Music Monday: Tongue Tied

Picture this: a gigantic spaceship has been floating around the universe for 3 million years. A radiation leak killed off the entire crew, except for one being punished by being put into cryogenic stasis. His crime: smuggling a cat on board. {I’d punish him for that too.} Finally the ship is detoxed enough to let him out, and he finds as companions a hologram of his roommate—whom he hated—a humanoid descended from the cat, and the ship’s computer; the android joins the crew later. And, as you might expect, hilarity ensues.
That’s the easy version of the premise of the TV show Red Dwarf, which has double-digit seasons under its belt and comes back every so often for a new one. Season 2, episode 6 starts with the Cat looking through the dream catcher, or whatever it’s called, searching for one of his previous dreams. Even when he doesn’t find the right one, it’s still incredibly entertaining.
This video shows just how experienced the actor playing the Cat is at dancing, while it’s just as obvious that the other two aren’t. Finally, a song I can truly karaoke! {After you watch the video, check out the “Rimmer Experience”; so hilarious! Then go out and buy the Red Dwarf DVDs, of course.}

Go here if you’d like to download it, freebie. And check out the closing theme song too. Lyrics and some background here.

;o)

Book Reviews: I Lied Last Time

Last week I mentioned it would be the last book review of the year, but turns out there’s enough for one last—really this time, last—one. Honest.

Escaped
A genius Indian version of Sherlock Holmes visits the eastern United States with his wife and brother-in-law. They find themselves embroiled in a terrorist plot while on a bus tour.
The narrator is not the protagonist, but rather the brother in law, who is cast as Watson. The wife is left to worry at home.
There’s a conspiracy, with too many characters to keep straight! The plot gets confusing, and it only gets worse as it goes along. I couldn’t keep track of all the people on the bus, let alone all the other characters. Had I not been so close to the end of what’s really a short book I would have given up.
By the time the bad guy’s revealed I had no idea who he was, and I didn’t care enough to go back.
The writing just barrels ahead, with not much room for style. It’s certainly not bad, but it not exactly scintillating either. Having one character be so matter of fact is more than enough, but most of them are. Worse, far from being a Sherlock Holmes, this guy is completely a Marty Stu.
2.5/5

Once Upon a Duke
One of many Dukes in these stories comes home for his hated grandfather’s funeral, just to retrieve a family heirloom. He finds the whole snowy mountaintop town—as mountaintop as a place can get in England, anyway—loved the old man, especially for renaming the town Christmas and making it a tourist trap. And of course he meets up with the only woman he ever wanted.
This new heroine is just as smart and snarky as the previous ones, so I’m in, and the story even more fun. All the new characters make for some confusion, but not too bad.
Erica Ridley gets me.
4/5

Kiss of a Duke
Put a famous womanizer and a female scientist in close proximity and what do you get?
Chemistry, of course, along with the classic “you make me want to be a better man” story. And that’s before biscuits enter the equation.
With all the wonderful heroines Erica Ridley has invented, I have a new favorite. Each is more and more amazing, but Penelope’s just my type. . . and that’s before biscuits enter the equation. She reminds me a lot of Nora, who was my previous fave. She’s also very similar to another fave, Bryony, but thankfully more subdued.
I am in awe of the way this author can so effortlessly come up with lines like, “It’s a lovely basket. It smells of wicker and unrealized potential.”
There is one oddity, though. In a lot of the stories by this author, the primary stumbling block was class; the men are highborn, the women “common,” and never the twain shall meet (even though they always do). But despite the same circumstances here, it’s never mentioned. The problem between them is that he’s another Lord of Pleasure. And as always in romance novels, they don’t talk to each other, which would have saved a lot of heartache.
But that’s a minor tidbit in what is one of the best books I’ve read all year.
4.5/5

Wish Upon a Duke
A perennial wallflower just wants to be noticed, especially by Christopher, the much more subdued brother of the Duke of the previous novel. Instead she agrees to play yenta for him, which has as much of an effect as you’d expect but does give us more insight into characters who will likely be up front in stories to come.
Also featured more than usual is the town of Christmas, nee Cressmouth, described as a perpetually snow-dusted mountaintop village, which is hard to imagine in hilly-but-not-too-much England.
His problem is that he’s an inveterate traveler, and being with her would mean giving that up. As someone who travels for work and loves it, I totally get where he’s coming from, though I wasn’t a fan of how insulted he got about the constellation naming. I definitely liked Gloria, but she didn’t grab my heart like Penelope or Nora or Bryony.
This book is only a disappointment in that the previous one was so frickin good. Had I read this one first. . .
3.5/5

Star Wars: Scum and Villainy
The records of three generations of cops show off some of the most colorful villains in the Star Wars universe, though at times it feels like the bounty hunters outnumber the actual criminals.
The large drawings of stakeouts and police reports take up most of the area, with some commentary attached. Sometimes you have to look carefully at the details to know what’s going on.
I found the propaganda posters hilarious, though I doubt that’s the intent. The page on tattoos was interesting, as was the podracing, but the padawan auction was chilling.
It’s interesting to see the middle of the three generations become more of an Imperial lackey than actually care about real justice.
I wonder what came first: the art or the words? There’s a few pages that show crime “evidence,” particularly smuggling, that aren’t exactly great subjects for artistic endeavors. Sometimes it’s just boxes. . . nicely drawn boxes, to be sure, but hardly the kind of thing an artist would showcase in their portfolio. I guess it’s there to add to whatever else is in the page, but this leads me to believe the author—who might also be the artist, for all I know—came up with the idea and the description before the artwork, and couldn’t think of something more intriguing to draw.
Despite not being as enmeshed in all the Star Wars stuff outside of the movies as a lot of the fans, I found this intriguing, even if I didn’t know most of the characters. I finally understand what makes the Kessel Run such a big deal, for example, as well as spice smuggling. But it’s really the variety of crimes, some of which could only happen in a universe like this, that makes this book so interesting. I’m sure I would not have enjoyed it as much had it come without illustrations.
4/5

