Book Reviews: Ran Out of Erotic Metaphors

Alpha’s Prize: A Werewolf Romance
“My eyes crack open, gritty and sore. I’d rub them if I weren’t in wolf form. Where am I? I rise and knock against metal bars. Oh fates. I’m in a cage—a fucking cage.”
That early sentence says a lot, though from the title you probably didn’t need the wolf mention. A female werewolf on vacation in Mexico gets imprisoned by the local pack to breed with their young alpha; seems inbreeding’s a thing. But because this is a romance. . . well, you can figure it out.
There are a lot of viewpoints used, especially at the start. I get the need to introduce all the main characters, but it was a little confusing. But more than anything, I really wish this book had been more FUN. Everyone’s miserable, even when the story shifts to Paris.
I’m more used to Ms. Rose’s sci-fi, which I like a lot more than this werewolf stuff. The main male character started out as a douche but redeemed himself, so that’s a good point. I liked her from the start. There’s some interesting cultural stuff amid different locales, but despite the good writing, I didn’t enjoy this nearly as much as I feel I should have.
3/5

Zandian Pet
As in the last installment of this series, the female lead is not a human slave that her dom eventually falls in love with, but one of the last surviving Zandian females. In fact, she’s the sister of the main female character of the previous book. This one is accidentally found in a sex den that caters to aliens. She doesn’t mind, as she’s been in what she considers worst situations before.
This chapter of the long-running series was, in a word, typical. It should not have been, given where it started, but it has definitely settled into a formula, which is too bad. It always consists of the two protagonists making dumb decisions. The sex is great, the bondage well done for those into that, but I wish the psychological aspects were done better. One thing that kinda bugs me is that the guy in these romances is always the first one who spots her!
3/5

Off Limits
The execute assistant has the hots for her billionaire boss, who on the one hand can’t forget his dead wife and the other has nothing but one-night stands.
A quarter of the way through and I was completely bored. Various cycles of “Will-they-won’t-they” are interspersed with “yes-they-will,” leading to regrets and starting the cycle again. Hardly anything else takes place or matters. With all that introspection, it was easy to get distracted. One of the bright spots was the discussion on flowers, which was surprisingly deep and funny, one of those moments that is in no way necessary to the story but adds to the enjoyment. That, however, was more of an exception.
It’s amazing to me how these books, which are basically about the start of a relationship, can last for so many pages. I liked some of it, mostly because I liked her. As usual, I didn’t like the dominating ass she’s into. Just felt like it went on for too long.
3/5

The Traveling Sex Game
If you see a suitcase or purse or such with ribbons hanging from it, it could mean the owner plays a sex game. Ribbons signify what kind of sex you want. It’s supposed to be an anonymous hookup, but it doesn’t always work out that way.
This book is basically sexual vignettes reminiscent of Penthouse Forum, held together by small bits of reporting and sexual psychology. After the reporter’s intro to the game and a few interviews, the book moves to individual stories. Unfortunately this guy’s writing style didn’t do it for me; felt like he didn’t have much experience writing. The sex scenes were kinda matter of fact; obviously these were hookups and not romances, but they could have been longer.
2.5/5

Saved
A woman not-so-mysteriously comes back from the dead, only to find her reunion with her fiancé is not how she thought it would be. (I don’t feel that’s a spoiler, because with the dream at the beginning overdoing it to such a huge degree, the “major” twist wasn’t at all surprising.)
In a genre known for stubborn characters, this one goes beyond. I’ve climbed mountains more pliable than this guy. I liked her, but most sane women would have cut their losses no matter how deeply in love they might have been.
Just when he has a breakthrough, thanks to the last person he or we would expect, things go to crap again. Despite it being a cliché, this part was well done.
There were several parts I really liked, but more that I couldn’t stand. The last fight scene was too convoluted to picture. There’s a lot less erotica than expected, which is too bad because those scenes were written the best.
As a former Marine, the soldier patter made me laugh.
3/5

