Book Reviews: South America, More Dukes, and Unbelievable Stuff

South America Under the Skin of a Foreign Country
A widow from England spend a lot of time in South America, and writes about it.
It starts in Argentina, with tango. As basically the only dance I know, I found it amazing how the author’s views were pretty much opposite to mine. Not saying either is wrong, just incredibly different viewpoints. Something we do agree on is the great Chilean poet Neruda, so I was happy to see a section on him. I didn’t learn anything new, but I’m sure many readers had never heard of him.
Most of all, I enjoyed her insights. She’s very observant, and thankfully doesn’t go too far in extrapolating what they might mean. This style of storytelling reminds me of my blog, which is obviously very high praise. . . obviously. (Shut up.)
The one low note was the section on internet booking, which went on far too long and really brought everything to a halt.
In all, an enjoyable travelogue with a unique perspective.
3.5/5

Never Say Duke (12 Dukes of Christmas #4)
As always happens in these stories, two people who initially come off as incredibly wrong for each other end up in love and happily ever after. The fun part is the in-between.
Virginia is the kind of person who ignores your wishes when she gets it into her head that she knows better than you, but she gets away with it because she’s so charming and beautiful in her own wacky way. He, on the other hand, is quite the grump, with no enjoyment in his life other than ice cream. And that was before his injuries, which only made his disposition worse.
I’m a little miffed that the cat gets a point of view when Captain Pugboat didn’t. There’s a Mr. T, of course, because that’s how Ms. Ridley rolls. There’s also a Queen Turkey-tiara, but she’s not as important.
Considering how much of a cloudcuckoolander she is, it’s hard to imagine her so insecure. On the other hand, it makes it all the more special when she realizes he likes her the way she is.
So it wasn’t as good as the previous one, but that was one of the best historical romances I’ve ever read, so there’s no shame here.
4/5

Ripley’s Believe It or Not
A graphic novel about the famous brand.
It starts in Branson with one of the museums, where Ripley is a hologram giving the intro to the tour. Beauty and the Beast was real, in a story with too many Catherines.
From there it moves through a number of vignettes, each taken from one of the oddities in the museum.
Already knew the Phineas Gage story, though not the ultimate ending. That’s my fave part of these stories: not just explaining how they were true, but that some of these poor souls did have happily ever afters.
“Stableboys’ Sauna” is a term I wish I’d never heard. Then it turns much stranger, as we get a story about something that hasn’t happened, and might never.
Somehow one of the stories ended up in ancient Egypt, while another was a lot more expected, happening in one of my fave places, the Winchester House.
The funniest moment was the horse’s inner thought.
Because the stories are so short, they’re told in a very matter-of-fact style, just the bones. Some of them are entertaining despite that, but mostly they’re just sad, like the tale of the tallest man.
3/5

The Rose
Four British high society girls playing escort are in danger of being found out when a lot of their clients are invited to a birthday party. A statue of Aphrodite is involved, as well as an ancient goblet. The birthday girl can’t resist her Greek guest, who is really jonesing for the goblet, leading to some fantasy escapades as well as real ones.
The writing during the Greek visions is stunning. It’s hard to believe this is the same author that wrote the wonderful but completely opposite Picture Perfect Cowboy, but on the other hand it’s not. I particularly liked their patter. The heroine is a bit mannered, a touch spoiled, and prone to fits of stubbornness and posturing, but her sense of humor makes up for a lot. She’s also incredibly lucky; usually when an immortal plays with a mortal’s life, it doesn’t turn out nearly as well.
There’s a recurring gag about him having sex with a cloud, which makes me laugh every time, especially when he admits it might have only been a fog or a stiff breeze.
Some confusing turns at the end, but eventually neatly wrapped up.
4/5

From Resume To Work
As the title implies, this book aims to show you how to make a resume that will find you employment, written by someone with a lot of experience on the subject.
Thought this is a short tome filled with some duplication and a lot of references, there’s still a lot of good stuff here. It starts by explaining some of the things you might be doing wrong, why you’re being rejected, and how to correct them. From there it shows stuff you might not have known or thought about to spice up both the resume and the cover letter.
The important thing here is the author claims to know how employers think, and gives clues on that peculiar animal known as the employment psychologist. Some of their insights seem ridiculous—an accidental mistake of indentation shows the candidate has a mild form of schizophrenia?—but they’re seemingly important enough, or taken seriously enough, to be included here.
But other than that, there’s plenty enough tidbits to make it worthwhile.
4/5

;o)

Book Reviews: More kids’ books than you can shake a stick at

A Stage Full of Shakespeare Stories
The Bard for kids.
Each play gets a title page, with a famous quote and a mishmash of artwork that shows some of the important points. That’s followed by a small cast of characters, and finally an illustrated text that boils the story down to its essential elements, just enough to know what’s going on.
The easiest way to describe this for Bard buffs is that it’s similar to the Lambs’ book of synopses, only for children. And it’s illustrated like a kiddie version of the Canterbury Tales.
The illustrations are more basic than the words.
The Tempest and Twelfth Night were my faves here.
Not all the plays are here, but that’s no surprise; only twelve, mostly the famous ones.
3.5/5

Ida and the Whale
Ida lives in a treehouse, always daydreaming as she takes in the landscape, wondering what’s out there in the world. A flying whale wakes her up and asks her to accompany him on a trip. Being a redhead, of course she takes him up on it. They go to many strange places, where the whale proves to be a philosophical genius.
The cover is funny, with a little redheaded girl next to a gigantic whale. . . and it’s still not to scale. Later on there’s a visual showing how much bigger the whale is than the treehouse, which is probably going too far, but other than that it’s mostly with her bigger than she should be. In honesty, I suppose it had to be done that way so that the two can communicate, but for someone who’s studied whales all his life—me—that’s a bit jarring, like a proofreader who can’t help but point out the errors (also me).
The prose was good, but the illustrations, seemingly childlike and impressionistic at the same time, are the key here. Those who love blue will enjoy this.
4/5

Muddy: The Raccoon Who Stole Dishes
Minimalist artwork tells the story of a bowtie-wearing raccoon who prefers foraging in garbage cans than in the woods, but then insists on eating off plates. I don’t know why his parents call him a picky eater—unless they mean picking through garbage—but that’s definitely not my definition.
Apparently raccoons are OCD about washing, with a strangely high prime number.
The ending did not go as I expected, and I’m not sure if there’s supposed to be a point to all this. Muddy did bad things and got away with them in the end; not only did the punishment backfire, he got to do even more of what got him in trouble in the first place!
3/5

Juan Castell and Aunt Sofia’s Giant Book of Please, Thank You, Welcome
Alternating between rhymes and prose, this little book tells of an upcoming visit by aliens and how the nephew of the person in charge of greeting them helps in preparing the world to be nice to them. In so doing he learns a little bit about each of the countries he’s assigned to.
This book is nice enough, with colorful art and usually well-written rhymes. I’m a little troubled by the ending, and I’m not sure why it needed magic, but perhaps it was done to make the kids more interested.
3.5/5

Mack’s World of Wonder. The Cutest Baby Animals
Split into two parts—farm and wild—this book features photos and some silly stick drawings of. . . yeah, you guessed it. The title does not lie!
There’s some really simple quizzes that show this is for the preschool set. Every little article starts with what the baby version of the animal is called, and how it feeds. There’s a big diversity of animals, but I was disappointed not to see a whale or dolphin. Guess they’re not cute enough.
3.5/5

My Favorite Pet: Ponies
Made for the preschoolers, this little book features large photos and some info about ponies. . . but you know that from the title, right?
There’s some incredibly simple quizzes, but then this isn’t supposed to be challenging, just informative, as is the small glossary.
3.5/5

A Day in the Life of a Raindrop
Here’s one that doesn’t actually take the title literally. Instead of some scientific info, it’s a highly stylized cartoon that. . . well, if it teaches anything, it’s strictly by accident.
The raindrop in question is strangely drawn: the body is as expected, with a slightly creepy face, legs, and arms, one of which is holding an umbrella. . . why? Is a pile of wet afraid of getting wet?
If this is for kids, why is the word “oblivious” in there? There are plenty of adults who wouldn’t know that one.
At least the rhymes are well done. Considering his bio says the author has composed hundreds of poems, that shouldn’t be too much of a surprise. But as a whole this seemed more like a surreal parody for easily amused teens than anything for kids.
2/5

