Book Reviews: Spanking, Shakespeare, and History

Back from three weeks of shooting sports and dodging mosquitos and party animal athletes. What’d I miss?

“Is she your new crush?”
“I object to the use of the term ‘new.’”

The Hand of Vengeance
In 2560 A.D., on a planet far away, a human doctor in a Without Borders situation gets kidnapped to save the rebel leader. Her plane is shot down and she has to survive by following the orders of the alpha who took her. Sparks of many kinds ensue, especially on her posterior.
First of all, an interesting setting for an erotica novel. On the other hand, having a stubborn educated woman forced to do what the hulking soldier tells her to is a situation rife for spanking punishment, which had become a big niche lately. Unlike some stories, there’s actual sex involved too.
Perhaps I’ve read too many of these lately, for I found the spanking parts boring. What makes this book a bit more interesting is the world building, unexpected yet welcome as a diversion, even if the plot has been done before. There’s plenty here besides the sex, is what I’m trying to say.
3.5/5

Strange History
This book is published by the Bathroom Readers’ Institute, which is basically all you need to know. Yup, this is one of those books you put next to the toilet to entertain yourself or your guests while busy doing other, more biologically necessary things.
This follows no pattern; might as well simply open the book to a random page. It does live up to its name, and is often funny. Some of these anecdotes are eye-opening, others made me wonder which tidbits were left out. But more than anything it supplied some moments of fun, which is all one can ask from such a tome.
4/5

Who REALLY Wrote Shakespeare?
I’ve written on this very question on this blog before, so no surprise I checked this one out. However, all those previous books were much better than this one, and I really should have taken notice of the way REALLY is capitalized in the title, as it was a foreshadowing of amateurish things to come.
With it being done first person, it’s hard to remember this is fiction. And with the writing so clumsy, it might have worked better in non-fiction form. Often the dialogue was too cutesy, bordering on cheesy. A good pun makes you groan; a bad one leaves you exasperated, and there was far too much exasperation here.
I remember writing a paper in high school where I was so glad to have it done I simply turned it in without rereading and revising, and this has the same feeling. There are so many times Jenny says, “That’s right,” that I almost felt like it was a running joke gone bad (I’m guessing the author never watched A Bit of Fry and Laurie). Their discussions, which take up most of the book, are always interrupted for food, usually with the same speech.
Despite the fact that the info dumps are for the most part done okay—though an overabundance of them that made the names too hard to keep straight—the writing itself fails stylistically. It’s quite irritating to have the dialogue mention the characters’ names every paragraph, as though it wasn’t obvious whom they were addressing from the previous passage. In addition to that, there’s so many useless moments of “said,” “answered,” “replied,” without adverbs. I would advise that an author read their words aloud to make sure they sound like a real conversation, because it sure didn’t here.
As far as the reasoning behind the theories, the arguments were presented so painstakingly—more my pain than his—that I wanted to skip ahead rather than worry if I got his point, which is new for me. As I said, I’ve read other books on this subject, so I know that some theories and facts were ignored here. All very frustrating, not the least when near the end it switches to a different narrator.
And then it ends on a strange sequel hook. . .
1.5/5

His Little Lapis
Oh wow, another spanking story! Yet like the one above, it works because of its setting, this time the wild west town of Culpepper Cove, just as uncivilized as all mining towns in history.
A former governess who is now a submissive whore falls for the mayor of the small town. He falls for her too, but he can’t be seen with a prostitute, right? He tries to repress his desire and of course fails miserably.
What makes this story different is the addition of the mayor’s niece, a precocious child who tugs at the fallen woman’s heartstrings. On the sly she teaches her to read, mostly with a children’s book she wrote herself. This leads into situations that force the mayor to take a deeper look at this woman, after spanking and having sex with her, of course.
All in all, a sweet little story in the setting of spanking, but ultimately not about it.
3.5/5

;o)

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Book Reviews: Southern and Brit Cops, Chickies, and Romeo

“C’mon, let’s have sex,” she grinned.
“You want to have sex with ME? Has every other man in the world died?”

