Book Reviews: Space Love

His Human Vessel
In the continuation of a series I’ve grown to love, an alien doctor buys a slave for breeding purposes, as his race was almost wiped out, but he’s a man—or alien—of science and claims not to want her. She knows better.
Not quite as good as the previous four in the series, but still better than most stuff in this genre. As always I enjoy the human female characters; it was easy to feel for her and her dilemma, even feel sorry for her. Despite him being the supposed authority on human females for his kind, advisor to the ruler and all that, he’s just as clueless, if not more, than the previous guys. Sometimes that was fun, sometimes annoying, but in the end it worked out well that way.
4/5

Her Mate and Master
From the same series as above, but with a twist. Unlike the previous stories, rather than buying a human slave, this young heroic alien goes undercover to rescue one of the last females of his race, who also happens to be the daughter of his sensei. Of course things don’t go as planned and they have to make a run for it, with him desperate to have her but not about to dishonor her—or rather her father—despite her obvious willingness.
Even though she wasn’t human, she wasn’t that much different than the others. The story was pretty much the same; not that that’s a bad thing, but something a little less formulaic would have been nice.
I liked the female character, but not as much as the previous human ones. The story didn’t seem as fun either, though still good.
3.5/5

Alpha’s Temptation: A Billionaire Werewolf Romance
A former hacker wants to go legit with a corporate job, and ends up trapped in an elevator with the big boss, though she doesn’t know that at the time. Turns out he knows exactly who she is, though at that point he’s not aware she’s the only person ever to beat him in cyberspace.
He’s a usual rich asshole, as well as a werewolf, the loner type. But of course he wants her, and despite all her previous feelings about men she gives in rather easily. This is one of those rare stories where I didn’t feel all that great about the heroine; I should have liked her, especially her wicked/nice personality, but she didn’t work for me. I hardly ever like the guys, and there’s no exception here.
3/5

Second to None
Seven years ago he lusted for his friend’s wife, so much that he cut himself out of their lives from the guilt. So complete is his withdrawal that he didn’t know his friend died. Now they reconnect, and of course he’s a hunky millionaire. She wants money for her children’s services center to expand to dog therapy.
This novella is classified as an erotic love story—though the sex scenes lacked any real heat—but it was the other elements I enjoyed more. For instance, I would have preferred more of her great kid. What really annoys me, though, is that this romance wouldn’t have happened if he wasn’t rich.
It’s strange, because usually when I like the main characters, the story doesn’t matter as much. And I didn’t mind the story, but I still feel disappointed, partly because it was money and the death of her husband that allowed this to be a happily ever after.
3/5

Gunnar
In what is thankfully a short story, Vikings raid a village after a festival, when everyone is drunk and easy pickings. The leader goes off to rest in the previous lord’s room and finds a gorgeous blonde tied up waiting for him, expecting the previous ruler. Though a virgin, she’s smart enough to play along so as not to be punished. Blindfolded or not, she figures one is as good as another, and of course ends up enjoying it.
Feels historically accurate, but I’m not interested enough in this period to look it up myself. I do like that it was more than just straight-up sex, despite the short length. No big deal, just fun.
3.5/5

Tempted & Taken
A Russian lass, having taken a friend’s identity, is on the run in Texas, where she wants to be mentored by a rich handsome computer genius. . . and have sex with him too. He has a large improv family of brothers, mostly from his time in foster care; I have not read the previous books in this series, so that’s all I know.
These types of books are rarely about plot; all that’s needed is that it not come off as stupid. This story actually did a pretty good job of getting the leads together in a realistic way. As always, I think it’s a good book if I like the female character, though in this case I think it’s well-written anyway, with plenty of little moments to keep me entertained. There was one scene about ¾ of the way through that seemed to drone on and on, but other than the fact I don’t think a Russian mob would simply let things go without being honor-bound to revenge, that’s the only negative I have for this.
I was disappointed, however, in not getting a shot-by-shot account of the skeeball game. . .
4/5

;o)