Storytime: Not-So-Brave Penguin
Percy the Penguin is the jock, not afraid of anything, and Posy is the opposite, hence the title. Of all the things she’s scared of, and it’s mostly everything, the worst is the dark, which in Antarctica can last for months. But when Percy’s in trouble Posy overcomes her fears to rescue him, and finds some dark places are more beautiful than scary.
Though I appreciate the message and where the author’s coming from, in reality Posy didn’t rescue Percy; she just kept him company overnight. Had she not been there, Percy would have made it back the next morning on his own. So the writing’s a bit of a letdown there, a lazy out when instead a real danger, like a shark, would have made for a better story. On the other hand, Posy didn’t know that when she set out, so she was indeed brave.
The artwork is nice, if a little simplistic. There’s a couple of pages of discussion topics at the end.
3/5

Lost Railway Journeys from Around the World
The title tells all: some world-famous and some locally famous trips that are no longer among us memorialized in photos.
The introduction features some strong feelings, to the point of calling some closures “criminal” and claiming they led to deaths. The text isn’t as heavy-handed, thankfully, but there’s a lot of asides that are sometimes humorous and sometimes failing at it. It just doesn’t feel like a typical book of this class, and whether that’s good or bad depends on you.
I suppose it’s not much of a surprise that the photos from Europe are mostly black and white. And I have to keep reminding myself that those old photos of bridges were not taken from drones.
The most intriguing early on was the Lawrence of Arabia special through Jordan.
To be fair, some of these are short lines; the title doesn’t exclude them, but it doesn’t seem fair to lump them in with the Orient Express and Ghan.
My fave, from the photos and having been in the vicinity, was the Colorado-Denver & Rio Grande, though the ones in Africa looked pretty spectacular too. But even though I’m a fan of trains, I’m not this much. I had to take it in small bites, but even then it was tough to stay interested.
3/5

Stuff You Should Know About Planet Earth
A well done science primer for kids.
It starts with the five ecological spheres, which I’d never heard of. It’s intriguing, though I question why water and ice are separate.
There’s good stuff on the solar system. The cartoon-like drawings are cute, though I can’t tell who that guy is dancing on Saturn’s rings.
I already knew most of the stuff in here, but I’m 50 years old, so I’d better. On the other hand, I did learn some things, all of which tells me this is a good book for kids interested in science, those who really want to learn.
But I hope they don’t get nightmares from watching the animals fleeing the lava. . .
4/5

Who Are You Calling Weird?
The first thing you see is that this is dedicated to David Attenborough, which makes sense, as this book tackles the strangest animals. The artwork fits the theme, almost in art deco style.
The platypus has gotten enough publicity, kinda normalizing it, that it seems out of place here. Same with the sea unicorn (aka narwhal). Kiwis and sloths too, especially the latter for kids who’ve seen Zootopia a thousand times. But thankfully most of those included are indeed completely strange. A couple are compared to superheroes, though when Wolverine was mentioned I first assumed it was the animal, which is weird in its own right but not enough to make it in here.
The leafy sea dragon gets my vote for most deserving entry; seeing it moving in a video is even more so. That smelly Amazon bird sure has a good defense against humans, especially in that they taste bad. . . though by the time the humans figure that out, it’s too late.
And speaking of, so glad you stinky humans made the list! The artwork that goes with this entry is the scariest of all. . .
3.5/5

How Rude…
Little girl invites her duck friend over for a tea party. Things do not go as planned. . .
This duck is a jerk. To be fair, there have been other jerk ducks, especially in old cartoons, but this one takes it to a new level. I’m surprised the little girl held out that long. At least she didn’t reach for a shotgun.
Considering all the trouble Duck caused, he sure turned on a dime, and she forgave him way too quickly. I would have preferred less mayhem and more thought from both of them, if there was a limited amount of pages available.
Wait, was that rude of me to point it out?
3/5

Yara and her Mystery Tree
Bright watercolors and rhyming couplets tell the story of a mystery plant that has the same problem as the maples from the Rush song The Trees, which means other trees are blocking the sun. A little girl gets her mom to help uproot it to a more advantageous place, which comes back to reward them at the end.
Not only are the rhymes legit, the meter and length are perfect. The plot is fine, though it was easy to see where this was going, even for a kid.
I question the need for the bird and the ant, turning this into a fantasy when it would have been just as well straightforward, but that’s my only nitpick.
4/5

Mario and the Aliens
Tech-obsessed kid is on his computer as usual—like that’s a bad thing—when something outside grabs his attention. The title tells you the rest.
The artwork takes up most of the pages. The first few were difficult to comprehend, partly from the scale but mostly because of an almost abstract style.
It took the kid forever to think to run off, and stopped so abruptly when the aliens convinced him they were simply looking for new games. So yeah, he might be smart, but I think gullible’s a better word.
In retrospect, I can see why the aliens had such a visceral reaction to the computer, since it’s almost certain they have their own. Something’s gotta help them pilot their ship, after all. And if they thought computers were fun, they wouldn’t need to travel to look for it.
I very much doubt Mario will be satisfied with human kids as playmates after this night.
Pretty straightforward, but feel like something’s missing. Certainly okay for kids, but could have been better.
3/5

;o)

Book Reviews: End of Year Hodgepodge

Ink in Water: An Illustrated Memoir
Subtitled: Or, How I Kicked Anorexia’s Ass and Embraced Body Positivity, which works a lot better as a title.
A woman’s battle with anorexia and associated self-doubt is told through her own thoughts and encounters with friends, boyfriends, and a few others. It’s not an easy read, so if you do pick it up you’ll need to hang on to your emotional hats.
I didn’t think I would have anything in common with this character, but right away with the atheist thing. . . yeah, that’s me there. But the crippling insecurity, where she can’t get out of her own head. . . early on I’m wondering if that’s a big cause of her anorexia. I also wonder if her ex had told her why he was breaking up with her. . . maybe none of this would have happened.
I would have thought such a slow plodding bio would be boring, but it actually isn’t. After that first bit about the atheism I couldn’t commiserate with her at all, but I guess that made it better for me, as I like learning about things outside my experience.
On the other hand, I’ve never been great at reading or watching about people in pain, and this isn’t easy to get through. There’s one thing that happens about two-thirds through that’s particularly gut-wrenching. This is obviously geared toward those who can benefit from it, as a kind of self-help book, but as a memoir it’s pretty tough to handle.
3.5/5