Fixin’ to Die
In Cottonwood, Kentucky, the new sheriff thinks she’s taken over the law enforcement mantle from granddaddy, and quickly finds that’s not the case as she attempts to solve the murder of the town doctor as well as a jewelry theft.
These two lines will tell you what kind of story this is: “I grabbed the old beacon police light, licked the suction cup, and slapped it on the roof of the Jeep, grazing the side with my finger to flip on the light and siren.” And “Like any business in Cottonwood, the door to the funeral home was unlocked and I let myself in.” Reminds me of Magoddy, though not trying to be as funny.
I am not liking these townspeople, though I suppose this is true to life in a small Suthin’ town. I did like the sheriff, though; I always enjoy a story better when I can get behind the protagonist, even if she’s not the smartest tool in the law enforcement shed. Hopefully with more experience–possibly with her new cop buddy–she’ll get better results, especially considering her atrocious interrogation technique.
About three quarters of the way I thought {the eventual killer} was in on it, but more in a covering-up way, so I was half-right, and consequently half-glad. The other half of me was disgruntled; I guess the clues were there, but if the sheriff couldn’t figure it out–even with the help of the supernatural and all her local knowledge–how can the reader?
AND WHAT ABOUT THE BITE MARKS?
Enjoyed the writing, but ultimately not the plotting at the end.
3/5

Deadly Crimes
In this second novel featuring the wonderful DCI Sophie Allen, things get personal.
A long time ago a man walking in the rain runs into a robbery and is killed. Back to the present, a guy in a white slavery ring finds a relative is one of the victims. She escapes, he doesn’t. Over the course of the book everything ties together, but makes this the most emotionally difficult case she’s ever worked on.
I liked Sophie a lot in the first book, and she’s just as badass here. The difference is we see a new side of her, endearing, loving, and most of wracked by tremendous guilt for having made assumptions about her father that were horrifically untrue. She’s picking up new family from all directions, and at times it threatens to overwhelm her. Difficult watching a character I’ve come to love go through so much, but of course she comes out stronger in the end. On the flipside, we find out a lot more about her daughters, one of whom turns out be quite wild, though in a good way; she’d be exhausting to have as a daughter, but everyone else sure loves her.
Blossom turned into quite the interesting character, but the clues about Jennie weren’t quite subtle enough. Absolutely no doubt about who the dominatrix attacker was, with enough clues sprinkled about, though I like how the author made her fellow cops think it was Sophie. My only question is how this young woman with absolutely no investigative experience found the bad guy in the first place.
This one was as good as the first, though maybe not as focused. Some of the “new family” scenes were a bit awkward, and as strong as the poor victim was, she seemed to recover a bit too quickly, even with all the help she was getting. But those are minor nitpicks. Already can’t wait for next one.
4/5

Little Chickies/Los Pollitos
A famous Spanish nursery rhyme about babies and mommies is turned into visual, as well as translated into English.
This is only 25 pages, but not even that long, as the first half is in English and then the second is the same story in Spanish. As someone who can read both languages, I’m impressed at how well the story translated while still making it rhyme. The artwork is lovely, which is really what matters here, since I doubt kids of this reading age care how corny the rhymes are.
Since I read this on the computer, I went to the website to see how the book works in real life, finding the accordion style fitting well for the two-language format, as well as the inserts that give a little motion to the story. Also saw a video with the song, which is no doubt what the kids will remember the most.
4/5

Romeo and Juliet In Plain and Simple English
As the title shouts, this is a version of the classic Shakespeare play “translated” into modern English; apparently the author was unaware this has already been done on the internet. But since it reminded me of a hilarious scene in a Star Trek book where a hammy actor does Hamlet in modern language and the Klingons love it, I gave it a shot.
Here’s an example of the “translation”:
Original: I strike quickly, being moved.
New: I will fight in a minute, if someone messes with me.
Amusingly enough, after a while you forget the new syntax and it becomes normal.
Only the first 25% is the new version. Then comes the original, and finally both together at 57%. That shoulda gone first, and was really all that was needed.
3/5

;o)

Book Reviews: Shakespeare, Ninja Turtles, and Kraken

If someone admits they’re a compulsive liar, don’t say, “I find that hard to believe!”

