Showing posts with label humor. Show all posts
Showing posts with label humor. Show all posts

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

The Cookie Eating Firedog by Lida Sideris, Joan Young


Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

I could not help but want to like this one because of the title which was so absurd, and in the end I did enjoy this young children's colorful and fun story about a naughty firehouse dog - which is of course the traditional Dalmatian.

This is a departure from this author's usual line of writing, which is aimed at a much more mature audience and tends toward murder mysteries. Also do not confuse her with Lisa Sideris who is also an author and an Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Indiana University.

Based on a twenty-year-old story that came out of something her young (at that time) son said, the book was created rapidly, but found no publisher. Now it has one, which is an object lesson in never giving up. Those firefighters should never have given up on their dog either, because while he was a lazy little critter, much preferring to eat cookies than fight fires, even when out on the truck at a fire, he learned his lesson when a fire started...at the station house! And with dogged determination, he came through! The Dalmatian escaped damnation! Give that dog a cookie!

I thought this simply yet sweetly illustrated (by Joan Young) story was a blast and I commend it as a worthy read for young children.


Sunday, October 14, 2018

How Do Dinosaurs Eat Their Food by Jane Yolen, Mark Teague


Rating: WORTHY!

I'm not a huge fan of this author, but this short, amusing, and colorful pasteboard book for young children was a worthy read I thought, and the art by Mark Teague was great.

I think Dinosaurs are overdone these days, but this was a different take: working on the assumption of something which never happened in real life - that humans and dinosaurs existed together. This book amusingly takes that farce one step further by turning dinos into fellow citizens, who have lives and like to go out to eat - which seems to be true based on fossil evidence. Their al fresco dining habits are well documented.

Unfortunately their manners leave a lot to be desired and this is not so well-attested by fossil evidence, which is why this book is important! I found it entertaining, especially for the intended audience, and I commend it as a worthy read.


Tuesday, October 9, 2018

My Boyfriend is a Bear by Pamela Ribon, Cat Farris


Rating: WORTHY!

This is the third Pamela Ribon Graphic novel I've read and I've been entertained by all of them. Besides, how could you not want to read a graphic novel with a title like that? Especially since it's quite literal! I admire a writer who can take an absurd concept and treat it as though it's an everyday thing and get an entertaining story out of it. I found this especially refreshing after reading and negatively reviewing a rather poor children's book about a bear. This was the perfect counterpoint to that.

If you have some feelings of eeww over a girl dating a bear, you might want to reserve them instead for the girl's old boyfriend, who is a complete creep and thinks he owns her. He's way more eeww than the bear could ever be, trust me - I am not a bear-faced liar..... You might want to consider, too, that this is a commentary - a metaphor - as is exemplified if not outright spelled out, by the awful guys she lists as previous dates. If a bear makes a better partner than these guys, what does it say about male attitudes towards women? In this day and age, this is a seriously important topic and any way of getting that across is to be welcomed, because too few men are getting the massage.

The story begins with a history of bad relationships, and this woman (no, her name isn't Ursula unfortunately, it's Nora) isn't really in the market for anything new, when a forest fire pushes a bear out of the forest and into her back yard. The bear and Nora make a connection, and she realizes he's a lot sweeter than any guy she's been involved with recently, but how will he be accepted by her friends and the world at large? Well, he's perfectly integrated, apparently. The Japanese sushi bar staff love him! As does one of her two closest girlfriends. The other? Not so much. It's interesting that the most accepting one was a woman of color and the least accepting, a white girl who, I'm guessing, inexplicably voted for President Lowlife. Her parents are a bit skeptical too. Curiously, Nora's father is more onboard than her mother.

Of course, not everything is smooth sailing. Sometimes life is as rough as a bear's fur. There are breakages, and bear claw marks are worse than cat claw marks (unless they're the marks of Cat Farris, the artist, who did a great job. We'll always have Farris...), but the bear finds work and helps out around the house, and Nora learns to interpret bear speak, so it's cool. Even when winter approaches and the bear is feeding heavily trying to pack on the pounds for the upcoming hibernation, they manage to make their budget work. But when he leaves for his cave, can she expect him to return in the spring? Only time will tell. Either Time or Newsweek. One of them has to have the story, right? So bear with the author and enjoy. I commend this story.


Wednesday, August 1, 2018

The Cow Said Neigh! by Rory Feek


Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

This is a fun children's book aimed at getting kids to understand and experiment with sounds and to consider when the wrong sound is coming from somewhere. I can see it leading to a wider discussion - maybe even about what it means when the smoke alarm goes off. Is that the right kind of sound to hear? But it's not about that. It's about a very confused farm!