Virtue Signaling
The famous sci-fi writer has a blog, and these are some of his posts.
Humor and honesty. That’s what you want from a political commentator, if that’s what you can call John Scalzi in this book. He probably wouldn’t call himself that; he’s self-admittedly too lazy.
One other thing: logic. Unlike most of the internet and its shoot-from-the-hip tweets, these writings take time. They’re well thought out. They look at other sides of the argument and break down why he disagrees with it, or in the infrequent case agrees. Again, that’s pretty rare, and most welcome.
4/5

Kate’s Really Good at Hockey
A young-teen redhead loves hockey. Considering the previous works from this publisher, this is not a surprise.
After a get-together with all her friends before school—it appears they’re just back from summer break—there’s long and very clunky exposition as to how she spent her time away. The scene switches to her having a hard time at hockey camp while living with a grandmother who doesn’t seem to understand her. The main players are from those hockey hotbeds of Tennessee and Ecuador. And of course there’s bullies.
Mom says such Mom things. If you’re only gonna have a few things in common with Grandma, might as well make them ice cream and bacon.
There’s a lot of repetition, but I suppose this is for kids. Most of it is pretty standard storytelling, but luckily—or unluckily, in the case of the characters—there’s a couple of major twists.
3.5/5

Fall with Olga the Cloud
Incredibly simple even for a children’s book, this tiny tome features a bored cloud that calls its friends to join her in making rain. Everyone else is unhappy with this—even a tree says it’s too much rain—and a cat uses an umbrella.
Other than to say the sun sleeps a lot in fall, and of course it rains a lot, there’s not much here that’s educational. . . there’s not much of anything at all. Even a child could read this in less than a minute. Would have been better with more effort and more story.
3/5

Dad Jokes – Assault With A Dad-ly Weapon
The title tells you—and is a perfect example of—all you need to know about the contents of this book. Some kids might giggle at this, some adults might guffaw, but basically these jokes are designed to make you groan, so with that expectation it does a really good job.
I grudgingly admit I chuckled more often than I thought I would, mostly when the punch line took me by surprise. A few of my faves:
“If you rearrange the letters of postmen. . . it makes them really angry.”
“I don’t have a dad bod. I have more of a father figure.”
“I was accused of being a plagiarist. Their word, not mine!”
“I removed the shell from my favorite racing snail, thinking it would make him faster. But it’s actually made him more sluggish.”
“My wife said she didn’t understand cloning. That makes two of us.”
“What do you get if you cross a centipede and a parrot? A walkie-talkie.”
“How many eyes does a cyclops have? None, if you’re spelling it correctly.”
“What’s blue and not really heavy at all? Light blue.”
These are the best ones. Read the rest at your own risk. You might notice, though, that most of the favorites I listed above would not be understood by most kids.
3.5/5

A Flicker of Hope
A short candle—with eyes and mouth and arms and legs—is depressed, with a literal dark cloud hanging over it, full of the kinds of problems facing kids and teens today. Some are more important than others, but all hurtful. It takes the light of another candle, and even then a few tries, to get the stubby one to see the light.
Of all the usually non-sentient objects being given life in a children’s book, I’d have to say candles are the strangest.
The point here is to not be ashamed to ask for help, because others have been through the same.
Ends with a couple of pages about the power of hope, meant for adults so they can pass it on to their kids.
3.5/5

What Does A Princess Really Look Like?
A little girl does not settle for simply being a princess or a ballerina; nope, she has to be a mashup. Sometimes she dances with her two dads, though it doesn’t say if they are co-regents.
“Inside the head is where our smarts are.” Never heard it put that way, but I like it.
She’s funny and creative—she is a lefty, after all—and I love the way she’s drawn, especially when lying down. The illustrator captures a child’s joyful being in the way she kicks her legs up. It’s all so incredibly cute, even when things don’t work out exactly as she’d hoped.
Ends with a space to draw your own perfect, or not so perfect, princess, along with a Twitter/Instagram hashtag. Reading the author’s bio shows why, but because he’s a therapist who works with kids, it’s okay.
4/5

Who Will Roar If I Go?
African animals are introduced in beautiful subdued watercolor as the words tell the reader about them and the difficulties they face in the modern world.
The elephant has the best page.
If this had been written in prose I would have been okay with it, but a lot of the rhymes are either forced or simply done by throwing in a useless “you see” or such. The awkward cadence and differing lengths make it hard to singsong. It feels like an attempt to emulate Dr. Seuss by someone who’s never written a poem before. . . at least not a good one.
Come for the art. . .
3/5

The World’s Best Jokes for Kids Volume 1
Right before the first joke appears, there’s a warning sign, literally. It reads: Danger! This book contains a lot of silly, corny, brilliant, and funny jokes. Guess which of those four adjectives is the most on-the-nose.
What do you call a bear with no ears? B. Yes! Spelling jokes are my kind of humor. And computer humor: what do you call a bee from the United States? USB.
Even when the joke itself doesn’t hit the mark, the illustrations make up for it. There’s the joke so old it was sorta the title of an REO Speedwagon album, but if you look at the way the fish is looking up at the guy trying to tune it. . .
Then there are others, like the Frozen and Bison jokes, that are pretty cringy—I was warned, after all—but would probably make some kids laugh.
Sometimes there’s a joke like Nutella, irrelephant, and perman-ant that make me wonder how many kids would get the humor, since they might be too young to know those words. Even I don’t know what a stomata is.
They used one of my favorite jokes, about time flying and then fruit flying. Don’t know what that says about me, especially when they include the poultry in motion line.
I will go as far as to say this made me chuckle more often than I thought I would, though it certainly brought the groans as well.
4/5
P.S. There’s also The World’s Best Jokes for Kids Volume 2, because one collection of groaners wasn’t enough. But it appears they used up all the good ones in the first volume, because this one wasn’t anywhere near as good or funny. Went through almost half of the book without laughing once, and didn’t even groan that much, because there just wasn’t anything there. At that point I gave up.

