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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

;o)

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Book Reviews: Graphic Gauguin and Grabbings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

;o)

Book Reviews: Violins and Other Fantasies

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

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

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

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

;o)

Book Reviews: Bears Doing Other Things in the Woods

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

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

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

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

;o)

Book Reviews: Non-Fic is the Right Pick

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

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

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

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

;o)

Book Reviews: Zombies, Porn Stars, and Aliens

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

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

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

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

;o)

Book Reviews: Sci-fi, Mystery, and Other Necessities

The Bronze Skies
After fleshing out all corners and eras of her massive Skolian universe, Doctor Asaro goes back to the beginning in the second book in the Major Bhaajan series. The first was so amazing it’s gonna be a tough act to follow, though it just might have.
I was particularly excited when the blurb mentioned Jagernauts were involved, so I was really hoping Digjan was in this! Nope, Dr. Asaro is just teasing me as usual. Instead it’s a much more seasoned psychic warrior that’s on the warpath, so Bhaaj is called in to find her before she can make another attempt at murdering one of the most important people in the empire, leading into one of Dr. Asaro’s favorite subjects, AI. In what might be called a glut of “robots will rise up and take over” stories nowadays, this one stands out, even from her own previous books like the Alpha series.
Archaeology, anthropology, astronomy, sociology, and of course the inevitable high-level math and science are all happily present here. The best parts, however, are the small moments, especially when she’s helping her people: trying to get a permit for one to sell his wares aboveground, arranging a martial arts competition between her students and an academy, and so on. They really round out her character, making her more than just a detective. At the beginning of the first book she didn’t have much personality, though she grew throughout that story; here she’s even more human, to the point where she’s even telling jokes full of sexual innuendo. It’s a bit startling, considering how tightly wound up she was in the first one. Even more so, she finds out more about the powers she’d been afraid she had at the end of the first.
This story also expands the already large scope of the undercity, but also introduces the above world other than Cries, the legendary planet where human life was transported from Earth so long ago. In the scope of the three huge space empires it’s pretty insignificant, but somehow harder to grasp. I’d been hoping this would lead to finding out what alien race seeded the planet with humans in the first place, but despite the clues in what they left behind it didn’t go that far. It did give us an archaeological site that sounds like it came right out of a video game, and the special Jagernauts that guard it. I anticipate many more stories coming out of that.
So in the end Bhaaj—Calaj too—saved the universe every bit as much as Soz, but just like her, no one will ever know. . .
4.5/5

Beg for Mercy
Mercy went from growing up in a brothel to becoming an assassin, but retains enough humanity to chuck her assigned job when she finds a conspiracy that’s much bigger and more dangerous for what remains of the western United States. Along the way she gets involved with a legendary figure that shares a common enemy.
Yes, this is a dystopian romance/erotica, though that last part was minimal. Not unheard of, but definitely rare.
Not sure about this one. The many factions made it hard to follow, and Mercy was just too stubborn to root for. At one point she puts herself out as bait to catch the bad guy, having conveniently forgotten about the bounty on her. The action was realistic, but the sex scenes didn’t pack as much heat.
3/5

The Unity
A military leader in a sprawling authoritarian space empire questions his oath when his second-in-command tries to kill him. From there the story sprawls all over the galaxy, with a huge cast of characters and ships, far too many to keep track.
There are some nice moments, like the intro and background for Dr. Aravantis; short but sweet, and most importantly memorable. His creations were also a delight to get to know, but the negatives far outweighed them. I had huge problems with the conspiracy, and especially all the killing, alternatively making me annoyed or sad, and I don’t like that. Most of the circumstances were unnecessary, and the dead are hardly grieved over at all. In fact, the whole book seems devoid of emotion. It definitely didn’t make me want to read the sequel.
2/5

Girl, Wash Your Face
I picked this up because I’m a huge fan of Rachel Hollis, though that’s her fiction rather than her lifestyle website. So this work of self-help was new territory for me, but I was quickly relieved to find her amazing humor was still there.
This book feels like a bunch of blog posts, which for all I know is true. At the beginning there’s a section on the true but tired platitude of taking care of yourself before you help others, which by now is so overused it’s hardly a new concept. She does manage to weave several points together, which does help.
This would have been just as good without all the religious stuff thrown in. I feel the earnestness; I don’t believe anything written here is less than genuine. But I can’t be sure if that belief is there because I’m a big fan of her previous works. Nevertheless, it’s more than worthwhile reading for those who aren’t familiar with her Girl series and have no preconceived notions.
3.5/5