His Human Bride
Funny: when I started this I had no idea it was a sequel to a book I’ve already read.
In the first book, a nurse/scientist helps a Roswell alien escape captivity and flees with him off Earth, wanting to help cure his people of an epidemic. Now, after spending pretty much all of the voyage having sex, she faces her toughest challenge: his mother, the queen. After a quest, needed because momma gave the thumbs down, it’s time for the final judgement.
As is pretty much expected from a romance, even if this one comes with a generous heap of erotica, there’s plenty of misunderstandings to go around, although this one has a bit of an excuse in that alien species think differently. On the brighter side, the characters are likeable, and no matter how stubborn Mom can be, she’s heaps better than the scientists and soldiers of the previous book.
But my favorite part is at the end: “I have to thank Carrie Fisher. I don’t know her. I never met her. But she inspired me so much it seems wrong to publish a book without thanking her. Thank you, Princess.”
4/5

;o)

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Book Reviews: Double-Digit Graphics

Big Nate: Silent But Deadly
Another collection of the long-running comic strip featuring a hapless kid who really should know better—about everything—by now, but particularly about girls and teachers.
“Silent but deadly” was not whom I expected, but for once I was glad it wasn’t Nate.
“Are loopholes anything like Froot Loops?” First answer: I wish. Second answer: I’m hungry.
Nate finally wins one, literally. “Scoreboard!” He’s also got a super nose, so it’s nice to see him not be the butt monkey EVERY time.
4/5

Zen Pencils—Creative Struggle: Illustrated Advice from Masters of Creativity
Another volume of the fun and educational series featuring quotes illustrated, this time with a more specific perspective, as the title tells.
Van Gogh died having sold only one painting. I know that’s not the takeaway from his story, but it’s what I’ll remember.
No mention of Einstein’s wife in that entire section. Huh.
“Mortifying negative.”
Frankenstein is mentioned as the first sci-fi story, but that would be Paradise Lost.
The look on Marie Curie’s face at the gas coming in through the window. . . priceless. And her tongue sticking out in concentration. . . it’s the little things that make these stories great.
Tesla inspired by poetry is classic, literally. “Suck it, Professor Poeschl.”
Frida’s conga line of injuries, culminating in the bus crash, are truly horrific. This is the first time I’ve really seen the difference in size between Kahlo and Rivera played up; age, yes, but him being 300 pounds and her under 100 is staggering. And she really was the first Queen of Selfies.
And of course no book about creativity nowadays would be complete without Brené Brown.
4/5

Old Geezers: Alive and Still Kicking
An old man reads a letter his wife left him after her funeral, which sends him off on a road trip for revenge, followed by two friends and his very preggers granddaughter. Hilarity ensues.
It’s hard to say who exactly is the protagonist here. Could be Antoine, the one who goes off on for satisfaction. Or it could be Pierre, whom we meet first. He looks like a typical aging British civil servant, except for the way he parks. . . in the handicapped zone. That’s probably the only suit he’s ever owned, yet he’s the one worried about the fashion police. And when you consider his career. . .
Wow, someone actually used “progenitor” in a sentence.
“Everyone had a thing for Lucette at one point. You gotta admit that little minx was stacked.” It’s just so weird hearing three old men talking like frat boys. . . though I suppose it shouldn’t.
Best lines: “My (unborn) baby says bite me!” and “They’ve lost their sight, but not their hands.”
Interesting place to end it, but it does set up a sequel.
3.5/5

Valerian and Laureline
(Wow, turns out this has been a series since 1967! How have I never heard of it before? This means Han Solo could have been based on him instead of vice versa! And it was made into a film released this year?!!!
But for funsies’ sake, I’m leaving my original thoughts in.)
In a ship reminiscent of the Millennium Falcon, A Han Solo type and a beautiful redhead look for a cybernetic financial wizard. Once they find him, things get crazy.
It’s visually attractive, though not always logical. The bridge of the ship, for instance, is huge and empty with just the two of them. That is one surprised-looking fish. And my favorite line was, “Artificial intelligences love the old vintage look.”
The way I know Valerian is a parody of Han Solo is that he says, “I have a good feeling about this.”
“Your reputation pales before reality,” the Jabba-like creature tells her. I can only imagine. Have I mentioned how much I love redheads? “Your beauty is celebrated across the universe?” “It. . . it is?”
But as much as I enjoyed looking at the redhead—not as much as most of the male characters did, but still—the story was far too convoluted and seemed to be made up as it went along, much like the protagonists’ plans.
3/5