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Book Reviews: Sci-Fi Twist

Here There Be Dragons
In a future where two huge conglomerates fight for supremacy in space, a law enforcement official investigates one of them, because his brother works for them. Instead of doing his job he falls hard for the local AI genius caught between the two companies.
This is the second in a series, and I wish I’d read the first, because that one had the Del/Sun story, and he doesn’t get much here. Some of the world building might have been in that one too, and therefore missing here. On the other hand, the best parts are the descriptions of the company headquarters and other places—the party near the end comes to mind—as well as the accounts of the ships moving through space in their unique way.
The strangest thing is that this book is billed as an erotica, but nothing such happens until near the end.
3/5

Strange Music
For many years I thought there was nothing better than seeing a new Alan Dean Foster novel was out. I started reading him about 35 years ago, when I was in high school, and that was the Flinx series, which is still going, as proven by this latest book.
There was a bright spot for me at the beginning, where Flinx and his lady friend—finally!—are living on Cachalot, which was the scene of one of my favorite early books. But then he’s convinced to go on yet another mission, thinking that after all this time there’s nothing he can’t handle. As always, he’s wrong.
In this story the twist is that he can’t read the emotions of the natives of this new planet he’s sent to, or more precisely he can’t read them when they’re talking. The people speak in a singsongy tone, which I enjoyed at first but quickly gave me trouble, which surprises me. It’s a fun excuse for the author to be even more verbose than usual.
This is typical ADF in its worldbuilding as well. He loves inventing new creatures and geographies, and while nothing will ever be more wild and strange than the lifeforms in Sentenced to Prism, there’s some fun stuff here too.
If there’s a word for this, it’s “typical.” There’s a sameness to previous plots, not just Flinx but even his Star Wars novels, as well as Icerigger and Spellsinger. It feels like he’s more interested in going crazy in his worldbuilding and doesn’t worry about plot anymore. But even if this is a typical ADF story, there’s so much awe in his inventiveness, and his incredible humor, to worry about the frame. Just enjoy the work of a master wordsmith.
3.5/5

(OMG) Don Quixote and Candide Seek Truth, Justice and El Dorado in the Digital Age (LOL)
Candide—after he got tired of his farm—wanders into a bar where Don Quixote is entertaining German tourists with his stories. They feel a kinship and decide to explore this modern world together, with Candide’s ultimate goal to get back to El Dorado.
For someone who’s loved the book for decades, it’s more than a little weird listening to the thoughts of a grown-up and no longer-innocent/naïve Candide. Yes, at the end of that novel he’s lost that charm, but he’s far worse here. On the other hand, his luck hasn’t changed a bit; everything bad still happens to him.
“The conductor leaned in and pointed to his badge. ‘My real name is Cyrano.’” This is the first of many appearances by famous literary—and otherwise—figures. Started out enjoying the Sherlock cameo, until it became—can’t believe I’m saying this—too meta. Luckily there’s more of him later, though I do wish someone could write about him without shoving Moriarty into it too. The entire Star Trek scene was disappointing, anticlimactic; when you get Don Quixote calling Captain Kirk a coward, you know you’re in the wrong book. They appear again near the end, but that wasn’t much better. And those good ol’ Suthin boys Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn turned out to be much bigger jerks than Twain would have ever thought possible.
Proving I am much like Candide, the long philosophical conversations during travel, especially in cars, put me to sleep. This book would have been considerably shorter and tighter without them.
At one point I thought for sure Candide would run into every character from his book, and couldn’t wait to get to Cunegonde. When he did. . . well, it could have gone better, but I’ll bet he doesn’t regret it. Too bad the monkeys from the trip to El Dorado didn’t make it into this one.
I’ve seen the Who’s On First routine done with bands before, but never for this long.
Nuevo Mancha seemed a lot more realistic than Vegas.
There are no words more chilling than “You shall join the other eunuchs.”
So. . . that was longer and tougher going than expected. A silly romp through history and the world, with each new chapter seemingly sprouting at random. Same wacky adventures with a modern twist, featuring two of early history’s most talked-about travelers. Where else would you find so many fun historical characters together?
I’m not at all sure if watching Man of La Mancha a few months ago helped or hindered this reading. . .
3.5/5