Egyptian Enigma
Having enjoyed this author’s previous works, taking place mostly in Australia with fictionalized history tours to the old civilizations of Mesoamerica, this entry tackles Egypt, possibly the only place that would have even more fodder for stories like these. Though it follows the pattern of trying to solve an old archaeological mystery, this book has less in the way of modern conundrums. Most of the story involves who’s in the sarcophagus, but other than a stolen notebook and a break-in, there’s no real mystery until the end, and that’s only a setup for the next book.
The one thing I love the most about this character is her memory palace, and the way it works as a library. If she wants to remember something, it comes up as though brought to her by a librarian. Pretty cool. Just as fun is her amazingly diverse family, if you don’t count all the cats.
It’s funny that the author takes the time to write out the Welsh dialogue, as it’s never pronounced like it’s spelled.
Despite liking Egyptian archaeology very much, I’m not enjoying this nearly as much as I did the previous books, with the flashbacks in Mesoamerica. But if nothing else, this book rekindled my interest in the 18th and 19th dynasties of Egypt. And all the references to Buffy, Firefly, Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. . . seriously, this writer is from my tribe.
Long recipes and glossary at end, along with dedications. Wait, my archaeological crush Dr. Kara Cooney was in there and I missed her? Ouch. Please don’t tell her.
There was one point I disliked. In one of the sections taking place in ancient Egypt, the rulers tasks her scribe to check the records to “seek guidance from the ancients.” He does find something similar in the past, but it never occurred to the ruler that, in this time where anyone could be a suspect in the conspiracy, this guy could make up anything he wanted. . .
4/5

The Treachery of Russian Nesting Dolls
I do hate coming to a series late—this is the fourth—but it sounded too intriguing to pass up. It starts with a bang in the red-light district of Amsterdam, and the most unusual foot chase you’ll ever read.
The main character is intriguing, which is more than I can say for the plot, which did not invest me at all. The mystery-solving had its bright spots, but then the writer ruined it by not giving me a chance to solve the case; the clue that did it was not given to the audience till after. Not fun.
Second off, I didn’t like the roller coaster ending, mostly because I didn’t see the point of it. Maybe there was something in the previous books that led to that big moment, but it doesn’t seem likely. The author has an agenda we’re not privy to, other than his obvious hatred for the latest Russian baddie in power.
2.5/5

The Telling Image: Shapes of Changing Times
This is a picture book that wants to be more than that.
The first part reads like Intro to Human Anthropology. There’s an intriguing observation about shapes, the round and the square in Liberia shown as examples. One gorgeous photo brought good memories of Stonehenge, before it was fenced off. The Big Dipper-Great Bear-laptop thing was a bit forced, though that was quickly overshadowed by the most beautiful shot of a spiderweb ever.
This is definitely not something you should read in one sitting, with numerous philosophical discussions that will make you pause to think. This isn’t a coffeetable book that gets opened to look at pretty pictures; the photos here serve to highlight the text.
3.5/5

Love and Laughter
Right at the start, when the author introduces herself, she writes, “In the pages that follow, we’ll talk frankly (because I don’t know how to be anything else!). . . My name is Beth Liebling, and I’m a sappy, emotional, hopelessly optimistic romantic. I believe in happy fairy tales and forever love.” She also mentions that she’s a divorce lawyer. . .
A very conversational intro leads to exactly the same in the main part of the book. It’s important to go into this expecting it to be fun rather than a serious discussion about sex, though the title should have been enough of a clue. At one point she compares romance to going to the theater, then being in a play with your partner. It’s a little trite, but her enthusiasm is infectious.
There’s artwork, sometimes small shots of lingerie as chapter headers, but other times full drawings that seem cartoonish, which works in this setting. Some of the jokes are hokey, and sometimes she goes out of her way for a joke that isn’t really there, but on the other hand I prefer earnestness to sullen any day.
And that’s it exactly. More than just fun, it’s optimistic. I can easily imagine her responding the exact same way in person at her shop.
4/5

;o)