it will be fine and fun—don’t want anyone to think this sucks in any way—just felt like a little more thought could have been put into the details.
The couplets certainly rhyme, though forget about the meter. Don’t know how big this real-tree book will be, but the print is tiny. (This rhyming stuff is catching!)
At the end there’s a map of all the places they visited.
3/5

This Is a Book Full of Monsters (or This Book Is Full of Monsters)
With this title, there’s nothing else I need to tell you. With books like these I have to keep reminding myself they’re for children, as sometimes the most painfully obvious thing is spelled out. For example, the very first page says if you get scared you can stop reading at any time.
Monsters are cute when they’re babies, but even then have sharp teeth. Some monsters get you with their smell, others with their banshee wail. But yeah, that slime guy might be the worst of all.
At the end there’s a certificate for making it through.
Wasn’t sold on this. Not all the monsters were given a “superpower” of evil, so to speak. Some were simply mentioned as looking scary, though they really didn’t look it. I read another of this author’s books, where a dog has to find a place to go potty, and frankly that felt scarier.
2.5/5

But I Wanted a Little Sister
Title says it all, doesn’t it?
“My brother always smiles. He never cries.” True. That is the calmest baby ever. It takes going around to see what little sisters are like for her to appreciate her brother.
I am going to be accused of thinking of things too logically, but it’s what I do. And this was never set as a fantasy, completely made to look like real life, where you don’t get adults saying, “We don’t sell babies. Perhaps you should try next door.” Wow. This little girl is pushing her brother in a tram all around town and no one wonders where Mom or Dad might be? By now I’m familiar with this author, who has done much better than this elsewhere.
3/5

My Name Is Caillou
In what could be called a prequel, the latest in this long series goes back to the beginning, with the little imp introducing himself to say he’s just like you.
The best part is how it shows his parents thinking of his name before he was born. Another is the pride he takes in now being big and able to dress himself.
Simple “Day in the life of a little kid” story.
3.5/5

;o)

Book Reviews: Mermaid Kisses and Technicalities

“Did you say rapper or wrapper?”

Adventures of Technicality Man
In a word full of superheroes, it’s important not to neglect the literary ones. Technicality Man might not be the equivalent of Superman—or even Aquaman—but he’s got Continuity Leopard on his side, and sometimes that’s enough. And then there’s times like this story, when there’s a menace so large even the bad guys join the right side.
This is a silly story, but it’s meant to be silly; anyone who takes it seriously has totally missed the point. This is a cute fun indulgence on a lazy afternoon. There should be a new word for the level of meta this went to, like ultra-meta or such.
Now I’m gonna go lie down and think of some ridiculous superhero names. . .
3.5/5

Mermaid Troubles
After being kicked out of high school—and not regretting it at all—a surfing-obsessed girl who can always tell when someone’s lying meets an appropriately weird guy who needs her help to fight off an evil menace. It takes being temporarily turned into a mermaid, along with the death of a frenemy, to raise the stakes and get her to help.
I really like this character, and it’s a cute story. A bit of the usual “This is your destiny” with a teen love triangle added, though it felt a little weird hearing a story that takes place in a beach town in SoCal with a British accent. But the most important note is that it wouldn’t have been as good without such an awesome protagonist.
4/5

The Sweetest Kiss
A painter who works in a dress shop wants to win a competition that will have her living in Italy for a year. She’s got a crush on a long-time friend, but if she starts something with him it’ll be over when—if—she leaves for Italy. There’s an obnoxious rich competitor for both the contest and the boy.
This was an enjoyable read. Other than all the lack of communication which seems to be required in this genre, it flowed smoothly. I liked the characters, especially hot mess Megan, but c’mon, there’s such a thing as being TOO clueless.
This was my favorite moment. If the whole book could have been like this. . .
“Janine, didn’t you say you wanted to look at that other dress? The one in the back? I’ll go get it for you . . .” Surely she could see I was pleading for help!
“No, I’ve changed my mind.” Janine gave me a goofy grin. Then she pursed her mouth, wrapped her arms around her body, and pantomimed what I can only describe as a solo standing make-out session.
My face heated as I stared at her in horror. Brian followed the direction of my gaze over his shoulder. Janine quickly straightened, pretending to examine her dress box.
Part of a series, and not the first, but it didn’t seem to matter.
4/5