FRNK: The Beginning Begins
The first artistry we get is a delicious reproduction of cave paintings that look like the ones in Chauvet, France. Things go downhill from there.
A sullen young teen is not looking forward to his fourth adoption, figuring this family will be just as bad as the previous three. He tries to escape, but only makes things worse; in a large shot with a building filling the background, there’s a red arrow to show us where he’s falling. (Thanks for that.)
The kid goes through a glass roof, falls off a wall like Humpty, and goes head over heels down a rocky hill, but other than a band-aid is perfectly fine. Huh. After a lot of ows, they add one more “And ow!” Cute.
I love the redhead administrator for much more than the color of her hair; too bad she’s only appears at the beginning. But then they placate me with more redheads later.
It was never meant to be realistic, obviously—not with time traveling—but some of the small moments, like him running on water, are too ridiculous and didn’t need to be. He takes too long thinking it’s a theme park, then instantly jumps to the most absurd possibility. (The fact that he’s right is just a coincidence.) More than anything else, this kid is just too annoying to root for.
2.5/5

Fragments of Femininity
Seven stories about women and how they view their breasts, and how they think others view them.
Chloe: Women can be ever more vicious in the locker room than men. The protagonist is not who we think at the beginning, which is a clever touch. Easy to see how she lost control when even other women buy into the myth of bigger is better. Still, you have to figure something happened earlier—that this had to be the culmination—for her to blow up so big.
Mathilde: Middle-aged woman leaves her boring husband and kids to be with her lesbian lover and ends up in a bra-burning nude protest. Despite her long letter to her husband, there wasn’t enough background to really get how she so quickly moved on.
Alison: Famous exploitation actress wants to do serious movies. Rather than let the director screw her over by forcing her to do yet another nude scene when her contract says it’s not supposed to happen, she quits not just the movie but her career. This one’s my fave.
Sylvia: Older woman sees photos of her husband with a much younger lady. But rather than go for the divorce, she takes care of him in a fitting way, though I have to say it wasn’t all that much of a surprise.
Faith: A woman goes to an art school to see if she can pose nude, forgoing payment in favor of keeping a few of the results. At this point—being a photographer, I’ve been asked to do this before—I knew where it was going, but it was still a sad realization at the end. Of all the stories, though, I think this one is the most fitting with the topic.
Elikya: Woman in Northern Africa escapes her arranged marriage and gets lost in the desert until saved by an apprentice sculptor/witch doctor. The town is dying and badly needs rain, so he uses her to model a new talisman. If you like anthropology at all, this is for you.
Fleur: She runs a lingerie shop, insisting that her customers are more like friends. She has a diverse clientele, including a stripper who tests out all the new merch. In the end all those friends come in handy when her store gets firebombed.
Obviously some were better than others, but all told intriguing stories. What makes this book all the more interesting is it was written by a man.
4/5

Photographic: The Life of Graciela Iturbide
“For Iturbide, the camera is just a pretext for knowing the world.” That quote’s not in the book, but when I did research on a photographer I’ve never heard of . . . couldn’t pass it up.
After an intro that’s quite a bit overdone, first story isn’t all that interesting, and the prose is mysterious without a cause. It’s trying to be poetic, but doesn’t say anything, too hoity-toity for its own good. The drawings are so far more impressive than the photos.
The Medusa head of iguanas was awesome, but that’s it. The photos are wonderfully grainy, but there aren’t many. And to be perfectly honest, as a professional photographer of more than 25 years, I can’t say I’m impressed by what’s shown here.
2.5/5