Rattlesnake Rules
Told in rhyming stanzas, this book starts by showing off how different animals have different rules before settling into the one in the title.
Using pictographs and a bell she holds in her rattle tail, momma snake—she’s wearing a necklace though she has no shoulders—teaches the little ones all about livin’ the reptile life. There’s rules for humans too, but only one seems to be important: leave the rattlers alone!
I can just imagine a kid asking, “Mom, what does ‘Ace of Spades” mean?”
The artwork features a lot of reds, which at times makes it hard to make out the snakes. And the fact they’re always smiling—which looks more menacing than joyful—makes them look a bit creepy.
More info for the humans in back, more basic facts without rhyme, as well as myths, glossary, and so on.
3/5

Brave Thumbelina
For those who don’t know the classic story or need a recap, a lonely woman wishes for a child and gets a seed instead, which grows into a flower that gestates a tiny girl, who’s born fully dressed. After a happy time with her mom in their house, she gets kidnapped by a mother toad, which leads the little one on a long ride of adventures in the outside world. After some good times and bad times she finds herself in the perfect situation and goes to visit her mother, though the fact that Mom must have agonized about her missing daughter is curiously glossed over.
On the first page there’s a huge empty space and really tiny text. Annoying. The situation does not improve.
Little Thumbelina is drawn adorably on every page, though in somewhat of a 20s flapper style. It’s meant to be more stylish than anything else, and probably owes something to the illustrations from Lewis Carroll’s books.
4/5

Mina vs. the Monsoon
This book tells of a young Pakistani girl who is obsessed with playing soccer. Sad because the weather prevents her from going out, she tries to make the rain go away—does not sing the famous rhyme but does do a dance—with the help of her trusty, if not real, elephant. At the end she and her mom realize what every soccer-playing kid knows: it’s more fun playing in the mud.
The guide to Urdu and Hindi words would have been more welcome at the front, but at least it’s there.
Not sure what the moral is here. Seemed like a good opportunity to teach patience or acceptance of things you can’t change, but that certainly didn’t happen here.
Boisterously illustrated, with what might be too much color considering how basic the artwork is.
3/5

ANIMOSAICS: CAN YOU FIND IT?
A mosaic on the left hides a number of items listed on the right. The fact they’re the same color makes it difficult, but certainly doable even for small children.
The second page, red, has the viewer looking for a “ladybird,” even though it’s obviously a “ladybug.” Made me chuckle.
Other than that, it’s both pretty basic yet also a nice switch on the average puzzle game.
3.5/5

Around The World in Every Vehicle
I don’t know how true the title is—if I tried hard enough I could probably come up with something they missed—but other than that it’s a good tour of the world, with some famous landmarks standing out.
Nice to see the Charles Bridge in Prague, though the statues left something to be desired. The Haga Sophia looks minimalist-nice. It was an inspired choice to have them drive through Europe, then have the grandparents fly in to drive the van home while they go off to see the rest of the world on faster transportation.
I love the family name: Van Go.
On some pages an incident prompts them to look at similar vehicles around the world: buses, trams, fire engines, etc. It’s hardly ever that fitting with the story, but that’s not what this book is about.
Geographical mistake: They flew around the world twice when they should have gone to Australia between Asia and North America.
4/5

STEAM Stories: Robot Repairs (Technology)
In what looks to be a series of 5 books based on the STEAM acronym, this one features the letter T for technology, in the form of robots and their care and feeding.
The robot on the cover looks hilarious!
Great name for a teacher: Miss Eureka. I liked both her look and her personality.
Told pretty simplistically, but with enough fluff to teach kids about technology, especially tools.
Simply drawn, but the better for it. More info on the procedures of each page at the end.
4/5

STEAM Stories: The Great Go-Kart Race (Science)
The title is all you need to know about this story.
The kids face various obstacles in the race, like dead batteries and muddy puddles, but no matter how long it takes to get help from a passing tractor or think their next step through, they manage to stay in the race.
Professor Know-It-All! Perfect!
The first page shows the starting line of the race, and there’s a kart in the middle with a smiling kid. . . and right behind him is another smiling kid leaning over so she can be in the shot as well. It looks hilarious.
The last few pages feature a more detailed explanation of the science involved.
The artwork is basic, but cute nonetheless. It doesn’t get in the way of the storytelling, or rather science-telling.
3.5/5

ABC for Me: ABC What Can She Be?
Girls can be anything they want to be, from A to Z
As one would expect, this book goes through the alphabet, choosing one profession for each letter, something girls can aspire to be. I was greatly looking forward to what Q and X would be, but they were kinda letdowns, with the adjectives representing instead of the nouns.
Luckily there’s enough description and artwork to show what each job entails, otherwise it would be really hard for a parent to explain. There’s a good mix, though I know of at least one guitarist who’d be annoyed that she didn’t get in but the keyboardist did.
3.5/5

My Favorite Machine: Airplanes
Like the rest of this series, the artwork consists of photos rather than drawings, a good idea in order to explain. . . well, what the title says.
Pretty complicated ideas are dealt with very simply.
Some of the photos look more like photoshop or even clip art, but they don’t detract from the simple narrative.
3.5/5

Fall is Coming
A rabbit and a bird go on a bike ride, take a nap, and wake up to find the day has gotten cold. Rabbit learns to dress up. . . and that’s it.
As simple as children’s books are, this one is even more so, with big illustrations and minimal text. There just isn’t much of a story. There’s certainly no lesson, as any kid old enough to read this knows what to do when they’re cold.
2.5/5

Knock Knock Boo Who?
A collection of Halloween themed knock-knock jokes. Yep.
Some are really simple, yet still funny, like boo who and I scream. Others make no sense. But basically they’re at the level that’ll make your small child at least chuckle.
3/5

My Cat is Sad / Mi gato esta triste
Kid thinks his cat is sad and tries all manner of ideas to bring it out of its supposed funk. It looks more like the kid is what made the cat sad—and mad—with all his shenanigans, until at the end he finally gets it right.
This cat on the cover does not look sad at all. If anything, it looks angry, claws halfway out. Once in the book the cat appears to be sleeping, except when interrupted by another erroneous idea from its human.
Before each new idea there’s the repetition of the kid saying the cat is sad and the cat sleeping, so the book’s even shorter than it looks.
If this is supposed to teach a kid not to jump to conclusions, then I’m all for it. If it was meant as something else, I totally missed it.
3/5

My Favorite Animal: Frogs
Like all books in this series, this one features photographs and facts of the animal in question. Sometimes the words are too big for the age of the reader, but they’re probably in it for the photos anyway.
There’s some simple memory quizzes and a glossary, but again, this is about the visuals.
3/5

My Favorite Sport: Skateboarding
As always in this series, this book features big bright photos and some text. A little surprisingly, though I guess it shouldn’t be, all the photos here feature young kids on the skateboards, not all of them with protective gear even though there’s a section on that.
It’s certainly informative enough, though I’ve found that most of these books have words too big for readers of the target age. On the other hand, I think they’re more interested in the photos anyway.
3/5

Owl Love You
With plenty of rhyme and nightscapes, this book shows a momma owl’s love for her little one as she teaches about the nocturnal world they live in.
Unlike a lot of rhyming books, this one keeps a very singsongy pace, as though the authors actually know how to write poetry in its proper meter.
There’s a lot of hedgehogs, possibly because they look fun to draw. Bats, not so much. The art is done in broad strokes of watercolor, not all that big a deal but fitting with the theme.
4/5

;o)

Book Reviews: Unicorns, Beagles, and Penguins

Phoebe and Her Unicorn in Unicorn Theater
The interspecies gal pals are back for another fun story, this time taking place at drama camp. The addition of Marigold’s sister Florence—now with 100% less nostril spiders—only increases the fun, although there are times Phoebe feels left out. I sense a lesson coming. . .
As always plenty of fave moments:
“I am very dead!” Something said at least once every play. Check out the beginning of Zootopia to prove my point.
Double unicorn stare. Those are the worst.
“Real life not dramatic enough for you?” Thanks, dad.
Whenever someone says, “Awkward!” reply with, “I find all social interactions awkward!”. . . on second thought, don’t.
Yep, that’s what “mess hall” means, alright.
“I could not hear you over the sound of how beautiful I am.” So using this line. . .
Very happy to see the electric dragon back. Max needed a fantasy buddy; even Dakota has one.
If I could give this an even higher mark, I would give it just for rhyming pomegranate.
“‘Nostrils Sisters’ sounds like a band my moms would like.” With such great choices, Max might be my fave of all. . .
A few pages at the end teach how to draw the characters; if Sue’s a little scary, good job!
I couldn’t believe it when the first full-length story ended up being better than the strips, but it works here again.
4.5/5