The Cookie Eating Fire Dog
Childlike watercolors and a little prose tell the story of Dan, who isn’t so much a fire dog as he is a fireMAN who happens to be a dog. From the title I assumed he’d be like the other Dalmatians, but right on the first page it says he wears the boots, coat, and hat that make the firefighter’s uniform. He can’t speak, though he does cry a lot when he doesn’t get cookies. Eventually he proves his worth while at the same time buckling down and getting serious about his job.
Little of this story makes sense, but then I suppose the age group this is directed to doesn’t care about that very much. Still, despite the occupation this is about, which a lot of little kids find exciting, there isn’t much here to remember. It does end with a few pages on fire safety, as well as a recipe for ginger snaps.
3/5

Dynomike: What’s Heartfulness?
In one of the most brightly colored children’s books I’ve ever seen, a tiny dinosaur on a tricycle plays with a few friends, their exploits recorded in rare stanzas where all four lines use the same rhyme, at least on the first page. The mom of one of the friends is sick and they brainstorm ideas to make her better.
Doesn’t feel like heartfulness is explained all that well, at least not in the story; there’s a page on it after. Don’t know why it was so important the friend didn’t find out what they had done.
Cute, but I think the message could have been a little clearer. Perhaps this was designed so the kid would ask the parent to explain.
3/5

Southern Rose
Short but enjoyable encounter between a Union officer and a Southern spy. They have a past, and it looks like they’ll have a long future too.
What I don’t understand is why she played so coy and he so rough at the beginning. I get that she was worried about what might happen to her, but by the time they meet up for a few minutes later everything seems to have changed, though nothing really did.
This is weird to say, but this might have been better as one scene rather than two.
3/5

Through the Red Door
Widow navigates her way through two suiters while running a bookstore with a hidden though famous erotica section. A ghost may also be involved.
It’s interesting that of her two new beaus, it’s the “hot” one she instantly bonds with, because he lost his spouse too.
Probably the most fun character is the professor’s assistant—at least for a while—the kind of person who’s fun to read about but would annoy the crap out of me in real life.
The writing is really smooth, the dialogue humorous. While there were some genre clichés near the end, as a whole the plot flowed organically, and everything tied together well at the finish.
This is one the best romance books I read this year.
4.5/5

The Moon’s Pull
Crazed werewolf is killing humans in a Wyoming town. Sane werewolf doesn’t want to kill the bad one, but needs to stop him somehow while falling in lust with the human detective investigating the murders.
Even though it’s short, there’s a bunch of extraneous description. I really don’t care about the color of the detective’s pants or the killer’s hair. And despite the relative shortness of the book, it’s made even shorter by the inclusion of several sex scenes in a row. Nothing wrong with sex scenes, quite the opposite, but they could have been better spaced.
Worse, there were a lot of extra commas, and in general the whole thing was stilted, with no style. Things run together in a jumble. It became a chore to read, and I probably would have given up had I not known it was so short, and had several erotic scenes to look forward to. The flashback scene was badly integrated. The author, and definitely this relatively famous publisher, should have invested in an editor.
But if there’s one part I particularly disliked, it was this ridiculous passage:
“Why doesn’t he go to the bigger cities where criminals are more rampant?” Sam asked.
“Because, my sweet,” Quentin replied. . . “A smaller town draws less attention.”
Huh?
2/5

Science Fiction: A Novel
Quite an all-encompassing title.
The first chapter introduces a galaxy-wide version of a cooking reality TV competition, in which a part of the loser becomes next year’s main ingredient. The next chapter shows an earthling with some cooking skills being scared out of his mind at a strip club. You can see where this is going.
It’s definitely silly, but I can’t say it’s funny enough. Like a lot I’ve seen recently, it’s trying really hard to be the next iteration of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy–this one even more so—and falling way short. The ship’s drive is a huge example. And all this before I read the end, where he actually thanks Douglas Adams.
I do like how he turned the info drop on the ship into an infomercial.
Anyway, there were some cute moments, and I eventually liked Bridget, but it never hit the heights it set.
3/5

Atlas of Adventures: Wonders of the World
Well-drawn semi-cartoons show some of the most impressive places in the world, both natural and manmade. The drawings take up two pages and are full of small details, but very few of the sites get that treatment. For instance, the first section is Australia and Oceania, showing a map of the region with all the places featured, but only Uluru gets its own section.
I was very glad to see my two favorite places in the world—The Alhambra in Spain and the Glowworm Caves in New Zealand—make the list. Throw in the Charles Bridge in Prague, Petra, Chichen-Itza, Torres del Paine, and Ludwig’s Castle and I’m completely happy with this. The drawing for that last one is particularly well-detailed, but on the other hand the Alhambra left a bit to be desired, since I know it so well.
Can’t believe they filled two pages of notes and art on the Marianas trench.
At the end there’s two pages of things to search for amongst what you just saw, as well as an index.
All in all, great fun and a pleasant way to teach kids about the world.
4/5

Egypt Magnified
Very detailed drawings of ancient Egyptian life fill pages, and it’s up to the reader to find ten small things on each page. Apparently printed books include a magnifying glass, but I doubt digital ones will.
I’ve seen plenty of books like this one, as well as apps for both kids and grownups, where the point is to find what’s hidden in the artwork. This one goes further in that the drawings are much more intricate, and the details not everyday familiar, which makes it more challenging.
The most important takeaway here is that it’s wonderful when a children’s book can be both educational and fun simultaneously.
4/5