Slayers & Vampires: The Complete Uncensored, Unauthorized Oral History of Buffy & Angel
It took a moment for me to understand what was meant by “oral history.” Rather than it being an audiobook or a Homer epic, this takes interviews and puts snippets into a chronological order that eventually makes sense.
In the end it works pretty well, even when you don’t recognize the speaker. A lot of them are recognizable, though, staring from Joss Whedon and including most of the actors and writers/producers. Especially fascinating was the chapter right before the show aired, when everyone was wondering if Buffy would be a hit or bomb.
3.5/5

;o)

Book Reviews: Graphically Challenging

Wonder Woman Vol. 3: The Truth (Rebirth)
First and foremost, don’t read this if you haven’t read the previous; you’ll be lost, because it starts with the wonderful woman all-out crazy in an asylum. How out of it is she? “I am so sorry you’re not real.” To start an issue, and especially a collected volume, with her having lost her mind. . . there really needed to be a “previously” here!
But even without that I found the story boring. For long stretches nothing happens; at times Trevor seems to be talking to her telepathically, which might be exciting to read about but fails in a visual medium.
Luckily there are some interesting moments, like, “He’s a Greek god! They’re track record with young women isn’t exactly progressive.” You’d think Diana would know better than to have tea with serpents. There’s a minotaur involved, which was the most interesting thing for a while.
“What say you come up to my virtual place sometime and I’ll help fix that credit score of yours, handsome.” Says something when the funniest character is the AI.
Wow, in the end it was a simple win. Bit anticlimactic.
I suppose this would have felt different had I read it before the movie. The story was way more convoluted than it needed to be, even without knowing the previous parts. It definitely moved slow in the first two chapters; in fact, my fave was the last. But there were a lot of cute little moments that kept me going.
Ten pages of alternate covers.
2.5/5

Water Memory
A woman and her daughter move into the clifftop house where she lived as a small child until her father died. There are legendary monsters involved, and a curse.
“Jellyfish tart?” After reading that, I had to go get some fresh air before I could continue reading.
I didn’t feel the suspense the authors were obviously going for here, but the historical aspects were fun. The mom/daughter bond is fantastic; they have a great relationship. I was feeling an Irish vibe, but that may be the influence of Song of the Sea, since there’s a lighthouse nearby. A sign is in French, but everything screams New England or Canada. In the end it turned out the sign was the clue.
The kid’s funny. After nearly drowning in a cave, lying on the beach as she recovers, she tells the scavenging seagulls, “Don’t even think about it!” Her explorations keep getting her into danger, as well as her belief in her “Total ninja stealth!”
The artwork has a dreamy romantic vibe, plenty of blue watercolor to symbolize the sea, except during the storms.
About a dozen pages at the end about the making of the book, how it originated, with some beautiful photos.
4/5

Spencer and Locke
A detective with a—possibly—imaginary talking blue panther as a partner look to solve a murder and kidnapping. That’s all the plot that’s necessary.
There’s a flashback to the detective as a kid, getting smacked around by his mom. This is in comic strip form; if you’re familiar with a strip about a boy and his imaginary cat, you know how this looks. Locke says Spencer has idiosyncrasies; sure, what talking blue panther doesn’t? We’re told right away about Spencer’s “condition,” so we don’t have to wonder about it the rest of the way.
Now for the fun stuff.
“Captain’s Log, Stardate. . .” That came outta nowhere.
Want to have a science-fiction interlude? Feed your protagonist a multiple-drug overdose. I get the feeling that dinosaur is gonna drop on someone. . .
Turned out to be a surprisingly easy, quick read. I enjoyed it despite some plot holes, which is not an easy thing to say when there’s a giant blue talking panther walking around. The psychology, his motivation for becoming a cop, was well done.
The italics were surprisingly hard to read. As for the art, there’s gritty urban landscapes, not quite film noir but close, as well as bright cheery childhood interludes. During the science-fiction portion it’s bold pulp-comic color.
Each chapter has extras: cover gallery, character designs, script pages, and so on.
3.5/5