 

The Shakespeare Conspiracy

A meaty fictional novel on how the author thinks Christopher Marlowe staged his death and lived on to be the actual writer of Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets. Note: I’m a huge proponent of the theory that Shakespeare didn’t write the plays; my favorite notion is Marlowe, but I don’t insist on it. I had no idea this book was about that when I digitally picked it up, but I’m sure that played a part in why I enjoyed it. On the other hand, there was much that could have been done better.

First and foremost, I think the author is pushing it when he insists that the common lines between Marlowe and Shakespeare are proof of the former still being alive. Plagiarism would seem to be the horse rather than the zebra here. There were points where I thought the writing could have been improved as well. But the other historical evidence he uses, some of which I hadn’t heard before, is spot on, and the fact it plays right into my own beliefs only makes it all the more fun. My favorite line is about Shakespeare holding horses for the gentry while they were watching the plays; so he wasn’t even a good enough actor, he was just the valet!

A bunch of notes, almost a fifth of the book, at the end on what is fact and what is fiction; some are rather startling.

3.5/5

 

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Amazing Adventures Volume 1
The title really says it all, doesn’t it? The actual plots are hardly necessary, just a framework for the mayhem that ensues.
In the first story a bad guy goes around collecting all the animals—mutant version—of the Japanese zodiac. Evil guys are like that. Some heroes these turtles are, felled by a supersonic cluck. Never having watched any of the movies or TV shows, I have to wonder: did they always suck? They lose every fight.
But that’s hardly the important thing here. Most graphic novels are written, if not with adults in mind, at least smart enough for older teenagers to enjoy. This one is not; it feels more like middle-school level, while occasionally sprinkling in big words. I felt at times like the whole thing had been dumbed down, not so much for me, but for kids that must have already read better than this.
The second story hardly had the turtles at all, but since the new protagonists were much more interesting, that was okay. I’d never seen cold pizza used as a deus ex machina, but whatever works.
The third story is drawn—and I know the irony in putting it this way—cartoonish, like it was done for, or by, kindergarteners. The writing is similar: “I guess I’m just a silly.” But since this was obviously done on purpose I’m going with it.
The fourth story has a bored turtle making his own graphic novel; hope it doesn’t turn out meta!
The fifth story has Michaelangelo taking an out of town friend to Coney Island, where of course all heck breaks loose. The lesson here is humans suck, but not all of them; yes, it’s that anvillicious.
In the last story a human redhead hunts down a boom box after a cassette was found in the junkyard.
The first story was the worst in how it related to the audience; after that it felt like they were more in on the joke. Still, none of them were all that exciting, or made the heroes interesting. It feels like a lost opportunity.
2/5

The Demonic Kraken Debacle in Hollywood
A guy, a demon, and a dog fight off a skeleton army on a beach in a room that’s technically not on earth, all to get some buried gold. Exactly the circumstances where you want a dog around, though Doggie might go crazy with such a humongous selection of bones to choose from.
Other adventures follow, including a flying castle and its resident dragon, and a trip to Hollywood, which might be even more unbelievable. (Take it from someone who’s lived in El Lay all his life.)
Though obviously written for kids, it’s a fast-moving enjoyable romp through fantasy worlds—yes, Hollywood is included in that. Plot is hardly important as they jump from one mess to another, meeting new characters along the way. Sara’s my favorite, and it bodes well that at the end she’s joining up with the regulars. The fact the demon can’t stand her is a bonus.
All in all, a cute story for preteens.
4/5