Super Chill: A Year of Living Anxiously
After seeing the cover, I had to read the description to find out this did not feature Abraham Lincoln, considering the beard and all. Thought it was going to be a “Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter” kinda thing. But no, it’s not a dead president, it’s about a guy who. . . lives anxiously, in one of the most colorful comic strips I’ve ever seen.
Best moment had to be that dour deadpan fortune teller. And wow, New Favorite Song is as dark as it gets!
There’s one strip where he relates to a cartoon character; I relate to him only because when I was in Japan I ate a pikachu burger too. (It was delicious.) Also, the Selfie.
3.5/5

Snoopy: Boogie Down!
There’s been so many of these books that it’s hard for them to come up with a new theme. This one doesn’t really matter till the end.
Right away there’s a pun worthy of making me wonder if the guy from Pearls Before Swine got the idea here.
I hate bugs, but I’ll adopt the one who knows more than Lucy and Sally.
Never saw the character Eudora before. I like her, especially her fishing style.
The disguised drop shot made me chuckle before I could stop it.
There’s a special section at the end featuring the history of dance in the strip.
3.5/5

Curtain Call
French guy wants to get back to the woman and child he abandoned during a trip to Africa, so he plans an armored car heist with possibly the one person the least in contact with reality in the whole world.
This story feels like it could have been told a lot quicker if it wasn’t for all the frequent asides and explanations as to why things are the way they are. The narrator mentions the armored car robbery he’s planning, but nothing happens for the first half, other than long justifications as to why everyone is racist and/or a homophobe. And that’s only a few of the ways this gets so depressing. Plus I really hated the ending; why didn’t he just do that in the first place?
I’ve read a couple of others by this author, and while it feels like the same kind of narrative, this time it’s even more so. The artwork is of a kind as well, which on the one hand makes it consistent but on the other means the books are not getting better.
2/5

Hellicious TP Vol 1
It’s the cute little kids that always get ya, even if they are the devil’s granddaughter. Make it a bored kid—named Cherry—with the power to harvest souls and you get a recipe for. . . well, whatever passes for a disaster in Hell. This ain’t no cuddly Dante story.
“What is that thing, and why is it. . . cute?” I feel ya, dude. I almost feel sorry for the poor death metal musician, though anyone who makes that kind of noise can’t expect much better.
Mom is about as hot as one can expect a horned demon to be.
Cherry grinning maniacally while on a mound of those she’d just killed was almost funny, but the fact is this tried to make me laugh every page and mostly failed. Even the ad for cassettes missed the mark. It should have been better, considering the premise.
2.5/5

Loading Penguin Hugs
Uneven comic strip collection that basically boils down to cutesy motivational cartoons.
Starts with a ghost hug. “You can’t feel it, but it’s there!” I call it a virtual hug, but okay.
Reasons to get out of bed was fun.
I’m gonna try really hard to forget just how much penguins smell. Thankfully I only saw one in here, though it wasn’t giving hugs. Lots of cuter animals, though. (Just occurred to me the penguins might still be loading, considering the title.)
“I made brief contact with a dog!” might just be too cute, as is “I’m awesome trash!”
“Self-love hedgehog” made me think of something completely different.
This will likely end up being TOO sweet even if you’re not all that cynical.
3/5

;o)

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)

Book Reviews: Kiddie Football, Kites, and Dragons

My Favorite Sport: Football
Like all books in this series, it’s photos rather than drawings, along with some simple words for the kids, that show what this truly American sport is all about. The information is simplistic, as expected. As an introduction, it would be good for kids, and possibly for those unfamiliar with the game.
3.5/5

Benji and the Giant Kite
Benji loves the sky no matter what, but his favorite is kite sky. As expected, he loves kites as well, not only spending his entire allowance on them but even doing a type of layaway with his mom, weeding the garden.
There’s a line that says the kite floated into the air like a dandelion seed, which is as beautiful as any imagery you’re likely to find in a children’s book. Even better, though kids won’t know the reference: “he was the kite whisperer.”
He makes an interesting choice at the end, one which will have kids asking why and parents stumped for how to explain it.
There are times when I say that a children’s book uses words that are too big for kids, but this is definitely a case where I can easily picture parents reading this aloud while holding it up for the pictures, rather than a kid reading it by themselves.
3.5/5

Aquicorn Cove
Pastel cartoons show a little girl and her dad visiting her aunt, in a place by the shore after a big storm. In between helping the community rebuild, she finds a kinda seahorse/kinda not in the ocean and brings it home in a jar.
There’s an interlude that shows her mom died and Dad moved them to the city, where in almost anime-type illustrations she’s not happy having to dress up for school and doing a lot of things adults should be doing.
A flashback shows where the little creature comes from, and a lot more. At that point the story shows it’s an environmental fable, which is nice, but most people will enjoy the art most of all. Bright colors fill every page, even more so in the underwater scenes.
Kids will think it’s cute, but it’s more than that. Whether it’s taking care of a wounded animal, healing a coral reef, or helping people pick up the pieces of a storm-ravaged village, there’s inspiration for everyone.
4/5

Joy
A little girl’s grandma goes from joyful to joyless in the span of a page. The girl’s determined to catch some joy and take it to grandma, so she corrals a bunch of catching stuff and heads off to the local park, where everyone’s having a great time. But of course it’s not that easy. . . or is it?
Bright colors fill the pages, leaving little room for words.
It’s either a reminder to adults of the happiness kids can bring, or a primer for kids. Either way, it works.
4/5

Glow in the Dark: Voyage through Space
Huge drawings of astronomical subjects dominate the pages, with lots of small text interwoven. Each planet gets a page, with info like how they got their name, environment, and so on. The visuals are so huge you hardly notice the astronauts most of the time.
Some kids will enjoy the small info blurbs, but most are likely to stare at the drawings in fascination, mesmerized. I can easily picture these drawings selling as art pieces, maybe posters; they’re that awesome.
Note: as a real book this might glow in the dark, but the digital edition doesn’t.
4.5/5

The Night Dragon
There are five dragons in this world, but Maud is different than the others. In addition to having the coloration of a rainbow, she doesn’t breathe fire or fly. Because of this, the other four bully her. Maud’s only friend, a mouse, tries to cheer her up and cheerleader her up into the sky, but Maud has too much self-doubt.
Much like a unicorn, Maud burps rainbows.
This book attempts to build confidence and self-expression—with a possible touch of gay rights—in a way that will amuse kids, especially if they commiserate. The one strange thing is that, at the end, the other dragons don’t mend their ways or apologize, or anything. Maybe the book is trying to be different—or realistic—in that way as well, but the omission is curious.
4/5

Josephine Baker
As you might expect from the title, this is a small bio on the famous dancer, whom I’ve heard described as the Beyoncé of her time. That made me laugh, but I suppose it has its point. The line “legs made for dancing, dazzling smile, free spirit: the ingredients that made her a star” encapsulates this perfectly.
Interesting point made that in France people of all races intermingled without a problem, though I find that farfetched. Still, it had to be better than in the States at that time, so I won’t belabor the point.
The artwork is simplistic, and some of the poses look impossible, but it’s more than good enough for the target audience.
This is the third of this interesting series about great women I’ve read, and I can unequivocally say I’ve learned probably as much about some of these special people as the kids that’ll read this.
4/5

10 Reasons to Love … a Penguin
I love penguins, at least reading about or watching them on TV (They are the world’s worst smelling animal, though; seriously, don’t even get close), so I was looking forward to this, especially as I’d read the previous entry on lions. But some of these ten reasons are. . . unremarkable.
I was unaware there were so many types; the funniest names have to the macaroni, rockhopper, and chinstraps. And I hope there’s actually a reason for having both emperor and king penguins.
Penguins are strange yet cute enough animals to appeal to kids, so this one seems like a no-brainer.
4/5

Outside: Exploring Nature
The first illustration is a minimalist line drawing. The tree that follows has more detail, but there’s also an ethereal figure climbing it, which makes it a little spooky but quite interesting.
After that artsy start it settles into huge info dumps. There are entire pages full of leaf shapes, for instance, and another of seeds. I don’t know the age group targeted here, but I’d imagine it would take early teens, and then they’d already have to be interested in science and such, to get into all this. It feels like a science textbook at a performing arts high school.
Fun fact: cork protects its oak from fires, if the humans haven’t harvested it all for their wine bottles.
There are similar chapters on flowers, animals, rocks, and so on. There’s a special section on the platypus, which feels right.
From the mentions of the country, as well as the names of the author and illustrator, it’s pretty easy to tell this book originated in Portugal.
Fun fact: biologists howl too.
Some sections include homework assignments.
3/5