If You Give a Man a Cookie
In the long tradition of “For want of a nail” stories, this one is just what the title says, all the repercussions of what a man will want if you give him a cookie. It’s full of clichés (none of which fit me, thankfully), considering not every man has a mustache or likes fishing.
From a guy’s perspective, I have to ask why she’s wearing heels when making cookies and generally just walking around the house. I’m trying not to be mean-spirited here, but I can’t help but think that’s exactly where this story’s coming from, which was likely done as a catharsis for the author.
I think the only opinion that matters here is her husband; hope he laughed, because I didn’t find much funny here.
2.5/5

Taproot
Sensitive florist is kinda crushing on a girl and getting advice from two friendly ghosts, one of whom might be in love with him. Plus he’s being poltergeisted by another. Then it flashes back a year to when they met in what turned out to be one of the strangest love stories ever.
I don’t know if it’s part of the story, but Blue is really androgynous. Until someone says “He,” I had no idea. And the reaper is a woman! A supernatural being who texts. A strange sight, a smiling skull and crossbones, is also present.
The epilogue was cute, but probably unnecessary, or at least anticlimactic. Despite its length it’s a quick easy read. Though the colors at first seem like muted earth tones, in actuality they’re quite bright. Don’t like the way Chloe’s drawn, though; her facial expressions are just weird.
3.5/5

Tyrannosaurus Ralph
Teen skateboarder is about to be crushed by a bully with a tuba—aka honk-kazoo—then has to be rescued by a barrio inventor, who puts his brain into a t-Rex so he can save the planet by participating in an intergalactic gladiator competition. Got it?
Best named alien: Lord Knuckle-Dragger. Best line: “I don’t think the red food likes you. It’s trying to get away.”
I love the faces drawn on the scared dinosaur; not exactly king of the giant lizards here. And his versions of “Yikes!” are “Oh crudsicles! Crud monkeys! Crud crumbs!” Sensing a theme. . . but you gotta draw the line at “crud-waffles.”
Lugnut has to be the most submissive human being ever to refer to himself in the third person.
I would have liked to see Joona’s story instead. It was okay, though went too far into silly at times. The big fight was surprisingly entertaining, but his lack of emotional control got tiring quickly.
Seven pages of extras.
3/5

;o)

Netflix Fun, July Edition

As always, little snippets of reviews from stuff I saw on Netflix or Amazon or Vudu or whatever, which didn’t do enough to get me to write up a whole big blog about each of them.

Timer
Cute premise: in the near future, technology will be available to let you know when you’re going to meet the person you’re destined to spend the rest of your life with. The movie follows a cute Emma Caufield— easily recognizable from her Buffy days, though the character is far different—as she goes from hopeful, waiting for her timer to wind down, to by the end done with the whole deal. Yes, it’s a comedy.
First off, let me say that due to my only listening to independent music—except for Rush—I hardly ever hear any songs I know playing in movies. But then, Meiko really doesn’t qualify as independent anymore, does she? All to say that there’s a perfectly placed snippet of her Piano Song at the beginning.
More to the point, the movie is surprisingly sweet, and funnier than expected. And the reason I watched it in the first place—Michelle Borth—can always be counted on to bring the Bohemian, even when in a hospital in Afghanistan, as she did in one of her series. Emma Caulfield carries what’s really a light frothy movie, though the dramatic and emotional parts are also well done.
Here’s the thing: that’s what I thought about it the first time I saw it, a few years ago. In fact, I gave it a 4.5/5. But now I watched it again and felt completely different about it. I did notice some things that escaped my view the first time, like the hilarious Matchmaker Patty; I would hate that woman in real life, but I love her here. And all the people in the credits have timers too, producers and everyone! That was really funny. And a fantastic line I missed the first time, or simply didn’t remember it: “My eggs! They can hear you!”
But then we come to the one thing I don’t like about this movie: as funny as Michelle Borth can be—“Tell me what you did or I’m gonna pee on your bed!”—everything Emma Caufield has to do is so cringeworthy, far into butt monkey range. Even from the start there’s so much awkward, and it’s just too painful to watch.
So yeah, I liked it a lot more the first time, and if I were to combine the scores I’d now call it a:
6/10