McArthur’s Spies
An American woman in invaded Manila convinces the Japanese she’s no danger, and is allowed to open a nightclub, where she plays spy as she gathers supplies for the POWs and resistance.
That was a difficult slog, ending with a marathon session lasting till after three in the morning. In those four hours I read the entire second half, taking the story through the aftereffects of the invasion and all the way to silly McArthur’s triumphant return.
So after all that happened in those three years, what is there to say? This quote pretty much encapsulates it: “Good spies and heroes are not necessarily Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts. Claire Phillips was deceptive and foolish at times, but she also fought on behalf of the United States to defeat Japan in occupied Manila.”
The last part deals with the aftermath of her ego; had she told the truth about her exploits instead of embellishing, the FBI wouldn’t have been so skeptical and made things really bad for her. The book she “wrote” was bad enough, but there’s a passage about the movie’s publicity that was ridiculous in its hyperbole. A sad ending.
Meticulously researched, full of interesting and amazing anecdotes. Most of the book treated her like a hero, but to the author’s credit the last part brought her down to earth. Do wish there’d been more on Boone and Parsons, though.
3.5/5

;o)

Book Reviews: Erotic-tock

“Wow! Where did you learn to kiss like that?”
“Marine Corps.”

Fallen
A vampire hunter is captured by his prey, but rather than killing him they turn him into one of them. After finally escaping their torture he goes for revenge. . . then meets his supposed soulmate.
There’s long chapters with the antagonist and his wife, as though trying to humanize him, make him seem like he’s just protecting his family rather than a monster deserving of his fate. From what I gather he was the protagonist of the first in this series, so that’s probably for the new readers like me. For a rich girl Cassie is quite likeable, as is the wife, but the guys were mostly unlikeable; the antihero/deus ex machina was the most interesting, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s featured in the next book.
All in all, an okay fantasy story, erotic in very small does.
3/5

His Human Slave
The title says it all: Earth girl is chosen as the perfect mate for the leader of an almost annihilated race. He expects complete obedience, she’s not built for that, so they clash while he teaches her to enjoy the sex and the punishments.
I enjoyed the anthropological aspects of an alien learning to deal with a human female, and having even worse luck than human males. There’s a few instances where I chuckled, “Dude. . .” The shower scene was both erotic and hilarious.
I’ve reviewed enough master/slave stuff to be bored by it, so I concentrate on the story and the characters, both of which are excellent here. Especially pleasing to find an author who knows her craft so well; I can definitely see why Zander fell in love with Lamira.
4/5

One Week in Greece
It seems like the new in-thing in erotica is ménages, though oddly enough it’s almost always multiple men with one woman. Wonder if it should be called reverse Mormon.
Businesswoman goes to Mykonos to close a deal on a hotel for her father’s chain, and runs into “the guy” from her past, except he’s now in a homosexual relationship. Turns out they’re both bisexual and they both want her, but make up dumb excuses in their heads to leave her alone, not counting on her own desires.
Early on there’s some inner monologues, and even conversations, that lasted too long, making me want to skip. Thankfully that disappeared as it went on, but all three of them—more so the guys—do way too much thinking. And oddly enough for something listed under erotica rather than romance, there isn’t much sex going on. I would call it a romance—albeit between three people—with some sex rather than a romantic work of erotica.
Once they’ve finally gotten out of their own way, I loved the relationship between the three of them. Unlike most books, I can read about them talking as they take in the sights for as long as they want, because it all sounds so fun. The humor and good cheer carried this story.
4/5

The Last Resort
A child bounty hunter—she kidnaps kids that were abducted by parents who didn’t have custody, so she’s a good guy—gets stuck in a snowstorm after her latest mission and, after being crashed into, is rescued by a couple of brothers who are renovating a hotel, along with about twenty construction workers. Love ensues between her and one of the brothers.
She’s an ex-Marine with abandonment issues. Not a typical heroine. (BTW, I was a Marine and I don’t worry about that “always a Marine” nonsense.) He’s never met anyone like her and can’t stay away, which either annoys or concerns his brother—or both. It may be because I just got through watching the series again, but she reminds me of Wynonna Earp: a giggly badass. So of course despite all her issues and quirks I love her. She’s a complex character—maybe a little too complex—so I’m enjoying the game between them, while realizing in real life they’d probably piss each other off so much. Even better, this is one of those rare situations where I actually like the male character too. Not that I usually hate them, I’m just indifferent, concentrating on the female lead. This guy I would like as a buddy.
Obviously if she hadn’t been trapped this story would have never happened, so as a plot device it’s fine. Interesting to think of a baby as a wild card, both drawing them closer and driving them apart. And it has to be said, that little toddler is probably the best character in the entire book!
4/5

;o)