;o)

Book Reviews: Post-Thanksgiving

Britannia Volume 3: Lost Eagles of Rome
Having moderately enjoyed the previous two entries in this graphic novel series, I wasn’t against continuing it, as just the idea of a detective in Roman times is pretty awesome. This time he’s searching for the army standards that were lost in battle against early Germans. He’s also got a female sidekick he’s hot for but won’t take advantage of, despite the fact she makes it pretty obvious she’d welcome it.
With so little real estate on each page it’s tough to show detailed detective work, but what there is, is fascinating, especially from a historical perspective.
Storywise, I find it humorous that he’s probably the smartest person in at least Rome if not further, and yet so naïve at the same time. Just about every move he made was the right one at the moment but wrong in the big picture, and he doesn’t get it until it’s told to him. Hopefully by the time the next volume comes out I’ll have forgotten how bad he screwed up so I won’t pity/disrespect him, which otherwise makes him pretty useless.
The art is pretty standard, complimenting the story but not enhancing it.
3/5

Dictionary of Dinosaurs
Colorful though not realistic drawings—some even look art deco—of dinosaurs dominate the pages, with plenty of information and graphics strewn about in the area still available.
Pronunciation, English translation, size—with a human next to it for comparison—when and where it lived, and diet are all included on each page. And it really is a dictionary, with the entries in alphabetical order.
As it turns out, very few of the lizards get drawings; I assume there’s not enough known about most of them to illustrate them accurately.
Alvarezsaurus is certainly one of the strangest looking, though we can figure out how it was named.
Ankylosaurus would look cute and cuddly if it wasn’t for all those spikes.
Bambiraptor does not mean what you think it means.
There’s quite a few variations on the old triceratops.
Giraffatitan’s name speaks for itself.
Ornithomimus doesn’t live up to its grandiose name.
Oviraptor plunders the same things I do.
Pachirhinosaurus sounds badass, but it’s hard to take it seriously when its head looks like a South Pacific god head.
Hmmm, come to think of it, I learned a lot about dinosaurs. . .
3.5/5

Turned On: Science, Sex and Robots
Just like there’s a site for everything on the web, there’s a doctoral dissertation for everything in the libraries of academia, or at least in the sometimes-fertile imagination of grad students. Here’s the proof, a book about sex robots, though the author would kill me if she saw me writing it so simply.
Right away in the intro there’s humor and self-awareness, which is a good harbinger. Actually, the title starts that with a pretty good pun. From there it delves into the ancient history of dildos and vibrators. Not sure what this has to do with the topic, but it’s fun, at least for a while.
As much as I’m enjoying the writing, I’m a third of the way through and the author seems to have forgotten what the book is supposed to be about in her fervor to provide historical perspective.
Getting through this becomes so tough I long for the humorous interludes, my fave being her running a conference amidst accusations of “bouncing.” Every once in a while she’ll sneak in a line like “I watch sex doll porn so you won’t have to,” and it reminds me why I keep reading till the end.
Despite the humor and conversational style, it really is more like a scientific report than anything else. I learned a lot of things, but not so many on the topic. But the important takeaway is that, even if it felt long at times, I enjoyed reading it.
3.5/5

Space Police: Attack of the Mammary Clans
A British police inspector—of which there seem to be thousands today—wakes up from cryo to find himself on an orbiting space station above Earth, with only one leg. There’s some mention of how he lost it, presumably in a previous book, but nothing on why they took his cryo tube or whatever it is from Earth to the space station. Seems like an excuse to have a contemporary detective move into science fiction.
Right from the start it’s trying really hard to be Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. The scene with the microwave is right out of Red Dwarf. {Do I know sci-fi comedy or what?}
Though I’ve traveled through Great Britain a lot, there’s a bunch of Britishisms I’m not getting.
I wish that there was at least one character that isn’t a complete idiot, and that goes for the protagonist as well. Sigh.
This was more silly than funny, not much different than others I’ve read in this genre, except in space.
2.5/5

;o)

Book Reviews: Erotic Football, Art, Sales, and Elevators

Stroke
An artist/restorer gets a visit by yet another “billionaire sexiest man alive,” who takes her to dinner with the promise of a big job. Of course she falls in lust with him, and though he can have any woman he wants—and usually does—he thinks she’s perfect for him.
I’m sure you’ve heard all that before. As for the surrounding plot, it involves the billionaire’s family, and his arrogance drags her into danger. . . but you’ve heard that before too.
The writing itself was pretty good, and I enjoyed the art talk. There could have been a little more on the restoration process, but it’s okay if the author didn’t want to take a chance on being boring. I liked the main female character, but not as much as I usually do in these kinds of stories. The male lead was as douchy as they always are in these stories.
All in all, it was fine, but not particularly memorable. I’d label it a missed opportunity; more could have been done here, or at least slightly deviating from the overdone norm.
3/5

Wired
Aging quarterback butts heads with scientist testing his reflexes and gameplay. What did you think would happen between them?
No, the other thing.
There’s a lot more science in this football romance than you’d expect, but some of it’s VR, which is fun. There’s even some hilarious moments with the technology, which is surprising but definitely welcome.
Of course they’re both damaged from their origin stories, but at least they’re trying to make the world a better place in their own way. This makes them more sympathetic and likeable, especially him, though the author almost left it too late, considering his arrogance.
By far the best scene in this football romance takes place in a greenhouse, with a character that can appreciate color more than anyone else.
3.5/5

Better to Marry than to Burn
In a town of former slaves, the leaders say every man must marry or pay a fine, or leave with all the women deemed inappropriate. Ladies from back East are coming to town, the only real alternative. One man rejects this plan, saying it’s just a different form of slavery.
This man, aptly named Caesar, has his own plan, having put out an ad for the kind of woman he wants. He didn’t explain what he means by “legacy,” so that leads to some difficulties when the woman who answers the ad shows up. She’s not what he expected: cultured, erudite, kinky, and gay. But then she didn’t expect him to be similar (except for the gay part) despite his lack of schooling. This is not a case of opposites attract, because they realize how alike they are.
That’s the one thing I took away from this book: they recognize their similarities and rejoice in them, at least after some initial stubbornness and ego from both sides. And it’s always a pleasure to read characters that use words most people don’t know (and I do, speaking of ego).
Just tell me Purity Patrol cannot be a real thing. . .
4/5