Code Your Own Adventure
I remember computer science class in college, which convinced me that coding was not for me. To see it being taught to kids is mindboggling, but apparently MIT has invented such a way that makes it simple enough. I might even try it. . .
Nah.
On one page you get an adventure role-playing game—in the first case finding the lost golden city of the Amazon in the style of Indiana Jones or Lara Croft—while on the other side there’s a step-by-step process on how to code whatever the adventure tells you to. Similar games follow, such as knights, pirates, and astronauts.
The illustrations are pretty basic and broad, looking like the book is meant for kids too young to be working a computer.
The anaconda looks more scared of Maria than vice versa.
It’s possible kids may not have the patience to go through all those instructions. There has to be a genuine interest going in, rather than hoping this will capture that interest, because even though I wanted to learn, I got bored.
2/5

Grandad Mandela
Two kids ask their grandmother—daughter of Nelson Mandela—to tell them the story of the great man. Considering the perspective of coming from his family, and that it’s for kids, it’s far different than any other biography you’re likely to read. It’s perfect in its simplicity.
The artwork for some reason reminds me of Frida Kahlo, using a lot of different angles and color schemes, which some people will find innovative and others simply weird. There’s a funny visual where protesters are holding up placards, and the text of the story is on them.
4/5

Ranger Rick Kids’ Guide to Paddling
Plenty of photos with diagrams and a lot of text as a raccoon-like Ranger Rick (looks weird with a life vest on) shows up to explain everything you wanted to know about moving on the water as slow as possible.
The start is full of the ins and outs—mostly outs—of canoes, probably far more than any kid is gonna want to look at in one sitting. Kayaks get similar treatment, followed by paddleboards. After that come sections on gear, where to go, and what else there is to do.
At one point I thought this felt like a new-age textbook, and after that came the line, “Some (people) even practice yoga on (paddleboards).” So. . .
3/5

If My Moon Was Your Sun
Young boy breaks his grandpa out of the nursing home; another resident tags along, basically for comic relief. They go to a special place dear to Grandpa, where they talk about astronomy and what will happen once he forgets everything due to his illness.
The book alternates between full-page drawings done in sketchy yellow pastels and full-page text.
Best line: “Never in the history of escapes has there been a more laid-back getaway.”
If you’re a fan of Prokofiev and Bizet, there’s something special for you here.
The tale meanders as it tells about the love between these generations, but the moments that might explain to kids about memory loss and why it happens are few. As a story it works; as a lesson, not so much.
3.5/5

Mr. Pack Rat Really Wants That
Pack Rat thinks his home is too monochrome, and finds a magical magnet that’ll grab anything he wants if he chants a limerick. But he quickly finds flowers don’t last and has to hunt for more stuff. Same thing with the next stuff, and so on.
It’s educational, though I have no idea why a kid would need to know what a midden is. The point appears to be about happiness—or don’t be greedy—but I’m annoyed at the fact he emptied out the whole store without a thought of paying. Flowers and shells are one thing, but outright stealing sours this for me. The fact that he returned everything after his epiphany doesn’t change that. Even if you think I’m being too critical of a children’s book, imagine a parent having to explain the theft when a kid says, “Isn’t that a wrong thing to do?”
2.5/5

Golam: The Son of the Moon
A gladiator battle—between alchemists—leads to huge clunky info drops from the announcers. Nice way to start in general, but too much info to throw in so soon. And in the end the story isn’t about any of those characters after all, but rather a pickpocket in the stands.
“You can choose your destiny. . . dude.” Ugh, in a far-off kingdom full of magic, they still say “dude?” And when a horrifying demon says “Yikes!”. . .
That jaw gape at the Darth Vader revelation. . . too much, but still hilarious.
At the end the preppie gives an explanation of alchemy, which would have been welcome at the beginning.
Big colorful cartoonish art style; that’s not a bad thing. Can’t say the same for the story. This could have been great, but it’s basically too much too soon, going for long explanations and cheap laughs. At the end it says there’s going to a sequel, so maybe some of the info dumps could have been saved for that. As it was, all the stuff thrown at me lowered the overall quality.
2/5

The Music Box: Welcome to Pandorient
What started out as a cute, Alice in Wonderland premise turned completely creepy. . . then turned cute again. There’s an adorable little redhead. . . and then there’s two.
Her face when she says mom cured every owwie. . . heartfelt and sad.
Her little wave at the giant octopus. . . too much.
I’m not saying it’s better written, but I like this plot better than Alice: the three plucky kids working together to save a life.
The artwork is more vibrant than a lot I’ve seen recently, particularly the oranges.
4.5/5

Dynomike: Love Bug
Dynomike—a creature I can’t figure out but is apparently a dinosaur—wants to be in love, as told in easy rhyming stanzas. His Hawaiian-shirt wearing friend gives him The Love Bug. I won’t tell you what it is, but I can tell you it’s not an actual bug.
Pooper and duper are rhymed.
Definitely cute, and as simplistic as you’d want for kids. The animals are not drawn to each other’s scale—you can hug an elephant’s leg, but not the way it’s shown here—but since these animals walk and wear clothes and talk, I guess that doesn’t matter.
3.5/5

;o)

Book Reviews: Aliens, Sherlocks, and Rogues

Copywriting Made Simple: How to write powerful persuasive copy that sells
The title does not lie, as far as simplicity goes. The first graphic shows this perfectly: a man (reader) crossing a bridge at the urging of a woman (copywriter), exactly as the text just said. It’s kindergarten level. Thankfully it doesn’t continue this way, once your intelligence gets over feeling insulted.
The chapter on structure is amusing, because it perfectly mimics the steps I take to write a book, movie, or music review.
It’s a pretty big book, so there’s no surprise that there’s a few gems in here, mostly the examples of famous or just hilarious ads. I ended up making a lot more notes than I thought I would. At the same time, there are sections I skimmed through, with the thought that “If I ever need them, I’ll look them up then, but they won’t help me now.”
3/5

Dethroned
Of course Syl and Rouen can’t spend even a Christmas in peace, as the dark king decides this is the perfect time to take out the fair heir and his own daughter.
This is a novella that goes between the latest book and the upcoming one, with Ro basically facing the same choice Syl did last time. No surprise she makes the same decision. What I didn’t expect was for all kinds of fairie kids to be so instrumental. If there’s one low point, it’s that for such a short book there’s so many mentions of how Syl would have been dead from her injuries had she been merely human.
It’s tough keeping up with all the magic, new and also old, but then I’m here for the fun interactions, the snarky wordplay, and there’s plenty of that here.
3.5/5

Taking Flight
Recent widow thinks it’s time to get her life back, starting by returning to her speaker business. Flying to Vegas, the plane she’s in runs into a huge storm, necessitating a diversion to Denver. The pilot is a fan of hers, and his plan to woo her takes off (all pun intended). Though because of their schedules they don’t get much time together—plenty of time skips, which are not ideal—they do manage to have moments in Vegas and NY before he whisks her off to Hawaii for a week of relationship building.
Everything’s happy for the first half, but it can’t last, otherwise there’d be no story. Finally something happens to destroy their happiness. Some of it is a little obvious, like when a baby’s introduced; I instantly knew where he’d end up, and I’m pretty sure most readers did too.
I liked the writing well enough, but the plot was kinda clunky. At times felt by the numbers.
3/5

Killing Jane
Ugly murders are taking place in DC, with hints—especially the intro—that it’s a Jack the Ripper copycat. But this killer seems to have info on those famous slayings, including a theory I hadn’t heard: Jack might have actually been Jane.
This started slow, and I didn’t like the main character. Even though she’s just starting out as a detective, having been promoted from beat cop, you’d think she would have grown a thicker skin. Instead she’s very touchy, as well as insecure when she’s saddled up with a much more experienced investigator. I feel like there was too much of this: too often mentioned, too often shown. There’s only so many times you can read the same character flaws over and over. Likewise, her partner can be too forgiving.
The murder scene is horrific; I tried my best NOT to imagine it, unlike most books where I’m trying to find the killer before the fictional detective does. At least this allows a reaction from the protagonist that humanizes her. Turns out she’s still got PTSD from being raped, which she did not report. It’s made obvious that this is affecting her performance, or at least her mindset as she hunts for the killer.
Once I got over the goriness, I enjoyed the craftwork. Always good when an investigation is true to life and isn’t solved in 60 minutes (40 with commercials). The story itself was good, kept me guessing, though in my defense I don’t think there were enough breadcrumbs.
In a story with many brutal elements, there’s one near the end that’s even more so. And I can’t see any reason for it. Maybe it’ll pop up in a sequel, but it annoys me the way the author piles things on, almost like she doesn’t like her main character. And after that particular tidbit, it gets even worse for her. Sheesh.
Didn’t like the ending, came out of nowhere. Felt tacked on.
3/5