Particle Fever
Ever wonder how a massive supercollider is made, then used? Find out in this movie.
The first visage that caught my attention came right away, as during construction of CERN they’re lowering a huge piece—five stories tall, if I heard that right—that is surprisingly in the shape of the Millennium Falcon. But despite how long it took to build the Hadron, that’s not the main point of this film. Mostly it follows some physicists, both on the ground there in Switzerland and around the US, as they eagerly await the start-up and then the results while trying to explain to the audience exactly what’s going on and what they hope to see.
Though the scientists interviewed throughout are pretty good communicators, giving great lectures, most of it still goes over my head. There was one eye-opening explanation of how important the experiments are, how it might even be the end of physics if they get it wrong. Then there’s Monica screaming, “We rocked!” She’s my fave. But the best line had to be “Jumping from failure to failure with undiminished enthusiasm is the secret to success.” And funniest moment was during the interview while driving: “And I missed my exit.” Or else the baby screaming while everyone was listening to what they’ve all been waiting for. But something that also needs to be mentioned is just how painful that rap was. . .
Some of the CGI is hokey, others are pretty cool. The graphic showing the Higgs at the middle of the wheel is the best explanation I’ve seen so far. There’s also a bit of theater at certain points, like when they tried so hard to make “first beam” so dramatic. And near the end, so much cheering and even Beethoven’s 9th for numbers changing on a screen—just seems funny. Would have liked to see how the reporters reacted to this, because for me it woulda been anticlimactic.
Totally expected Dr. Higgs to get emotional, but that was also the most touching moment. And then it ends with a shoutout to one of my favorite movies, Cave of Forgotten Dreams!
8/10

Thor 2: Dark World
As I’ve stated before, I’m not much for the superhero genre. If I’m watching one of these it’s usually because there’s an actress I like—in this case two—or it’s something that I simply can’t pass up, like Wonder Woman. So I try not to get too wrapped up in reviewing these, but in the end can’t help it.
Though Thor has appeared in The Avengers, and showed quite a bit at the end of the first movie, it’s here where you see how much the character has matured. He actually laughs when he’s teased now. There’s a little bit of character development to Sif as well, but Jane. . . not so much. Darcy is Darcy, but that’s okay, that’s what she’s there for. It’s Selvig who changes the most, but not in a good way, although I’m sure the actor enjoyed running around in his underwear.
As always in these kinds of movies, there’s too much speechifying by the bad guys. Around halfway through I thought, “Now I see why Loki’s in this: comic relief!” More fool I. Certainly not sorry about what happened to him—Selvig speaks for me—or what we thought happened to him, anyway.
As you might expect, I watched this for Natalie Portman, and she did not disappoint. There are some moments in here that prove she’s underrated on her comedic side. Jane has sequestered herself in labs—or chasing tornados—for so long she doesn’t seem to know how to act around strangers, mostly to hilarious results. Her excitement at going through the Bifrost leads her to give Heimdall a totally informal “Hi!” which is a great harbinger to when she does the same later to the Queen. . . who by the way is her lover’s mom, but she’s too nervously excited to realize it in that moment. But her best line is probably “I like the way you. . . explain things.”
I also love Kat Dennings, who just like on her TV series doesn’t seem to be acting at all, simply being her usual snarky real-life persona. She actually has great chemistry with Hemsworth, the best example being when she asks him “How’s space?” so he can laconic, “Space is fine.” His best moment, though, is likely when, after a great pause, he throws out, “So. . . who’s Richard?” followed by Jane’s exasperated “Really?”
Hair color change and an accent can do wonders; how many recognized “Chuck” as Fandral? If anyone saw Zach Levi in the short he did for The Adventures of Basil and Moebius, he’s got the exact same accent and character here.
The one thing I genuinely loved is the music. Appropriate heroic themes, even for those spoiled by John Williams; the horns in particular were pretty tasty. The one thing I most disliked was how dark it was, in this case more literally than spiritually or psychologically. Ultimately that’s the fault of the director, but you wonder if the cinematographer ever said anything. Best scenery was during the end battle in London, as well as the boat/ship chase.
Most of all, though, the bad guy wasn’t that interesting, and the plot was all over the place. Didn’t like it as much as the first.
5/10