7 Brothers and a Virgin
A rich but not spoiled young woman is being forced by her father to marry an old guy, so she runs away to a ranch run by seven brothers, hoping one of them will make her no longer a virgin.
Reverse harem is the latest rage in erotica. Hard to say what makes a good one, at least as far as the sex scenes, but you basically know how the story is going to end. It’s mostly about how the brothers handle having to share her. A lot of times it’s hard to tell all the men apart, even more so when there’s seven of them, but in this case it’s pretty good, especially with the twins.
The ending takes place six months later, with the real conclusion, especially with her father, barely mentioned in passing. That’s annoying, and seems cheap.
3/5

The Hunt
Half vampire hunts full vampires for an ungrateful town. When one mission fails the town hires another vampire hunter, leaving her to rage, and of course fall in lust for the new guy, who’s as arrogant as. . . every other male lead character in this kind of romance/erotica.
Like a lot of books in this genre, the author takes every opportunity—at least once a page—to turn an innocent phrase into sexual innuendo about how much her body wants him even though she can’t stand him. A few funny ones are good, but there’s just too much of this. At times it feels like padding, and it’s a short book as it is.
Everyone in this story is an ass, except for the female lead. Even the goddess is unworthy.
Here’s the good things. In addition to some snarky humor, the ending is incredibly original, at least something I’ve never come across. While I enjoyed this story for the most part, despite it being by-the-numbers, the ending kicked it up a notch.
3.5/5

Door-to-Door Sales (The Open Door Book 1)
The title refers to an escort agency womaned by very different sisters. The stories tell about the encounters of the employees as well as prospectives.
The first story is the trope of the young virgin getting a hooker for his birthday, and even though it’s told in a rather terse present tense without much embellishment, it’s still satisfying.
Story #2 is another oft-told story, that of the audition. It’s the humor that sells this one. What I like about this author is that she can do a complete description, especially of people, without making long paragraphs out of it. It’s necessary for such short stories, but I’ve seen plenty of others fail at it.
#3 features a male escort with a huge endowment, which makes him feel like a freak. It’s an interesting change of pace.
Ending this first volume is the story of an employee who seems disillusioned, perhaps doing the job longer than she expected she’d be going out. It’s a bit sad, but neither the customer nor her bodyguard bat an eye, showing she’s a pretty good actress.
4/5

Door-to-Door Sales (The Open Door Book 2)
The continuing adventures of the employees of a Las Vegas escort agency.
The first story features a quick visual tryout, followed by a group interview, in which all four of the prospectives make a pile of sex while the owners try not to seem affected, and fail miserably. As far as the new employees go, it’s nice to see people enjoying sex, as well as wanting to make their partners enjoy it too.
That story is quickly followed by the owners, having become aroused by the show, running off to be with their own lovers. The psychology here is intriguing, considering the ladies are as different in their tastes as their looks.
The third story is a sequel to the one in the first volume about the male escort with the large. . . accoutrement. This one is rather sweet, oddly enough.
This volume ends with one of the older escorts teaching newbies, along with his crush, who despite having sex with him all the time has still friend-zoned him.
4/5

Taking Command
Rebel hijacks a top-model spaceship and thinks he’s gotten away with it, but finds a hot reporter he’d failed to notice on his initial sweep. So of course they fight both each other and the obvious instant attraction. There’s a little more plot to it, but it’s mostly about them and their failure to communicate. . . like every other story in this genre.
Is it wrong that I wanted the booty-bot to join them? Funny how she wants to use the bot more than him.
There’s some stuff I liked, but just as much that I thought could have been done better. It came out pretty standard, as though the author was playing it safe. And except for the sexbot, this could have easily taken place in a non-science-fiction setting.
3/5

Private Prick
Kinda flighty redhead gets stuck in her building’s elevator and promptly loses it, though due more to men problems than claustrophobia. Then the super drops through the trap door and first frightens her, then satisfies her. A lot of stories would end there, but not when the “crazy chick” can screw with the guy some more.
I really wish this main character wasn’t so erratic, if not completely batcrap (her own word), but at least the writing is keeping me here, being snarky sarcastic in the most brilliant way.
In the end I did like it, though I don’t think I would’ve been as forgiving as he. I wish there’d been a better reason for the hiccup in their buffing romance, though.
3/5

;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: Bears Doing Other Things in the Woods

My Boyfriend is a Bear
As always, I love it when the title tells you everything you need to know.
After she cuts her hair, the story goes into flashback to how they met. She goes hiking, there’s the bear, they like each other, they’re in a relationship, much of which takes place in her apartment, not the woods. There’s inherent problems with dating a bear, but love seems to conquer all.
It’s the little things that make this worthwhile, small touches of humor. Some of my faves:
As someone allergic to bee stings, I second the advice about not dating them, especially the queen.
Glad there was a mention of her favorite sundress, because otherwise it seems like all she has is that one dress that she wears everywhere. She even says she doesn’t like to wear pants, and the bear is okay with that.
There’s a list of all the things he’s broken, but never her heart, so it’s okay.
“Sup, LA?”
There’s a montage of guys she’s dated, though she sheepishly adds that it’s not a complete list.
The bear dressed in an Arcade Fire shirt. . . too much.
C’mon, Runyon is so over. Good choice with The Grove, though.
Subjecting the Bear to Downton Abbey is just cruel.
Throughout hibernation she’s trying to be somewhat normal, while at the bottom of each page there’s a series of panels showing the bear tossing and turning.
Her favorite swear word is “balls,” which on her is so cute. And she blushes when he uses “boobs” in Scrabble. His favorite word is “Grah!” but then it’s his only word.
Was surprised that the beautiful artwork on the cover was not replicated inside; not that the rest of it is bad, it’s just a lot simpler.
Everything that was said about this is true. Really sweet and optimistic. Doesn’t try to be any deeper than it is.
4/5