The Perfect Escort
American woman working in Sydney is lonely, so a friend hooks her up with an escort she hired before getting married. That’s really all there is to it, as the story is extremely short, just a setup and two scenes: getting to know one another, and sex.
I enjoyed the main character, not at all surprised that a techie was also a Trekkie. The guy was fairly typical, thankfully confident without falling into overconfident, and good at his job; as noted in the text, repeat business is the bread and butter of that industry. But it was the lady who carried the story so well, one of those career women who have no idea how attractive they are because they’re always choosing the wrong guy. Her characterization actually makes the story as realistic as such a story can be.
3.5/5

;o)

Theater Review: Romeo and Juliet at A Noise Within

On a typically warm SoCal Sunday afternoon I jumped onto a frigidly air-conditioned bus for the seven-minute jaunt to the Eastern Pasadena locale of the theater company known as A Noise Within. But as always my first stop was Hook Burger, though I was in a time dilemma: I wasn’t hungry yet at 1:30PM, but the play wouldn’t be done till 4:30, which meant my stomach would be gnawing at me around intermission time. So I did the only logical thing: rather than having a burger that I wasn’t in the mood for yet, I ordered an orange cream float, because everyone has room for ice cream, right? I even found out I can have it to go, which sounded weird but turned out easier than I anticipated, in a regular fancy-coffee-style cup with me adding the orange cream soda whenever needed through the hole in the dome on top.
Once inside the stylish 1960’s building housing the theater, I spent some time perusing the display of past productions, as next year is the company’s 25th anniversary and they want the fans to play a part in choosing next year’s shows. That wasted enough time for me to finish my dessert-first-or-only meal before heading down to my seat. Once comfortably ensconced, I took in the stage, which featured a graffiti backdrop with similarly decorated dumpsters. More to the point, the actors were on stage, walking around, talking to each other, as though psyching themselves up. In my head I joked that they were going to form in a circle and put their hands in for “Break!” only to find them actually doing it!
Okay, on to Romeo and Juliet, no doubt the most famous of Shakespeare’s plays, along with Hamlet; star-crossed lovers and all that. In the lobby I’d seen plenty of teens, so I wondered just how surprised they would be to find the play isn’t just the love affair that is emphasized in most high school English classes, no doubt in order to get the students to pay more attention.
Unlike people I’ve talked to who are fascinated by every rendition of the Queen Mab soliloquy, I’ve never thought of it as that special. . . until Rafael Goldstein did it here. I can’t even tell you why it got to me this time, only that it did, at least enough for me to remember it as one of the highlights.
Just about every Shakespeare piece has some music to it, in this case the party at the Capulets, where Romeo sneaks in and first sees Juliet. The difference in this production was the inclusion of a live violinist up in what would later become Juliet’s window (don’t get me started on the “balcony” thing). There’s also enough banging on the dumpsters during the fight scenes to remind me of Stomp.
I’ve seen Robinson Dean in plenty of productions here, as well as being the translator for Antigone, but this is my first time watching him do comedy, shuffling about barefoot like a ditzy old man; his exclamation of “Holy Saint Francis!” had me metaphorically rolling on the floor. Lacy Capulet, played by company regular Jill Hill, brought some levity as well as heavy angst to the small role, looking like a Beverly Hills matron/airhead in her gold boots while smoking and drinking before letting it all out when she wanted Romeo dead for killing her nephew Tybalt.
But if I had to single out one actor, it would be June Carryl, whom at the beginning shows a barely controlled rage as the Prince—I love how this company has a tradition of casting women in male roles, as though thumbing their nose at Shakespeare’s time, when all the actors were men—and then delivering a hilarious performance as the nurse, particularly when she exasperates Juliet by claiming she’s too out of breath to tell the news. I wish I could remember her turn on Castle, but I’ll sure be on the lookout for her name from now on. Also switching genders was Charlotte Gulezian as a tomboyish Benvolio, who quickly made me forget the character was supposed to be male, so natural was she.
If I had one small quibble it would be with Will Bradley in the male lead. Let’s face it, Romeo is well described as the world’s first Emo, so there’s plenty of room to ham things up. Still, I thought that in this performance he might have taken it too far; having seen it so many times, this is the first time I really didn’t like Romeo, thought he was a selfish jerk more than just a guy carried away by love. Will was so excellent in Figaro, but that was a farce, where there’s no limit to the ham, cheese, and relish you can stuff in that acting sandwich, but here I would have appreciated just a touch more restraint. Also leaving tooth marks on the scenery was Alan Blumenfeld as Capulet, but whether being jovial at the party or angry during the fights scenes and his disagreement with Juliet, it seemed completely in character.
I almost hate to leave out Juliet, because it’s not that I had any problem with Donnla Hughes’ portrayal. I suppose because some of the other actors were so amazing, she didn’t register as much with me, or perhaps as the voice of reason she didn’t get as much opportunity to shine.
As for the set, I don’t think the graffiti-clad alleyway did anything for me; not worse, but not better. Same for their clothes, though Romeo in a hoodie was as perfect as possible. What was strange was seeing the actors hanging around the stage, both in the wings and on the steps around the stage, almost part of the audience, watching but not part of it, seeing things their characters didn’t. Have to admit it was a little distracting.
The dumpsters, on the other hand, might be considered their own characters. They are used to full effect, like in the scene with the apothecary, where he’s inside the usually-smelly rolling box, wearing a mask so we don’t see it’s same actor as Mercutio. There’s plenty of acrobatics on them, with some of the actors lying on them as they watch the action, banging for sound effect. At one point Juliet is climbing back to her window and hangs with her foot on the narrow side protrusion, a precarious position that had me fearing for her safety. Even more so was when the dumpster was used to hold her supposedly dead body at the end, though fortunately for her comfort they added a mattress. Since it’s impossible to gauge how wide the thing is from the audience, I was again distracted by the thought she might fall off, more than doubly so when Romeo joined her up there. The paper lanterns didn’t help the depth perception either, and made the scene kinda eerie, yet also produced a beautiful light as Juliet lies there. And then there’s Paris lying on the floor for what seemed like forever. . .
Whooo! Deep breath as the light come up. As usual I waited while most people scooted out, then glanced at the nextrip app and saw that my bus was leaving in two minutes! Dashing up the stairs, which none of my doctors recommend, I dodge through the crowd like a running back, out the back door, along the small tree-lined walkway between the condos and the construction site, and into the cavernous bus station under the parking structure and light-rail station. Made it just as the bus was pulling in! Endorphins flow!