Star Trek: Beyond
The second reboot film was so disappointing I skipped going to this when it was in the theaters; that’s the first time that’s ever happened to me with Star Trek. So my expectations were pretty low going into this.
As usual nowadays, Kirk gets to be a total butt monkey at the start, though in this case it gives him a chance to be angsty. The part where we see Sulu meeting up with his husband and kid was nicely done in that it wasn’t a big deal, just here it is and moving on. But more than anything it hurt to see Anton.
Another part I’ve always disliked is seeing all the dead when the Enterprise is blown up—literally. Too much showing of bodies floating off into space. It does seem to be a staple of these movies, going all the way back to Wrath of Khan, but this is one way all the series, and their lower budgets, have it better. And what’s the deal with yet another Enterprise biting the dust? Seems like the name is bad luck!
Random thoughts:
I lived for the moment I could hear Spock say “horseshit.” I can die happy now.
No way Kirk could be beamed while on the motorcycle at full speed.Gimme a break. It’s one thing for Chekov to have done a difficult beam in an earlier movie, but remember that here they were using 100-year-old transporters.
My fave character was Jaylah. “Do not break my music!” And her taking the captain’s chair, reportedly adlibbed, was classic. And at the end when she says “Aye’ to Scotty. Love that she’s going to Starfleet Academy, where she won’t be anything like Kirk, I’m sure; hope she breaks the demerits record.
Best unexpected visual: Chekov tapping his foot to the “classical” music.
Kirk says he couldn’t do anything without Spock, but no thanks for Bones? He was the pilot who saved his ass!
Shohreh Aghdashloo always brings it; she’s the coolest commodore ever.
That photo of the original crew: awww. . .
Idris did his best with a villain that though appropriately motivated didn’t really hit as a classic bad guy. I suppose allowances have to be made for a script that was hastily rewritten.
As always I stay for the credits, and noticed that the actors are listed alphabetically, with Cho first. That’s lovely.
While I have no complaints about the music—soundtrack, I mean; not the choice for destruction—I have to say the sound effects were more memorable. They spent a lot of money and time on that space station, but some of that CGI budget might have been better served during the battle inside the crushed Enterprise, which simply came out too dark. But other than that it was a pretty enjoyable movie that would have done well as a two-part episode on one of the series.
7/10

Iron Man
Completely forgettable. I wrote two notes, and one of them said Gwynnth has never looked better than in that blue dress at Disney Hall.

Iron Man 2
More of the same. Only reason I watched it was because I thought that was ScarJo’s best look and wanted to see it in all its undiminshed glory.

Star Wars: Rogue 1
Like I mentioned about Star Trek above, this is the first Star Wars movie I did not go see in the theater; glad I didn’t.
Rather than dole out the exposition in small chunks, there were too many places and too many people at the start. Despite the great idea of placing it right before the start of the original movie, the writing is mostly unoriginal, as were most of the plot points. The best line had to be the “samurai” getting a bag placed over his head. “Are you kidding me? I’m blind!” And while I don’t have anything bad to say about the acting—other than Forest Whitaker overdoing things, to my shock—it’s telling that the most memorable is Wash. . . I mean, Alan Tudyk playing a robot.
They tried to make a big moment out of the Vader unreveal, but it was. . . underwhelming. But easily the worst scene was the attack in the rain, with the characters being completely stupid, especially Jyn yelling out “Dad!” You had a character with street smarts galore and you have her do something like this? The whole scene was one idiotic choice after another; it felt like the writers simply wanted to get this over with and move the movie along.
Another thing I didn’t like about that scene was the darkness, although part of it was no doubt due to the rain. But that was more than made up for by the location at the end, Scarif, especially the establishing shots from above. Maybe I prefer the Seychelles a little more, but you certainly can’t go wrong with filming in the Maldives, and I doubt any of the actors complained about it, other than the long trip. What’s weird is that according to the credits they also filmed in Wadi Rum in Jordan, and I’d just been there a few months ago. Not that deserts look all that different from each other, and since the King of Jordan once appeared on an episode of Star Trek: Voyager. . .
Can’t say I noticed the music at all. That’s not a bad thing, but really, what can you say about the first Star Wars movie not scored by John Williams?
The whole thing felt rushed, despite the slow pace at the beginning. They took some time to give her a backstory, but since it ended up in the plot—i.e., her father—it doesn’t really count. About halfway through, my thought was “It’s okay, but glad I didn’t pay to see this in the theater.” At that point I was calling it between a 5 and 6/10, keeping in mind that I gave Force Awakens a 7 and enjoyed it a lot more. Then the battle in the rain happened. . .
Some critics, and even the composer, have written about this movie having a lot of heart, but I frankly didn’t feel it. Maybe in the Imperial traitor who brought the message to Jyn, but that’s it.
4/10