Marriage Under Fire
In a short novel that takes place in Seattle, two Marines who just worked an undercover case have to jump right into the next one, pretending to be married in order to infiltrate a spy ring.
She’d be absolutely fantastic if she could dump some of the testosterone she forces on herself to deal with the men. Him I simply didn’t like at all, but I can’t say he’s all that different from most Marines I’ve known.
The whole denouement hinges on him being so in love that he forgets his training and rushes in without waiting for backup. As a former Marine, I find that far-fetched. I would almost say it ruined the book for me, but the truth is I wasn’t feeling it anyway. It couldn’t decide whether it was a spy thriller or a romance, and those two parts didn’t mesh all that well.
2.5/5

Murder in Keswick: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery
As often happened back when Sherlock took a vacation, another mystery finds him, in this case a grisly murder, followed by a break-in at the now-widow’s house.
Unlike most attempts at writing a Sherlock novel, I enjoyed this one right off the bat. It sounds authentic. For instance, there was a clue in the laundry that rang true to Arthur Conan Doyle, subtle but I got it. What happened after, and her aim with the shotgun, only strengthened my theory. (In the end I got it right. . . except for the actual murderer. Sigh.)
Read it in a couple of hours on a burning summer afternoon. Only problem is the next day I couldn’t remember any of it.
3.5/5

Stage Bound
A lady ostensibly in charge of a theatre company has to juggle her boyfriend, her boss, her friends, and a mysterious new act as they put on a show. She not great at handling the pressure, but she perseveres, mostly with the help of Pez dispensers. But when things go wrong. . .
Despite the shortness, it felt really long. A lot of times it seemed like I was making no progress at all. In particular, the mechanical explanations had me skipping.
On the plus side, there were some thoroughly funny moments, and the relationships were fun to see. A couple of well-crafted erotic scenes helped too. I wish I could up the score a notch, but the main plot could have been much better. I feel like I could have cut at least ten pages off and it would have been better.
2.5/5

The Sherlock Effect
A modern—or a few years ago, anyway—version of the great detective goes into that same business when his friend offers him start-up money. His father was such a fanatic that his middle name is Sherlock, but that’s about the only qualification he has as the two go around solving some relatively simple crimes.
Anyone familiar with Sherlock Holmes knew how the first story would end. The local cop in the second story is way too loose, telling civilians everything about the case. At least one of the characters notices, but a not very satisfactory answer is given. Basically it feels like a halfhearted attempt at recreating Arthur Conan Doyle, which is an impossible thing to attempt, let alone achieve. It wasn’t bad by any means, but it didn’t engage me; not even the inclusion of aliens managed to pull me in.
3/5

Devoted
A director and the manager—and sister—of a famous actress butt heads on a new film production. She’s trying to keep her sister from falling off various wagons while he completes his magnum opus. Turns out they knew each other growing up in a small Canadian town—odds of that?—and she’s always had a crush on him.
Really easy reading! Love it when it flows so well. I particularly like how the author doesn’t beat the audience over the head with how much the characters want each other. Yes, it’s there, but it’s not overdone like a lot of books in this genre I’ve read lately.
Everything about this was pretty standard, except for the enjoyable writing. Even the sad tragic moments felt lyrical. I might have given this a higher grade if the typical jumping to conclusions wasn’t present.
3.5/5

Lord of Secrets: Rogues to Riches
She’s lower class and working for a rich cousin, gathering more money by drawing caricatures of the twits she sees at various events. He’s upper class but works as a fixer. He can’t figure out who the artist is. She didn’t think he would care. But then it gets personal. There’s a puppy pug involved.
This has some finely written characters and plenty of humor, but every scene is stolen by the appropriately named Captain Pugboat. There’s a great part with the two trying to teach the puppy to heel, followed by an even better moment of them dancing. This is where the romance blossoms, and is worth the read in itself. Another hilarious scene occurs when she meets his sisters for the first time. This author could be writing for sitcoms.
The plot is easily established; the point is how to get to the inevitable end, and that’s what I enjoyed here. For once it wasn’t a by-the-numbers romance; it wasn’t about obstacles they put on themselves, but rather the crap the society of the time loads on them. This wouldn’t have worked in a modern setting; they had to go against the entire social structure of the time and country they lived in, which means they truly earned their happy ending.
This is how this genre should be written.
4.5/5

Summer Sizzle
Two people end up renting the same house and, though they can’t stand each other, can’t fight the attraction either. He’s got a doctorate in sociology, which he gave up when his little boy was killed. She’s an accountant building up money to get an advanced degree, and nothing will deviate her from that plan. . . so she thinks.
I wanted to like her, but except for sex and the kite lessons, she’s got a bug so far up her ass she’s just no fun. This is not someone I would want to know in real life, especially when she lets her cat do all the emotionally dirty work for her. Speaking of, this may be the first feline in history I’ve ever liked. (Gimme a break, I’m allergic.) But the cat giveth, and the cat taketh away; it was a silly way to cause the inevitable trouble in the relationship, but plausible, I suppose.
Points off for “orgasmic climax.”
Doesn’t matter how great they may be, because when it comes down to it, they’re both dumb as rocks, lacking in emotional intelligence. His PhD in sociology taught him nothing. Both invented stupid reasons for artificial roadblocks. Up to that point I’d liked this, but the last quarter was a mess.
Even worse, there’s a lot of loose ends. Her lost/stolen money issue is never resolved; she doesn’t even go to the police. With his reluctance to do just that, I thought the slimy lawyer was in on it.
And speaking of that character: what good was he? To make the main guy jealous? To make him look good in her eyes? Or did the author have someone in real life they couldn’t resist throwing in as vicarious revenge?
The ending, or next to ending, I hated. Brought down the score.
3/5

;o)

Book Reviews: 22 Reasons Kids Love This Blog

Storytime: Astromouse
A baby mouse totally buys it when told the moon is made of cheese, and instantly decides he wants to go there. He doesn’t think it through. In the end he figures things are just fine the way they are.
It’s a pretty cute story, amusingly told. Not the twists one would expect at the end, even though the ending itself was never in question. The artwork and syntax make this a good bet for pre-kinders.
4/5

Georgia O’Keeffe
A quick colorful biography of the famous painter, meant for kids.
Broad lively artwork from the very start, where while one boy chases chickens another is being chased by a girl with a wooden sword. Unfortunately this is not Georgia; she’s over on the side playing with a snail. One panel has her and a flower on the sidewalk as the only color in a bleak scene, showing she was more into studying her surroundings than those around her. Moving to New Mexico seemed to do the trick, unlocking all her powers of observation and her ability to translate it with a brush.
Since I learned about her through Steigletz, I was glad to see him included here. And for those worried about it, the paintings she’s most famous for are not included here; it is a kid’s book, after all.
At the end are photographs of her with almost the same text as shown before, without the artwork.
4/5

Harriet Tubman
A quick colorful biography of the fearless anti-slavery heroine, meant for kids.
Some will be confused as to who is being talked about in the beginning; it isn’t till later that it’s said that she changed her name to Harriet. All of the things she’s famous for are here, along with a few facts I didn’t know about but only serve to elevate her already heroic status. It’s easy to imagine kids who’re oversaturated with today’s superheroes being swept up by her story.
At the end the text is repeated without the artwork, just elevated a bit for the adults.
4/5

If All the World
A little girl spends a year—though that’s probably a metaphor—with her grandpa, whom she clearly adores. She even wishes she could replant all his birthdays so he never grows old. But how does she cope when he’s no longer there?
Her answer probably doesn’t help with the pain, but becomes a fitting tribute, and is likely a good idea for those who have recently gone through it.
The artwork has a sketchy—as in being colored sketches, not unclear or hinky—quality to them that help the story along.
4/5

Power to the Princess
According to the blurb, these are fairy tales retold for the #metoo generation, mostly text with some cute humans colorfully drawn in the margins, plus an occasional full-page artwork.
Best line, the one that best describes what this book is about: “And that is how Belle became a princess. But not that kind of princess.”
In case you were wondering if this is written in old-style English, one of the fairies likes to say, “Well, that was awkward.” Another story contains the line, “But he was a vegetarian, so that made it weird.” Possibly my fave comes from Snow White: Her hair, pitch black, was now white as snow. “Huh, that’s a new one,” Neve said in wonder.
There are labor unions, sleep clinics, fitness centers, and a detective who’s assigned to cold curse cases. Sleeping Beauty becomes an expert in the field of narcolepsy. No one needs to tell this guy not to date a damsel in permanent distress. And someone could make a fortune teaching the woodland-creature hair-braiding class.
But it’s not all unicorns and rainbows (BTW, there isn’t one unicorn or rainbow in the entire book). Some of the modern-day counterpart jobs were farfetched; somehow Belle becomes an undercover cop! It’s great that the princesses in the Little Mermaid got married, but there was no hint of them being anything more than friends before that.
The artwork is pretty much as you’d expect it. Snow White is a little jarring at first, with the overalls and white hair. Her stepmother, on the other hand, is just my style, even with the Medusa head.
3.5/5