Bonus coverage!
Last night was the meeting of the INsiders, a group under the auspices of A Noise Within who gather to discuss the plays being done, and of course this was Romeo and Juliet night. That was why I waited to write this review even though I saw the production last week. We were joined by Miranda Johnson-Haddad, who is a renown Shakespearean expert, and Amir Abdullah, who brought Paris to life. . . and death.
But first I had to go to Hook Burger of course, for my customary Prime Burger plain with cheese and bacon, with an orange cream soda to wash it all down. It only helped that they had sent me a coupon for a free burger in the mail, and I went early enough not to worry about being late to the meeting. In fact I had enough time to walk down the block to the really long strip mall, where I bypassed Jamba to hit up Baskin Robbins, finding to my amazement they had a bucket of orange sherbet open for business! I have not seen orange available for at least five years, so it felt like this was a night where nothing could go wrong, and to hell with tempting fate!
Hard to remember all the topics that were covered once things got started, but with this being such a popular play there was plenty to discuss, even for me; in the past I’ve felt left out when I didn’t know the production all that well. My main question for Amir was: considering the setting and costumes, was there any discussion to completely modernize and set the play in contemporary times? He admitted they had talked about it, and he joked that he would have liked to pull out his cell phone when he’s asked the time, but they ultimately decided against it, which I think was the right call for two reasons. First and foremost, the tragedy hinges on Romeo not getting the news that Juliet’s faking her death, with the Black Plague as an excuse for the messenger not getting the job done. In modern times it would have simply taken an email, and would have been especially timely, since Romeo would have heard about Juliet’s death on Facebook or Twitter. The second reason was that even if modern doctors were fooled by the potion simulating Juliet’s death. . . autopsy! Yikes!
One point that I forgot to bring up was that this is not just an infatuation between teens, but an infatuation between RICH teens. Had they been peasants, no one would have cared, and all the deaths wouldn’t have happened. In fact, poor teens probably wouldn’t have reacted that way anyhow; they had work to do.
{Hmmmm, I just remembered there were a couple of times when Miranda said, “What’s discussed in this room stays in this room.” Oopsie. . .}