The Campbells: Inferno
The fun starts on the title page, with a funny image of a pirate swinging on a rope with his kids hanging on for dear life behind him. That sets the scene nicely. Actually it starts on the cover, because for a few seconds I seriously thought that was Bruce Campbell.
The way we get background is with the brother reading his older sister’s journal. Had no idea pirate kids are generally no different than suburban kids, especially when it comes to school.
The smartest character is the head leper.
“Lovedumbefied!” I like when they invent new words.
I can totally hear Bruce Campbell’s voice saying the girl’s name: Nutel-la. Though sometimes the look is more Billy Campbell. The artwork is cartoonish, with no attempt to be realistic. There’s silly dialogue and juvenile humor. One of the pirates is named Carapepino, which translates to Cucumber Face.
Too many plots, too many pirates, but it’s kinda likeable.
3/5

Emma and Violette: A Dream for Three
Two sisters are under pressure from themselves and their mom to ace the tryouts for ballet school. When one makes it and the other doesn’t, the family has to deal.
The artwork is gorgeous! I love how cinematographic it is, with characters in the foreground painted out of focus. I particularly like the way the mom’s drawn.

As far as the character, at first she comes off as rigid but shows another side after. At least she listens, if only to her husband. I like the little sister, who still has some innocence, and plays with teddy bears. But my fave character is the dad, who awesomely takes his daughter to the theater. The astronaut and the tree were her best costumes.
Just to prove it’s Paris, there’s the Bridge of Locks.
The girls have every right to be confused, that works well. But I was completely surprised by how confident and understanding the guys were, not at all what you’d expect from teen boys. Maybe it’s because the writer/artist is a man.
For such a short piece, there were some loose threads. Might have worked better without the romance or hip-hop angle, though the last one was over quickly enough.
The artwork is definitely the highlight.
3.5/5

Harmony: Memento
After two arrogant brothers in Ancient Greece have a tiff, the story goes to. . . 4000 years later! Yeah, good luck understanding that.
A young woman is stuck in a cellar, later an attic, being taken care of by an old man who claims to have found her unconscious, but she can’t remember anything.
Best part about her character is her sense of humor, like “This time I really do think I fried my brain.” She’s smarter than she looks, with the “changing clothes” gambit.
I like the part with the bird, and the glass of water. But it really is a strange story, going from fantasy and supernatural to military sci-fi. It ends with a “to-be-continued” vibe and what looks to be a back-cover blurb that gives a lot more info than the actual story.
3/5

;o)

Book Reviews: Dresses, Crimes, Fire, Cows, and Aliens

A Dress the Color of the Sky
A depressed self-loathing woman who can only find self-worth in sex with strangers checks into a harsh addiction clinic, wanting to save her marriage and do better for her teen son. As soon as she gets to group therapy, the story goes into flashback mode: childhood filled with abuse, moving away from daddy across the country, leaving her ducks behind. She makes a friend, and has her brother, but not exactly what you’d call a great support system. It all shows how she came to be so screwed up, but as necessary as they are to explain how she got to where she is, they sure are tough to get through.
In contrast, the chapters in rehab come across almost slice-of-life. . . if you live in a rehab facility, that is. (For the record, I don’t. . . really! I swear!)
I get why this book was written, but it’s so depressing! It’s sad, but it’s tough because there’s also a lot of funny sprinkled here and there. It took me forever to read, because every time something bad happened to her, I had to take a break.
A few days after finishing I was still conflicted. Had I known what this would be like, I would not have started it. Stories like these are just too difficult for me. But I finished it. I can’t really say I liked it, though there was nothing wrong with the writing. One of the discussion questions at the end asked which half of the book I preferred, and I can wholeheartedly say the present rather than the past. Every time I felt happy for her progress in therapy I got plunged back into her history of abuse. Just too rough.
2.5/5