Gina From Siberia
Unlike the husky that shows up every once in a while, Gina doggie doesn’t look like a snow dog, but living in Siberia gives you no other choice. Somehow she loves it, and doesn’t want to go when the family moves.
There’s a whole page of things she saw on the trip, some of them funny.
Dogs aren’t allowed on the train, but rather than put her in the basket, mom dresses her up as an ugly baby. Not smart. (The bio says this actually happened, so I can nitpick.) And dogs are allowed on the plane. Huh.
Knowing this is a period piece does not make seeing the hammer and sickle on the flags any less strange.
Gina does not like heat sources, considering she thinks radiators and vents are monsters. But for everyone except me, pizza makes everything better. And just like that Gina isn’t homesick anymore.
Incredibly simplistic artwork, considering it’s such a big story.
3.5/5

The Truth About Dinosaurs
A modern-day chicken tries to prove it’s actually a dinosaur, and in the process gives a lesson on actual dinos. It’s all done through the similarity of feet and a photo album, but don’t worry about there not being cameras to shoot the dinosaurs back then; after all, this story’s told by a talking chicken.
Dinosaur eggs look like gemstones.
This one got me with a line in the blurb: “For curious people from 4 up to 250 million years old.”
Silly, but educational.
3.5/5

Watermelon Madness
Noura loves watermelon so much she won’t eat anything else. (Even I have something other than bacon and ice cream once in a while!) She throws a tantrum when her mother feeds her something else, then goes downstairs in the middle of the night and scores a giant watermelon, taking it int her room and hiding it under her bed for munching in the morning. Then weird stuff happens.
If you want a kid to do something, I suppose there are worse ways of letting them know the penalty for disobeying. Could also serve as a lesson for parents to be more tolerant.
3.5/5

Little Tails Under the Sea
Other than the fact they’re in a sub instead of a plane, the format holds as the two little guys explore the world they find themselves in. The last one with the dinosaurs got a bit silly, so it’s good to see them back to something more realistic. . . if I can actually say that about talking animals.
As expected, they jaunt underwater, mostly staying away from other animals while describing them, giving the educational content this series always provides. And as always there’s some friendly critter that helps them out of the mess they made, though in this situation I would not have expected a polar bear.
I can just imagine the orca’s rage to be described as a big sea panda.
At the end there’s more info about each animal.
This was at least as good as the dinosaur one, though I liked the previous ones better. Nothing wrong with this one, though.
3.5/5

Diary of a Witch
Told in rhyme, this is a witch telling her story to her diary.
The wallpaper front page has a few sketches of scenes, such as broom, hat, cauldron, cat, but there’s also a hilarious shot of a jousting knight after a running spellcaster. See what happens when you forget your broom?
This redheaded witch has a heroic honker.
There’s an early shot of her reading about 80s glamour while complaining about her frizzy hair. Then she ditches the robe for heels and a leather miniskirt. . . kinda disturbing. The fact she’s in a fast car with a younger man might indicate her version of a midlife crisis.
So, basically she’s reexamining her life, trying to decide if being bad is a bad idea.
It’s cute, and not at all scary, but then I doubt it was meant to be.
3.5/5

Giant: A Panda of the Enchanted Forest
A giant panda sits in a tree, trying to stop eating and start sleeping, while other animals take in the scene. He only talks to the tree, though he’s surprised when it talks back. When an emergency strikes the forest, the two have to team up to save the day.
Pretty simple story, so it should appeal to the smaller kids, as long as they don’t get frightened. I didn’t find it particularly interesting, but then I’m not the demographic this book is going for.
3/5

Luke and Lottie. It’s Halloween!
A small brother/sister duo prepare for their first Halloween, which doesn’t bode well because they’re easily scared of the decorations.
There must not be a lot of streetlights in this neighborhood, considering the big lanterns they carry. And because they’re holding hands with Dad, they’re not gonna be able to carry their bags full of candy.
There’s one shot I love where Dad’s dressed up as a vampire and pretending to be scared of the ghost and the witch, and in the background Mom is giggling.
I learned banana ghosts desserts looks pretty cool, though not exactly mouthwatering.
Basically Halloween described to kids who’ve never seen it, or are scared of their first one. Pretty straightforward with some cute moments.
3.5/5

If a Dog Could Wear a Hat
A little pigtailed redhead is home in bed, apparently sick, if the thermometer and her sad face are clues. Looking for something to pass the time, she dreams in rhyming couplets of her dog doing various occupations, based on the hat the canine wears.
As you would expect, it’s too cute for words. Though relatively simple, the art shows exactly what it needs to and nothing more. Erin’s smile is so infectious, which is perfectly shown on a page near the end where she’s sitting on the floor surrounded by hats.
Ends with a twist!
4/5

My Favorite Pet: Hamsters
An early primer on what’s probably the world’s cutest rodent, with facts told in photos with captions.
The first quiz was a little too simple, even for a three-year-old.
Hamster balls are to hamster wheels what yoga balls are to exercise bikes.
There’s a glossary at the end which shows just how young the audience for this book is, but it’s fun enough, and there might be facts even adults don’t know.
4/5

Swim Little Fish
A small red fish does un-fish things like jumping out of the water and getting a tan before returning to its home in a seashell, getting into bed and looking out the window at the sea full of stars.
Big bright drawings show this book is meant for the littlest of kids than can understand what they’re seeing. It’s cute enough, though if you get kids too old for this they’ll ask why fish are doing human things.
3.5/5

Annabel and Cat / Annabel y Gato
The simplest of drawings help tell the story of. . . well, look at the title. On the opposite page is a description in both English and Spanish. The Cat is right there with Annabel as far as activities go, from putting on plays to arts and crafts, from making snowmen to eating pancakes to going to the library. Other than the wall shadows and the safari, there isn’t anything here that would have been different had Annabel been on her own, but then it wouldn’t be as cute.
3.5/5

Discover Military Equipment
As always in this series, rather than drawings, it’s photographs with captions.
Starts off with throwing knives, which I’m sure every kid will now want. In general, it’s a bit strange to be teaching kids about all the different ways someone can be killed.
More than once a chapter started with “____ changed warfare,” enough times for me to think it was purposeful, though it did make it boring.
3/5

My Favorite Machine: Fire Trucks
As always, this series has photos instead of drawings, which I think makes it better (ignore the part where I’m a photographer).
Lots of beauty shots in red; just about the only blue was a light. The most interesting photos were the ones showing the equipment stored in every nook and cranny.
There’s some really simple tests, with the answers in the back, alongside a glossary with incredibly basic definitions, which show this book is meant for very young children.
3.5/5

Snowy: A Leopard of the High Mountains
A family of snow leopards runs away when they hear human hunters, but the youngster is separated and feeling lonesome. A marmot drops from a tree, yet is not afraid of being used as lunch. Instead they snuggle and keep each other warm, then set off with the help of other animals to get the kid feline home.
As a lesson in teamwork and helping others, it’s fine. I just don’t find it very believable—and that’s after granting animals can talk—that such cooperation could exist amongst ALL animals, especially between predator and prey.
3/5

The Flying Rock
Kid getting picked on loses it and throws a rock at the bullies, only to find he’s got more of a pitcher’s arm than he suspected, plonking one of them on the head. He runs home to tell his grandpa what he did, and gramps sits him down for a lecture and a story. That story is about how you never know if luck is good or bad until the full circumstances play out, which I had heard before as an ancient Chinese parable.
The moral of the story the grandfather gave didn’t seem to fit, but the end of the framing section did bring it together. Won’t spoiler it, but let’s just say the medical stuff might be too much for small kids to handle. Other than that, it was a good story well told.
3.5/5

Just the Right Size
A quick tour through the animal kingdom, differentiating by size. Example: “A ladybug can land on a tree branch, a giraffe cannot. But a giraffe can do something else that’s great.” You get the gist, the point being that every animal is good at something no matter what the size.
Ends with a lesson and an interracial family hug, which is nice but a little highhanded, and probably not going to be understood by kids small enough to read this.
3.5/5

10 Reasons to Love … a Lion
As the title says, this book is all about why you should think lions are cool, though that also depends on your point of view. Saying that unlike other cats they enjoy hanging out together is one thing, but it takes a totally different meaning when you’re running for your life.
Each page features a beautiful drawing, filled with color and staring lions, as well as text and captions on other animals, as well as plants.
My favorite fact was that porcupines got the lions’ number!
Pangolins sure have gotten famous recently.
Nice to look at, some fun facts. Sure to be a hit with kids.
4/5