;o)

Book Reviews: Toads, Titan, and Tokyo

When she ordered the enchiladas with cheesecake, I told her I wasn’t going to kiss her goodnight.
She seemed relieved.

As you can tell from the title, I love alliteration.

Toad Weather
Tiny children’s book where Mom cajoles daughter and grandmother into a walk in the rain; grandma is grumpy the whole way while the little girl jumps in puddles. Eventually they come to a strange sight that even grandma agrees was worth getting wet. And it’s based on a true story!
There really isn’t much you can say about a picture book that runs 32 pages; just a cute simple story for kids. What I did find fascinating were the paintings. At the beginning it says they’re pastels, but they’re so lifelike!
4/5

Titan Born
A sci-fi tale where the solar system has been colonized and a lot of people not on Earth are none too happy with the mother planet. In this maelstrom an enforcer for one of the giant corporations gets a new partner and is sent to take care of things.
After a while I realized this was future noir, if that’s really the term; not exactly Philip Marlowe in outer space, but close. There’s a lot of world building, future Earth building, right down to religion, with some moderately well done info drops. I never really understood what Zhaff was—human, android, cyborg?—even with the reveal toward the end of where he came from.
And speaking of the end, there’s a big twist, which I saw coming. It also ends in a cliffhanger, but there’s sure to be a sequel.
3.5/5

Random Body Parts
A small book that’s basically florid rhymes—some forced, some clever—about body parts, followed by more scientific explanations.
For me this was almost a guessing game; anatomy was my worst subject. And some of them are pretty gross. The twist is the whole thing is based on Shakespeare; if the Macbeth opener doesn’t convince you, the “Shall I compare you?” sonnet will. There’s even a rudimentary drawing of Shakespeare later on.
In a book that’s only 48 pages, and a lot of that being graphics, just a little more than half of that is actual book, with a glossary and poetry explanations taking up the rest. And yet I couldn’t say that making it longer would necessarily make it better.
3.5/5

Motions and Moments
This is the third book in a series that features essays about Tokyo, from an American who’s been living there for decades. The first two books were excellent in his examination of the minutiae of Japanese life that everyone else misses, and this third is more of the same sheer joyfulness. For example, it starts with the Japanese take on staring contests, a small everyday thing that was exactly the kind of event the author explained so well in the first two books.
I would have never thought anyone could write so much about futons, or plastic. Every city has kiosks, but only this author writes about them, and seems genuinely fascinated by them. He even manages to find some fundamental truths about jazz, far away from New Orleans or anywhere else the style is famous. There’s even a whole section on the psychological impact of the giant earthquake and aftermath.
But it’s his prose that most gets me. “When someone drops a cell phone, when the little silicon center of the universe clatters to the floor, it is like a young child falling over: everyone looks to see if the child is OK.” Moments like these show we’re not so different after all.
4.5/5

;o)

Books At The Huntington

A few of my fave written things at the Huntington Library

! Shakespeare first folio

Shakespeare First Folio. I’ve seen actors cry as they try to touch it through the glass. . .

! w Hamlet first edition

Hamlet first edition–an early version, not the one we see today.

! x Paradise Lost

Paradise Lost–the first science fiction novel, unless you count the bible.