Twisted Crimes
An elderly couple go to the wrong funeral and end up dead. DCI Sophie Allen—my current police crush—eventually shows up to find out why. Though the reason for the initial crime seems ridiculously slight, there’s no doubt such things do happen. That reason also makes it more difficult for the police to solve it, giving the whole team a chance to shine.
Halfway through I realized that, other than the hike with her husband (which was really work-related), there hadn’t been anything about her family in this one. Considering the previous editions and especially the last few, it seemed glaring.
I love this series. Despite the seriousness of the crimes, it doesn’t take itself too seriously. The very last scene wasn’t necessary, but I’m glad it’s there. Also glad the bad guys got what was coming to them, taken down by women, and not just Sophie this time.
4/5

Evil Crimes
In this installment of the fantastic series, DCI Sophie Allen and her squad, as well as cops in other jurisdictions, track a serial killer the likes of which they’d never seen before. There’s a huge twist a little past halfway, where it seems the investigation is over, but it continues on to a great climax that I would not have expected.
Even without all the newcomers in other parts of the country, there’s a lot of detectives to keep track of, and I’ve read every book in the series! Even though that’s realistic, I wish there could have been less people to keep track of. But that’s a minor point.
The writing is as smooth as ever, Sophie is as spectacular as ever, and Rae’s really making her mark. I like that Rae’s transition, while mentioned a few times, isn’t treated as a big deal. But more than anything, it takes an excellent writer to make you have sympathy for the story’s devil.
I’m not going to say this is the best of the series, but it is my favorite.
4/5

Proving Ground
A new security agent, full of insecurities and the weight of being a legacy, is on a stakeout at an airport and then follows her prey to an illicit meet, where everything of course goes wrong. Wouldn’t be much of story if it didn’t, right?
There’s decent surveillance tradecraft in the opening chapter. . . until the end, of course. Unfortunately that’s pretty much the end of that stuff as the plot settles into a mostly usual “girl back in town dealing with family and ex” story. Then it’s about survival.
From the beginning the stubbornness is off the charts. Though there might be such people here and there in the world, most really don’t behave this way in real life, become they end up doing something that teaches them better. . . or gets them killed! Stuff like this makes me like the characters a lot less. For instance, at one point toward the end, when she’s about to do the job she’s been trained for, he again tells her she shouldn’t be doing this. I actually screamed—inside my head—“Dude, shut up! She’s doing this, so either help her or get out of the way!” I was actually wondering if there was anyone in this book who wasn’t stupidly stubborn.
But the absolutely worst moment—trying not to spoiler—happens when she’s rescued but neglects to tell anyone about (something really bad) that’s going to happen. Argh! Why didn’t she? Because then she couldn’t be the hero at the end! This sacrificed any chance I could have had of finding her competent. Also, the cool and calm bad guy, as he was established early on—and what a coincidence that she ends up in exactly the same place he does—is shown being anything but at just the right time for her to notice. Very contrived scene.
Although I enjoyed the writing, I couldn’t help but feel there was too much introspection, in what is a short book anyway. There’s always some, of course, but there was so much thinking here, often hashing out the same ground, that it probably took up half the book. And everyone’s stubbornness didn’t make me feel like rooting for them.
2.5/5

Holy Crap! The World is Ending!
“It was a fairly warm night, a typical summer evening in Southern California.” You know that when a book starts like that, things are gonna get crazy. There’s also what might be the weirdest intro ever, but it sure did the job of preparing me for what was to come.
Which was basically: Earth is about to be destroyed; there’s a way to save humanity; some aliens want to, some don’t; aliens are among us, some of them very sexy; a seemingly ordinary girl is the Chosen One to save the planet.
It’s really cutesy, and somehow it managed to go through the entire book without overdoing it, which might be the most impressive thing. Things get crazy, but oddly enough after a while they get a bit predictable, but at least it’s funnier than previous tries of this kind of story. Even the fact that Part 2 starts at 89% made me laugh. But the most humorous stuff has to be the funny/weird tiny full-color drawings. The cow will haunt me despite her innocent look, especially the one where she’s holding a rose and a bottle of alien wine. . . while wearing a space helmet. In another she’s holding an ankh; I don’t know if I find that more weird or more normal.
I love the contents of the ark of the covenant, so much better than Indy’s version. The historical stuff all goes together nicely. . . if, you know, aliens.
Somewhere along the line the author decided to redeem Inanna, and boy did it work! Big time! I love her now.
Okay, a lot of research went into this. Felt a bit giddy whenever I recognized something, like Gilgamesh. The material is obviously taken seriously by the author, which is why it’s such a surprise that this book was just so darned funny, and fun. You hear a lot about wacky adventures, but this one actually lives up to the billing. More than anything, I have no idea if I would run away screaming or fall in love if I ever met Amber.
4/5