Spectacle Vol. 1
In a steampunk world; two sisters live and work in a traveling circus-type thing, until one of them is killed. That’s not the end of her story, though; she hangs around as a ghost to help her sister find the murderer.
Both funny and poignant how one sister was born at sunrise and the other at dusk. “The trend continued throughout our lives.” The dialogue is in bubbles, but the introspection and background is written throughout the page. I like it.
The older, more mature sister built a precursor computer. Very steampunk. But sometimes she can’t get out of her own way. “I have higher. . . er, different standards.” Yeah, when something happens to her I’m not the least bit surprised.
Wow, that literal ringleader. . . down to the curled shoes.
“The spirit world is closed right now.” That was an interesting twist.
“Wash your face more often and love will come your way.” Wish she’d told me that sooner.
I love mermaids, but not when they’re mean.
If there’s one downside it’s that it cuts off right in the middle, which tells you there’s more to come, but you gotta wait.
The artwork isn’t anything to write home about, but I really enjoyed the interplay between the sisters, and even if I felt more sorry for Anna than anything else, she was still my fave character.
4/5

Animosity: Evolution Vol. 1
When The Wake happens, all animals suddenly find themselves with the ability to talk and think on what was previously a human-only level. Annoyed with the way they’ve been treated, they quickly seek revenge. A month later billions of animals have taken over a city, holding off human armies on one side and dolphins on the other. Their self-proclaimed leader soon finds herself the victim of a suicide bomber. . . then things really get interesting.
For those entering the city for the first time, the entrance is set up like a refugee camp, with delousing and such, and those who pass are treated to an intro by a song-and-dance pink-dressed creature. For such a bright idea, this gets depressing in a hurry.
In the background of one of the panels is an angry-looking woman carrying a sloth. . . which makes no sense. Sloths are fun!
There’s a law firm called Hart, Ram, and Wolfe. That can’t possibly be a coincidence, can it? After that I found myself looking through each panel carefully to see if Buffy’s buddy Angel showed up next.
Ugh, why did one of the main characters have to be a bat? So ugly.
If you’re gonna do biological terrorism, a frog is the perfect animal to do the job.
That dog-like creature in charge. . . some of the philosophy she expounds is interesting, but she’s so much of a deep thinker compared to everyone else it makes her kinda ridiculous.
So many characters made it somewhat confusing, though I suppose if they were all human factions it wouldn’t be any simpler. Maybe a character page would have helped.
About a dozen pages of extras at the end, like alternate covers and progress comparisons.
3/5

Open Earth
Survivors of an environmental disaster live aboard a space station named after California, which makes total sense to me, being a lifelong Angelino. Over the course of this graphic novel, a group of young people from the first generation born in space try to figure out how to live their lives, with the emotional part being a lot harder than the sexual.
There’s an awful lot of internal narration. Wish they could have found some other way to present all the info dumps. Not sure how I feel about a world that considers Hotel California to be a classic in the way Mozart and Beethoven are, but okay.
It wasn’t the threesome that told me it was a dream, it was the burger.
I do like people who can make jokes during sex, and after.
Had some trouble identifying which were the guys, as they’re drawn rather androgynous.
Except for some slang, I understood all the Spanish.
The artwork was the weakest part, but still pretty in a watercolor-y way.
All in all, I enjoyed it more than I thought I might from the description.
3.5/5

;o)

Book Reviews: Non-Fic is the Right Pick

Space Odyssey
Yep, yet another written documentary on the movie.
For someone who’s a big fan of Homer, it never came close to occurring to me that this movie might be right out of The Odyssey as much as Ulysses is; the author really enjoyed making comparisons to that one. Yes, I know it’s in the title, but that wasn’t enough to make it obvious.
Quite a bit of writer Arthur C. Clarke’s personal life is in the section of how he and Kubrick eventually met. Not that I ever cared about the man’s personal life, but to find out he was gay as well as having financial problems paying off his beard adds a lot of dimension to him.
Truthfully, this is a bit of a slog. Took me forever to get though, yet I’m finding it hard to think of something to say about it. It’s definitely meticulously researched, with a lot of interesting stories, but also a lot that weren’t. And the last fifth is just notes.
Like the movie, it could be cut down quite a bit.
3/5

Goodbye Butterflies: The 5-Day Stage Fright Solution
According to a stat in this book, about 3 out of 4 professional orchestra musicians get stage fright. So do a lot of famous actors, with some of the names mentioned pretty hard to believe.
The book uses a lot of ideas common in self-help stuff, applying them to a new problem. I admit I wouldn’t have thought of it working here, but it’s a new application rather than an original idea. Most of all it’s based on the idea of mindfulness, which is such a huge buzzword nowadays, but it takes a while to apply it specifically to stage fright. The author comes back to it so often it feels like that’s more what this book is about, rather than stage fright.
After the first half of the book there’s exercises, a list of common values (for an earlier exercise), and self-described bonus content, though this part feels like more of the actual book. There’s a chapter on famous people getting stage fright, which helps in the commiseration aspect. It would have been more interesting had the fact the author was an accomplished saxophonist been included at the beginning and not the end.
3/5