;o)

Book Reviews: Graphic Heathens and Passions

Britannia: We Who Are About To Die
In what seems like a small prelude but isn’t, a young slave girl is about to be raped, but like me notices the knife nearby and kills her attacker. In the meantime there’s a new cult in Rome that the rich kids are joining, only some of them are the ones being sacrificed, so the world’s first official detective has another case, and this time doesn’t have to go all the way to Britannia to solve it. Eventually it gets personal. . .
Good of them to have recaps before every issue; every comic should do that.
This story is not as strong as the first one, but then it’s more about the moments. With the Wonder Woman movie and especially the way women all over the world are responding to it, it’s amusing to see the same thing happening in Ancient Rome with a female gladiator. I don’t remember ever reading about any such archaeological evidence found, but it wouldn’t be surprising to find there were hucksters like the one here outside the Colosseum, selling souvenirs. My favorite line had to be “By Mithras!” Having studied that cult, it made me laugh.
The last part is “silent,” which makes it more intriguing. Too bad it took him long enough to realize who, or what, the bad guy was, which was a letdown.
3/5

Heathen V.1
Aydis is the heroine of this story, clad in a bikini under a fur coat out in the snow. She’s telling stories to her horse—not so farfetched, as it turned out—as exposition about her quest, which is to save Brynhild—as the chief Valkyrie is spelled here—and maybe kiss her. But of course things are never that easy, especially when mythological creatures are involved; in her case, she might be lucky that becoming a plaything of the gods is the worst thing that happens to her.
It doesn’t take long to find some hilarious characters, in this case the two wolves who bicker like an old married couple. “I liked him.” “Me too. I’m glad we didn’t eat him.” The horse they’re talking about, Saga, might be my fave equine of all time, even if he’s described thusly: “Oh that’s right, you’re not the flying kind of horse, just the annoying kind.”
Best line: “Let’s walk off that stutter.”
Norse mythology is a bit different than usual here. This Freya, for example, reminds me of Aphrodite—playful yet plotting—when the two goddesses of love are usually so different. And just because I’ll never have another chance in my entire life to say this, “Don’t hate the Freya, hate the game.”
The cliffhanger did its job; I want more. This was thoroughly enjoyable; I liked just about every character, except for some of the gods. The artwork is not typical, somewhat like sketches that have been watercolored, but it works well with the stark landscapes featured here.
About 10 pages of other covers to finish things off.
4/5

Lady Mechanika: La Dama de la Muerte
Fair warning: I HATE the Day of the Dead. . . or better to say it scares the crap out of me. The scariest night of my life was one of these festivals on the tiny island of Janitzio in Lake Patzcuaro, in the state of Michoacan in Mexico, where this whole thing originated. So I’m gonna try really hard not to let that affect me, but I doubt I’ll succeed.
A curandero—think witch doctor—leads Mechanika to a small Mexican town on the night of the festival. Among the people she meets is a little girl who’s incredibly adorable. . . when she’s not in skullface. As I’ve mentioned in previous stories, it’s amazing how good she is with kids.
This is a weird story in a literary sense as well; by the end of the first issue she would have usually been in a few fights, and the villain introduced. This time it doesn’t happen till much later, with everything before it some sort of exposition, either hints at her reasons for being there or the author delving really deep into the traditions. For example, “Life is only a dream, a temporary holiday. Every minute here is a gift.”
As always there’s a few fun moments, usually at the Lady’s expense. For one, we see her dancing, which is so out of the ordinary for her that it’s pretty shocking. She has been to fancy dances back in England, but that was undercover; this time she had no other reason to do it but to enjoy herself, and it actually looks like she does.
Best line: “She threw a tortilla at him. . . and he ate it.” I can picture him catching it in his mouth. And I find it completely hilarious the local catholic priest is also engaged in this pagan heresy ritual.
But the one thing I’ve always hated about these stories is how many innocent people have to die so Mechanika can learn a lesson or feel the urge of revenge. This one ramps it up to 11; I’m mad at the author for making me care about all those people and then wiping them all out for no other reason than to send the Lady on a rampage. Feels almost like a betrayal.
Toward the end it more than makes up for the lack of action early. There’s quite a bit of her backstory early on, but none of it is in context. No surprise she spares the last guy, seeing herself in him, but as far as her development, that’s about it. This was so completely different than the previous stories it hardly feels like the same character; for one thing, she didn’t get to play dress up more than once.
Despite an abundance of colors that are actually quite typical if you’ve ever traveled through Mexico, most of this story takes place at night, and there’s green phosphorescence everywhere, so artistically it’s not as interesting as the previous editions.
A few pages of covers as usual at the end.
3/5