;o)

Book Reviews: Graphic Gauguin and Grabbings

Please Don’t Grab My P#$$y: A Rhyming Presidential Guide
Four-line rhyming stanzas attempt to teach the Trumpster Dumpster and other asses like him what shouldn’t be touched without permission. Each little poem ends with a euphemism for the one word you would expect, some of them quite confusing.
I am a rhyming fanatic; I’ve even called out my fave musicians when they cheat on this, so it’s no surprise when I say that some of these attempts are atrocious. Maybe that explains why some of those that do rhyme make no sense whatsoever.
A few of the highly impressionistic drawings are lovely and funny, but most are just there.
If there’s one thing to take away here, it’s that this sets some high expectations and doesn’t meet them. Nowhere near as funny as the publicity pretends. A little bit more thought, and maybe not so lowbrow, and it might have hit the sweet spot.
2/5

Queen of Kenosha
Small-town musician in Noo Yawk tries to return a wallet and get pistol-whipped for her troubles. It leaves her open to an offer she can’t refuse.
I’ve read this author’s previous works, which took place in the hockey world, and it’s the same format here. The artwork is especially similar, but the story is completely different and much more ambitious, in fact maybe too much. There’s been plenty of Nazi conspiracy stories over the decades, but I can’t remember seeing one where they’re basically dropped into what’s always been a “commie” plot.
Though it’s an overused talking point, the difference between a black-and-white follow-orders-at-all-costs viewpoint and a don’t-have-to-kill-everyone approach is done well here.
Each issue has recommended songs, with one on each playlist by the fictional protagonist, so of course you can’t hear it. Another is “Both Sides Now”; I sure am getting tired of that song, it’s everywhere. And you’d think that since this takes place in the early 60s, songs from that era would be a better choice. I haven’t noticed any connection between the songs and the action, but I was amused by the inclusion of a Pretenders song. But it’s the insertion of a good Dire Straits song that made everything okay.
When on the big mission, they dress all in black but don’t paint their faces, neck, and hands. Worse, her blonde hair is loose. Author fail on the spycraft.
More than anything, there’s a huge plot twist at the end. . . which I’d guessed about halfway. I was hoping I was wrong, thinking it too contrived, too much of a coincidence, but it happened anyway. Actually not that big a deal in this book, but in the sequel it’ll be huge, and it won’t sit right then.
At the end are the lyrics to the made-up songs by the protagonist. Since this is a collection of all the issues, I don’t know if the lyrics were included with the song, but in this volume I would have liked to read them when the title was first unveiled.
There’s a lot of good stuff here, but also much that could have been done better.
3/5

Gauguin: Off the Beaten Track
The foreword tells you that this isn’t about the artist as much as about the guy who was his generation’s version of a hippie, though by this time in his life he’d become more cynical.
The graphic novel starts with paintings being sold at auction for what seem to be really low prices, though back then it could have been a lot. They’re won by a smug-looking accountant type, and then we go back two years to the sight of Gaugin sleeping on a ship with roaches crawling all over him. Lovely. From there the story switches between his arrival on the small island and the previous guy showing up after his death.
Some of the friends he makes are interesting. It’s fun to see him interacting with people from Vietnam, India, and of course the locals, though they’re all different too.
“You’ve lost your mind!” “And you never had one to begin with!”
“You must—” “When I hear ‘you must,’ I rebel!”
There some slight x-rating to a couple of panels, but the artwork is done in such a non-realistic style—even looks like Gaugin painted it—that’s it’s hardly noticeable and pretty much inoffensive. . . which kinda sums up this book. It paints a different side of the artist who’s only famous for these paintings, who is not in the consciousness of most like Picasso or such. It’s interesting, but not more than that.
3/5

Motorcity
An unconventional new cop—with tats, piercings, etc.—in a small town in Sweden works on missing persons case. We get to see what happened to that missing person, and it’s not nice, so we’re given a sense of urgency for the cop and her partner to get there and save the day.
She knows most of the players, which is handy, though who knows if that’s a great idea, were she to run into someone she actually likes. There’s also an idiot too-much-testosterone older cop who looks like he came out of any American police show. The book ends with a small discussion on the Swedish subculture that was the background for the story, which was interesting enough to make me look it up.
The writing, or should I say the translation, is pretty good, except for too many fake-sounding instances of “Ha ha.” The artwork was a bit Day-Glo for my tastes, but since the protagonist is a fan of superhero comics that’s not a big deal. And even though the story was a bit by-the-numbers, the characterizations, especially the lead, made it worthwhile.
3.5/5

A Sea of Love
A comedy of errors at sea: an old fisherman sets off on what he thinks is just another day at work, and then one thing after another goes wrong. In the meantime, his wife doesn’t give up looking for him, and her adventures are a lot more fun.
Right away it makes me laugh with how huge the fisherman’s eyes are with the glasses on. It starts with the typical morning routine, with recognizable moments between the married couple, going from mad to laughing in a second. Totally sympathize with him on the sardine situation. The part where he meets up with the bigger boat seemed to take forever to get through, could have been done quicker. And never fire a flare near an oil tanker. . . just sayin’.
She doesn’t take off her ridiculous hat in the swimming pool; funny. Her housekeeping/cooking skills make her a star. She was smart all the way to interrupting Castro’s speech, a misstep not only for her but for the book; too ridiculous, though not as much as her becoming an internet sensation. Still, it was nice to see her having as much of a role as he did.
Some funny moments, some poignant. Neither the fisherman nor his wife ever give up; it’s inspiring. Even the bird carries out its agenda without fail. The ecological lessons are rousing in a different way, more of a call to action.
The artwork isn’t meant to be realistic, almost caricature but not over the top.
I think this could have been 25% shorter, and I would have liked it more.
3.5/5

Lady Mechanika, Vol. 4: Clockwork Assassin
Okay, I’m gonna pretend the Day of the Dead volume never happened. Also a bit sad I missed the Free Comic Book Day edition, but what can you do?
A mysterious lady who could easily pass for Mechanika slashes an industrialist on an empty street. Luckily for Mechanika it’s her “admirer” Detective Singh who’s on the case, but after two more murders even he’s not sure of her innocence.
I love that Harry says he’s the brains and she’s the brawn, and Mechanika doesn’t object.
“Umph. That was graceful. Executed with all the poise of a proper lady.” I keep saying it every time: my favorite trait of Lady Mechanika is her always surprising sense of humor.
The bad guy is not that hard to guess, but then I’m not here for the story. The real reason to be here is the artwork, particularly but not just the renderings of Lady Mechanika.
The girl reminds me of Emma Watson. . . or a certain witch she played.
So, nothing that screams out new, but more of the same good stuff.
As always, there are extra visual goodies at the end; I will never believe Mechanika stopped moving long enough to pose for them.
3.5/5

Infinity 8 Vol. 1: Love and Mummies
In a plot far too confusing to be summarized here, a spaceship cop is sent outside into a space junkyard to find out what’s going on, and hopefully tell the reader too.
It’s one thing for her to be wearing such a tight spacesuit—justifiable, but not likely—but the uniform she wears on the job is ridiculous, and leads me to not be able to take her seriously as a security agent. Another female agent is dressed the same way, cleavage practically falling out. Bad job by the artist there, but who knows what he’s thinking.
Lots of scenery porn in the shape of. . . well, a lot of different shapes of aliens. The ship is shaped like a high-heeled shoe!
Best line: “Kiss my ass.” “Okay. Is that how humans do it?”
Though it happens a lot in these stories, I still don’t like how Captain Obvious she is. Turns out she’s kinda dumb too. An officer never gives up their weapon!
Brightly painted, especially for being in space.
After a page of in-story commercials, some of them funny, there’s a big sign that says “14 pages of extras!” Cute, but too late to make a difference.
2.5/5