! y walden

Walden–nuff said.

! z Canterbury Tales Ellesmere Chaucer

Canterbury Tales (The Ellesmere Chaucer)–actually not one of my faves, but I couldn’t resist the tiny drawings.

;o)

Book Reviews: Lisping Cats, Fantasy Shorts, and Murderers

“How ‘bout some ice cream?”
“So early in the morning?” she chirped perkily.
I made the kind of grimace that usually spelled doom for a relationship. “It ain’t vodka.”

The Mutts Winter Diaries
This is a collection of comic strips from a series I’ve never seen, so it was interesting getting what is supposed to be a one-a-day all at once. The downside of this was not being familiar with the characters; took me a while to realize the one with the lisp is a cat.
Each section features a running theme; in the first we get dogs, cats, and birds all hating snow. The dog wears a sweater, the cat loses his purr, so on. The artwork is kinda minimal, almost sketchlike, but it doesn’t detract.
In a way it’s a typical comic strip: anthropomorphic animals being funny. This is steadily chuckleworthy, though some chuckles were louder than others. Don’t remember any actual laugh-out-loud moments, but certainly worth the time it took me to read it.
4/5

Dead Silent
Two cases in Manchester—England, that is—plus romantic problems keep a police detective on his toes. Between his affair with a hot reporter, a missing child, and a torture psycho murder, the cop seems in way over his head, but luckily has a few subordinates and a daughter that help him through. On the other hand, a mobster cousin promises to derail his career if he doesn’t help him with an alibi, as if there weren’t enough complications.
Didn’t like the ending, especially since I detest sequel hooks, or the way the poor Polish nanny was treated, but until then a solid detective thriller. Though I’m pretty well versed on Brit slang, the glossary at the end was helpful; I would have thought I would have figured out what “nick” meant by now. . .
4/5

Die for Me
Didn’t realize until I was near the end that I’d read another book in this series, of which this is the eighth; I blame it on the first person point of view.
A former reporter/now PI hears from a woman he once saved; she’s now a psychic, and tells him she pictured a body dump, and he has to find it. Despite the paucity of clues she gives him, and always remembering that this kind of plot twist is going to be convenient, I found the way it was all worked out convincing and logical, which put me in a good mood for the rest of the novel.
The rescue of the damsel in distress, while not eminently predictable, still happened the way I thought it would, albeit by someone other than the hero. The killer also turned out to be the most obvious, the one character who really didn’t have to be in the story. The most interesting part is all the women, many of whom are more interested in him than he is in them. I particularly liked the female detective, and wish there had been more on her; if there are more books in this series, I hope she’s in them. On the other hand, his soon-to-be-ex seems to only be there to tie up loose ends from previous books, and while at first I liked the coincidental meeting with the psychic’s niece, she soured me quickly.
In general, I liked it well enough, a serviceable mystery/thriller.
4/5

Strange Worlds Stories
As always with collections of short stories, it’s hard to give one single grade for the whole thing, while also bothersome to give a rating to each story.
Some of these are very entertaining. The first story features a doctor treating an alien for butt pain, only to be ground down by bureaucracy and a government cover-up; could have been better without the romantic frame, but still a solid 4. But from there a number of linked fantasy sorties, most of them parodies of other stories or genres, take up the bulk of the book, and little by little I lost interest. As a fan of the Myth series by Robert Asprin, as well as George Alec Effinger’s Maureen Birnbaum universe, it seemed to me that was what this author was reaching for, but it was never funny enough to get there. The western parody was cute, the Lord of the Rings one not as much. The Maid Marian story was fun, but unlike the previous entries, I felt the writing was more pedestrian here. Another entry seems to be a parody of 30s pulp sci-fi, with a tough babe fighting an alien monster named Zaftig. My fave was the Romeo and Juliet fantasy reworking at the end, especially the other Shakespeare characters who appear with just a slight name change: Otello, MacBath, Dreadmona, so on.
3/5

;o)