;o)

Book Reviews: Erotic Stepbrothers, Babe Geeks, and Aleins

The Billionaires: The Stepbrothers
Insurance investigator finally gets to interview an art robbery suspect, but she finds him so hot she can’t think straight. And he knows it, using the control she’s given him to get her into bed while convincing her he’s innocent. So she goes to interview his stepbrother and, guess what, same thing happens.
As would be expected, after she sleeps with them separately there are times when both have her together. If it was just about the sex it would be relatively easy to write, but when she’s in love with both and wants a threesome relationship it’s a lot harder. Happy to say this writer pulled it off pretty well, as well as making a good mystery. The parallels of the car accidents and subsequent survivors’ guilt was well done.
Enjoyed this thoroughly. I’m predisposed to liking the lead because I love redheads, but the guys were better than most in this genre and the plot was enjoyable. Just one question: what happened to the puppy during that first night. . .?
4/5

Play Crush
A young geeky—but of course hot—female techie is tasked with doing the field work to test football helmets in hopes that head injuries will be curtailed. The players love her, one—actually more than one, but only one matters in this story—in particular.
I love this girl, at least most of the time, when she’s not being a pushover. I like the set-up. The guys are okay, probably because I semi-remember some of them from a previous book. But there’s something off about this; not enjoying it like I should, given all that’s going for it. At some points it went as far as tedious. It’s easy enough to say that lack of communication is a problem, but then that happens in just about all books in this genre, so I can’t use that one here.
As I said in the other book in this series that I’ve read, it’s hard to keep track of all the players. For example, Bam feels like a giant lineman; I’m surprised each time it’s mentioned he’s the halfback. Perhaps a character sheet should be included.
The ending, and all the Star Trek jokes, made me feel better about it, but I still didn’t enjoy it as much as I would have thought.
3/5

The Roswell Affair
As you can see from the title, the Roswell crash is the setting for yet another story, this time with a hot nurse/scientist called in to interrogate a not-so-alien alien in the famous 1947 crash. Within minutes she’s in lust for him and they’re communicating through sex, which is why the military failed to establish a dialogue.
This works because the main characters are likeable, with an immediate chemistry that might actually be chemical, not just the way the word is used today. Some slight touches of the era were nice, though even for something that takes place 70 years ago it’s hard to imagine the government agents being such asses; ditto for the soldiers. Don’t think they needed to be painted with such black strokes in order for this story to work, though maybe because it was so short there wasn’t time to do anything else with them.
It turns out to be a complete Mary Sue, but since I liked it I’ll let it pass. But for such a short story it didn’t help that 10% of this is ads for other books at the end.
3.5/5

Adam: Doms of the Silver Screen Book 2
A “scream queen” actress gets a role in a “serious” production, only to find her estranged husband is directing. She doesn’t want to quit, but she doesn’t want anything to do with him either. He harasses her until she gives in. (This story takes off from the first book in the series, but reading it is not required to understand this one.)
Even though he’s the Dom of the title, the story is really more about her. There are funny moments in the first half, most of them on the set—I’ve actually seen a bed break during filming, but that actress’s reaction was far different—but there’s just one overwhelming problem, which I can boil down to: I love Nicki, I loathe Adam.
That’s really all that needs to be said. Most of these types of stories feature an alpha male who won’t take no for an answer, but this is a new low. I doubt I will ever hate a character more than I hated Adam. This might have been an okay book if he wasn’t such an unlikeable asshole.
The first book in the series, even if it was far shorter, was so much better.
2/5

;o)

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)

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)