Grand Passion
A Bonnie and Clyde-type pair of thieves hit the same town over and over, always disguised differently so that they’re never recognized (narrator knows well enough, though). They even have sex on a bed of stolen money every time. One day their luck runs out and during the shootout, as they kill each other’s partner, the newly widowed cop and the female half of the duo fall into instant lust. But because he killed her partner, she has to get revenge no matter how much she wants him, because some code expects her to.
It’s one thing for the characters to speak in accents, but here the narrator does as well, and it’s annoying; perhaps it’s a case of the British writer overdoing it. The sex scene is all kinds of weird, yet it makes sense in the twisted perverted logic they’re using. This cop may be upstanding—unlike the others, it’s made clear long before it becomes a part of the story—but he’s an idiot. Doesn’t matter how “in love” he is, he loses situational awareness way too often in the gunfights. But calling it “The Battle of Buttercup Lane” is all sorts of awesome.
Best lines: “That. Is. Insane.” “Yeah, I know. Welcome ta “Me.’”
Didn’t love this—that last twist was no surprise at all—but it had some humorous moments amongst all the darkness. As a police procedural it’s lacking, but then what can you expect from a “one good cop” story where even he doesn’t turn out to be so good after all?
There’s over 20 pages of bonus material, including sketches and scripts, one of which describes the solo “making love on money” scene, with the author telling the artist, “This’ll be a fun page for you to draw.” Hope it was true.
3/5

Pathfinder: Worldscape V.2
After a couple of unexplained battles where he doesn’t do nearly as well as he’d hoped—“Not gonna lie. Glad no one was around to see that”—a warrior ends up fighting in the arena against all kinds of monsters and hot babes, with his last challenge being the one and only Red Sonja. His snark of “I’m guessing they don’t call you Red because you embarrass easily” comes off just as well as you’d expect. In the meantime his friends have their own adventures in this strange universe, with all the stories eventually converging at the end, but not before other famous mythical characters show up, especially John Carter and Tarzan.
As a lifelong fan, I have to say this is the worst representation I’ve ever seen of Red Sonja, both physically and character-wise. That hair. . . she looks like she went to a stylist in the Deep South.
Best line: “Who names their planet after dirt?” Like this green guy, I’ve had the same thought. Second best: “I do like a girl in leather,” said by another girl.
In the second issue there’s a ton of backstory that hits you like a school bus—yes, there’s a reason I use that simile—all at once. But despite all this exposition, the whole thing was simply too confusing to grasp. So many sides, too many people fluid in their loyalties. . . the only way I could eventually get through it was to stop caring. It’s fair to say this would be a lot smoother if you’re familiar with these characters, either through previous editions or the role-playing game this seems to be based on. As this was my first venture into this universe, I’m sure I failed to grasp a bunch of points throughout.
Oddly enough, in the 50 or so extra pages Sonja looked a lot more like her old self. The last 20 pages are stuff like stats and stories for the role-playing game.
2.5/5

;o)

Book Reviews: Erotic Motorcycles, Teachers, and Time Travel

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

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

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

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

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

;o)

Movie Review: Wonder Woman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Overall
8.5/10

;o)