How’s It Hanging?: Expert Answers to the Questions Men Don’t Always Ask
Right from the title you can tell this book will attempt to educate on a serious subject in a more lighthearted manner than most. Referring to the immune system as the cancer police is only the first and most obvious example.
For the most part this book imparts its medical info similarly to others, albeit with a subject rarely discussed. Once in a while it’ll put in a clever or funny line, like “such is the case with our dear Peter.” Pretty sure that name wasn’t chosen at random. But I’m going to change my description from above: rather than lighthearted, switch it to casual, not as medical or scientific as most attempts at dumbing such topics down for the masses. There’s some dad-type jokes early on, but nothing too bad, and it tapers off quickly. Most of the (attempted) humor is in the subheadings, such as “Battling Low Testosterone— When the Grapes Turn to Raisins,” and “Horny Goat Weed (Epimedium)—This supplement gets the prize for the best name.”
For the most part the author avoids long-winded sections, but that’s not the case with “testing for prostate cancer,” which left me lightheaded. I have to be missing something, but it seems like if you don’t care about having kids, the prostate is useless. In fact, considering it’s a leading cause of cancer. . . what are the downsides to having it removed? Can it be removed? May have missed that, but it’s definitely a burning—no pun—question now.
I can’t be the only guy who’s wincing while reading the different treatments for an enlarged prostate. As expected, the longest piece—again no pun—is on ED. And as cringeworthy as some parts have been, nothing is as bad as reading about penile fracture. Some of this is just so uncomfortable, not because it’s embarrassing, but more in the way certain people can’t stand the sight of blood, or more likely how men wince when they see someone kicked in the crotch. In this case, reading about possible illnesses and injuries in a place that would be more painful than anywhere else just makes me cower in the fetal position for a few minutes. He saves the worst for last, including photos of the effects of sexually transmitted diseases. As you can imagine, this was the slowest chapter to read, with lots of pauses.
But if you’re really interested in this subject and don’t want to read something that feels like a medical journal, this is the way to go.
3.5/5

Job Interview Tips For Winners: 12 Key Ways to Land The Job
It’s a short book—around sixty pages—so I didn’t expect much, but I still expected to learn something. I didn’t. All this book did was tell me the most obvious things, and it ends with a sales pitch for the author’s company. Simply doesn’t feel like a lot of thought went into this, other than dollar signs in the author’s eyes.
2/5

;o)

Book Reviews: Zombies, Porn Stars, and Aliens

Dimension Drift
A multi-dimensional hacker—can’t think of another way to put it—is looking for her missing sister. When her mother awakens from her depression at losing one daughter, they do their magical/science thing to call for help. Help comes in the form of an otherworldly hot guy who instantly “bonds” with her, as always happens in these kinds of stories. This takes place in a dystopian future where the authoritarian “American” government doesn’t acknowledge there’s ever been any other rulers before it, forcing them to keep a low profile. Unfortunately their pseudo-science stuff, which I didn’t understand at all, brings them to the attention of the bad guys.
Okay, once I get past the fact this is not meant to be a full story—indeed, it’s the setup for a series—I can say I enjoyed it. There’s a tendency for these kinds of characters to be too snarky, but thankfully this one wasn’t. I might have liked her friend more, though. As a lead, the personality is a little lacking. It’s also tough that all the other characters introduced—except for a really important one—will likely never appear again, at least according to the small except at the end.
So again, as a setup to an upcoming series it’s fine.
3.5/5

Hungry for Love
A woman falls in love while her husband is in a coma, and then her husband wakes up. . . of course. The first part consists of this new romance, but once her husband’s setting is introduced, it’s on to flashbacks about how they met.
There’s some good stuff here. Right off the bat I enjoyed the writing, which had a smoothness. The author instantly got on my good side by agreeing with me about Tolkien.
But the more I read, the less I liked. At first I felt sympathy for her, understood what she was going through. That was made even more so by the fact her two blood relatives—her father and her half-sister—are such jerks to her, and the only solace she gets is from her stepmom. But when she didn’t tell her new lover about her husband when she moved in, all sympathy was over. Even worse, the way both men behaved. . . let’s just say neither is much of a prize. Soon Jesse will no longer be allowed to blame the coma for being a jerk. Nor can Aiden blame her not telling him about Jesse; either he forgives her and moves on, or doesn’t and breaks up with her, but his passive-aggressive crap makes it seem like his daughter is the more mature member of the family. Frankly, she would have done better to start over with someone else.
I don’t want to say I was bored, but I certainly wasn’t interested in these people’s lives. I’m sure she was supposed to come across as some kind of great martyr to put up with everything around her, but that’s not how it struck me. I simply got to the point where I no longer cared.
2.5/5

Rated Z: Money Shot: An Anti-Romance
When a disease that turns people into something-like-zombies ravages the world, a couple of porn stars try to lead a band of survivors to safety.
This book is well named, since it starts with a porno shoot. . . in excruciating detail. The metaphors fly fast and free, but at least some of them are funny. It’s silly, not to be taken seriously. When a character comes back from the dead, the mortician doesn’t faint, actually takes it pretty much in stride after a few incredulous moments. It’s that kind of world.
On the other hand, there’s far too many characters introduced too early. Some are sympathetic, oddly enough the porn stars most of all. Anything bad that happens to Erica is fine by me. But it felt like there were far too many storylines. If I stopped reading for a day, I forgot some of the characters. The Andrew storyline could have been left out entirely. It’s a rambling plotline, enough so that I hesitate to call it a plot, more of a situation to drop characters into and see how they react. But then I doubt story was the point, and it ends in an abrupt cliffhanger.
The best thing I can say about this book is it’s got heart. . . numerous other body parts and functions as well, but mostly heart.
3/5

Oath Forger
In yet another dystopian future, a young scavenging survivor gets kidnapped by alien pirates, who take scavenging to another level. Then she’s saved by a space hunk who thinks she’s the answer to stopping an interstellar war.
Sometimes the cutesy first person tough-girl patter is hard to take, but other times it’s done perfectly. I love this character, snarky without overdoing it, even in her head. There’s been other characters like her, but the one she reminds me of the most is Wynonna Earp, for those who are fans of that show.
Despite it being labeled as an erotica, there’s actually very little sex, in fact the main character goes to great pains to remain pure, though she doesn’t mind the more foreplay parts of human/alien stimulation.
According to the blurbs, this will be a series of five books, all of them already written and released throughout the following months. It sounds like this was one giant book that got chopped up, but since this is the first, there’s no resolution here.
3.5/5

;o)