Skin & Earth HC
In a near-future Earth ecologically devasted, a young redhead goes from college through a nice neighborhood and reveals that she’s part of a lesser caste, to the point where she has to wear a mask so that she doesn’t breathe on this society’s higher-ups. A guard at the checkpoint back to the poor area, who should be more sympathetic considering he’s no highborn, provides further exposition while trying to bully her.
Of course she’s in love with a jerk. There’s a lot of talk and exposition, but nothing much happens. She doesn’t seem particularly smart, considering she tried to take a tattoo off with a knife. Then she meets a mysterious woman in a dream and they go off to get their revenge on the guy.
I did do a little research after reading the intro; turns out this is written by a musician, and the main character is kinda based on her, at least the visuals; the artwork, especially her red hair, is very true to life. The rest of the eye candy is okay, not meant to be realistic.
Favorite line: “I’m never drinking again!. . . boobs look nice, though.”
Other worthy utterings:
“It’s like some fucked-up Renaissance painting.”
“Show him what it’s like to fuck with a goddess.”
“Are you saying you’re forever years old? You look good!”
“I don’t know what this is all code for, but if you’ve got pills, I’ll take them.”
“You have a dangerous blend of sadness and curiosity.”
“I have other plans!” (I need a plan.)
Good use of chain metaphor.
Problem: if she’s not wearing the mask, how does anyone know if she’s a pink or a red? And I don’t mean her hair.
More to the point: each chapter has a Qcode for songs that go with the book, but as of my reading of this review copy, they only take you to the same general website of what looks to be the publisher. No worries, I found them on youtube, with a couple having videos. I found the songs, like many nowadays, overproduced; acoustic versions might be better, but there are some good hard-rocking melodies in there. As for the videos, one of them shows her making the artwork, while another has a couple of the panels recreated in real life, like the part when her “ghost” leaves her body.
3.5/5

;o)

Book Reviews: Violins and Other Fantasies

Harriet Walsh: Peace Force
Origin story for a new hero in Simon Haynes’ wacky world, or I should say universe. This shows how Harriet was chosen—if that’s the right word for it—why she accepted, and how she impressed everyone—or at least a couple of robots/cars—with the way she handles her first case.
Harriet is immediately likeable, nowhere more so than when she’s having her first encounter with her talking car. I definitely like Harriet more then Hal, and Alice is preferable to Klunk, though just barely. The least said about Bernie the better; at least Steve was fun. More than anything, it’s funny, which is what I’ve come to expect from this author. The story is all light and airy, much like the Spacejock series, until two tremendously dark twists toward the end.
There’s a small blooper the first time she gets on the plane, but it’s doubtful anyone will notice. Other than that, pure fun as usual with this author.
4/5

Ouroboros
Syl and Rouen are back, having spent the summer hunting down leftover bad stuff from the first book and dreading going back to school. It takes a while to find the main plot, and then it’s a lot like the first one, without the Big Bad, but plenty menacing anyway.
As much as I enjoyed the first one, it wasn’t for the high school drama. Got into the beginning of this one, but it doesn’t take long for the school stuff to start again, and I feel like I just can’t. Still, I enjoy the dialogue and inner musings enough to persevere.
I love small moments, like the ladies kicking autumn leaves and grinning at each other, or studying solar wind, which as usual with such seemingly throw-ins comes back to be important. But my fave scene has to be the snowball fight.
For all the ugliness that takes place, thanks to Fiann the alpha bully, you not only get a sense that these two ladies will overcome the odds, you root for them.
3.5/5

Out of Tune
Small town girl and two friends give out exposition on a missing girl as they hand out flyers and then join the search, finding the body soon enough.
I mention exposition because in this case it was well done, unlike most ham-fisted attempts in such short stories. There’s a Twin Peaks feel throughout, making me wonder if maybe the victim wasn’t as goodie-two-shoes as she let on.
For such a short novel, there sure were a lot of suspects; just when the cops and Riley think they know who done it, someone else pops up. It’s a little exasperating, as the author doesn’t throw breadcrumbs for the reader to play along and have a chance at solving it. But despite that it’s still worth the read, as the writing and characters are where this short is strong.
3.5/5

The Killing Type
A woman tells her sister her husband is trying to kill her. Sis doesn’t buy it. Next thing we know the sister is married to him. . . and then he’s dead.
This would have been an ok mystery. . . had it been 200 pages. Instead it’s told too matter-of-factly to invest in the characters. At fifty pages—not sure if the sneak peek at the end counts in that total—it’s short enough already, but then a good portion of the back end has the confession, which is told with even more abruptness. Perhaps it’s a good thing it was brief, because a full-length book in this style would not have been finished by me. More than anything, the plot is too convoluted and Machiavellian to come up with in a few seconds the way it was described at the cafe.
2/5

;o)

Book Reviews: Sexy Missions and Floors

Mission Innocence: Fallen Angel Chronicles Book 2
A young lady, living in a place too small to be called a town or village, and beat down by her parents’ conservative and cruel treatment, is the latest target of the sex angel, the celestial being who has made it his job to bring pleasure and happiness to those in dire need of it.
This story wasn’t all that much different than the first one—though the emotional and psychological moments were dissimilar—as this involved a woman who didn’t know better, compared to one who’d shut herself off due to being betrayed. It was delightful to see her blossom so fast, though I’m not sure how realistic that would really be.
What really made me like this one more was the extra scene at the end, in the adult motel; there was no corresponding moment in the first story. It was both hilarious and touching, and of course sexy. Talk about making up for lost time!
4/5

Watched
Recently divorced and horny college professor plays with herself after class, only to find the student she’s lusting for watching her. But even though she’s tempted, she wants someone else.
First and foremost, this is told in present tense. I’ve liked such stories before, but this time it’s throwing me off.
Like most bdsm stories–as opposed to regular romance–this includes a lot of psychological examination, especially in light of her past. What annoys me is that there’s no actual ending. She’s vacillating between her lover and her student, even though the former no longer wants to be with her, but it leaves off without any closure, making me wonder what was the point the author wanted to share. The only possibility I can think of is that it was left that way for a sequel, which is not an acceptable reason.
3/5

Some Like It Hot
A sampler of some erotic works.
The first one features a woman with amnesia being reintroduced to her husband’s kinky sex life. There’s some fun banter, and she seems like an intriguing character.
#2 is about a recent—as recent as possible—Harvard grad looking for investment for her start-up. As usual in these stories, the guy she meets is a total jerk, but I’m sure he’ll somehow redeem himself by the end. It’ll have to remain a mystery, for I’m not interested, just from that little snippet of him.
#3 has a just-legal wannabe submissive at her first gathering, where a Dom instantly takes her somewhere private so they can. . . talk, as in teach her some of the things she might expect were she to consent to playing with him. As far as dominants go, he’s far from the worst, but I absolutely love her. Wouldn’t mind continuing this one.
#4 has a rebellious young woman being interviewed for a million-dollar job without knowing the guy she’s talking to is the one she slept with the previous night. This left me curious about her, and even more the situation.
#5 has a young lady eager to try submission with a guy she basically just met. Her roommate thinks she’s crazy but lets her borrow some clothes for her date and who knows what else.
Though plot wise it’s nothing special, the dialogue makes it intriguing enough for me to want to read more. For once the guy isn’t a jerk, and I definitely liked her.
#6 takes place in Hong Kong, in a ritzy hotel where the lady is overwhelmed by all the splendor before her dinner date with the rich man. But as small-town Midwest as she seems to be, and as much as she wants him, she’s strong enough to make him work for it, and he doesn’t mind. This would be an entertaining couple to follow.
3.5/5

Wicked Masquerade
A woman is invited to what she thinks will be an all-out orgy, immediately feeling inferior to all the supermodel types. She finds the affair more classy than anticipated, with plenty of new rules. Most people are nice to her but there’s also some jerks, especially after she attracts the attention of a famous stud. One encounter with him, with her in charge, and she’s staying for more despite her previous plans.
The erotic scenes were wonderful, but what really set this book apart was the rest: small moments of introspection, surprising humor, and the description of two people genuinely liking each other.
I always read to the end, and I’m glad I did this time, as I found this is the author’s first book. If she’s this good her first time out, I definitely look forward to the next.
4/5

Mission Inevitable: Fallen Angel Chronicles Book 3
After a quick intro in which a woman pines for more than a casual sex relationship with the man she’s fallen in love with, the action moves to the protagonist, fallen angel/hedonist Damien Fontaine, relaxing with his main squeeze, Rhiannon.
Damien is a lot more introspective than usual, making a nice parallel to the human couple in that he wonders if there’s something more than a friends-with-benefits relationship with his witch sex buddy. She’s more perceptive than she lets on, but that probably won’t be addressed till the next installment.
But back to the main story. I have to agree with Damien that she deserves better, which makes the inevitable ending still feel forced. Despite the fun in bed and on the tennis court, this one just wasn’t as good as the previous two.
3/5

The 13th Floor: Dark Dreams
Female executive has scary—and sometimes sexy—dreams featuring a supposedly nonexistent floor in her building, while working on a project with a mysterious guy and having some friends-with-benefits nights with her friend’s cousin.
Once the big twist arrived, I wondered why it took so long to get there. Despite this being short, it felt like it went on too long, with her dream coming in small pieces. Just felt like it dragged on and on.
The vampire sex scene, once I cogitated on it, seems logical, but for one who can’t stand the sight of blood, it was icky.
2.5/5

;o)