In a series of fun, bright, and colorful images, and some happy verse, we discover that several of the farm and domestic animals - and even the farmer himself, are getting some weird ideas about their station in life! The cow sees the horse and decides she would like to run free - so she starts neighing. The horse starts quaking, the duck starts baaing and this cascade effect ricochets around the whole farm! Will it ever end? Hopefully, otherwise it'll be a long night reading this to your little loved one!

I commend this for a fun and instructive read to young children.




Tuesday, July 17, 2018

A Dog With Nice Ears by Lauren Child


Rating: WORTHY!

I've been in love with Charlie and Lola ever since my own kids used to watch this children's TV show. They're way beyond it now, but I still love these characters. They're a fictional bro and sis who were created by the very imaginative and inventive English writer and illustrator Lauren Child in 2000AD. This is one of the books. Until this, I'd seen only the TV show, but I have to say that this captured the show perfectly - or perhaps it's more accurate to say that the TV show captures the books perfectly since they came first.

There are several fun books to be had, assuming this one is anything to judge the rest by, but in this episode we're focused on Lola's desire to own a dog. Her parents are dead set against it. Shame on them, but I can understand a parent not wanting to get a dog for a very young child, because it's going to die on them when they're in their teens and that could be traumatizing, let's face it. I know it did me in.

Anyway Lola's perspective on what the dog should look like and how it should behave are predictably - knowing Lola as I do - bizarre. It's only when she gets her pet home that everything falls into place, and the result amused the heck out of me. Did I mentioned I loved the TV show?! And the author's name is Child for goodness sake!

I recommend this for any parent with a slightly off-kilter sense of humor and any kids who need to be nudged outside of their comfort zone once in a while. It's good for them. My kids lapped up the TV show, but then they're my kids, so what would you expect! LOL! I commend this book and I'll bet the entire series is a worthy read.


Sunday, July 15, 2018

Love Letters to Jane's World by Paige Braddock


Rating: WARTY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

I requested this from Net Galley's 'read now' collection which is always a bit of a hit and miss affair, and this was a miss I'm sorry to report, because I really thought I'd enjoy it. I was thinking that it would be a fun and amusing read, but it was neither.

I became bored with it quite quickly, which surprised me, and I made it only a third of the way through by which time I honestly could not stand to read any more. It's just not my kind of humor I guess: too cheesy and simple for my taste.

Worse than this though was that for a book which claims diversity as one of its qualities, there was one - perhaps two - people of color in the entire thing, which doesn't sound very diverse to me given that most people on the planet are people of color, and a third of them are Asian. But talking of so-called minorities, I guess I'm in the minority in disliking this since it has done well for itself over the years and been somewhat groundbreaking to boot for a comic whose main character is LGBTQIA. For me she was more LGBTMIA, though.

The story is a highly fanciful 'autobiography' it would appear, given that the main character is quite obviously modeled on the author, but I hope the author is smarter than the character depicted here, who comes across as quite stupid and thoughtless. I didn't like her, much less respect her, which didn't help to like the comic strip stories.

The artwork was very much 'Sunday Funnies' style, but in black and white line drawings, so no color diversity here either, and sometimes the text was hard to read because it was also hand drawn and rather scrappily so - something I've never understood about comics. It was large enough to read okay (for the most part) on a tablet computer, but I sure wouldn't want to try reading this on a smart phone or in a badly printed copy.

It's yet another graphic novel which doesn't acknowledge that there are ebooks, and the print book margins made it quite wasteful of trees, too. This is another negative against this comic book since trees are the only entity which is doing anything concrete to fight climate change, and here is another author/publisher seemingly determined to decimate them. And so it goes.

I wish the author all the best in her career, but I cannot recommend this one.


Goldilocks and the Infinite Bears by John McNamee


Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

This was an unexpected gem I found in net Galley's 'read now' selection, which is always a hit and miss affair. This was a hit. The graphic novel consists of simply-drawn cartoons - several panels and sometimes more than one page to each topic, illustrating humorous and unexpected outcomes to stories arising from assorted inspirations such as fairy tales, pop culture, religion and so on.

The very first one, for example, shows Goldilocks entering a room and unsuccessfully sampling various servings of porridge, and eventually revealing that the reasons she cannot find one to her taste is that this is hell and it's where porridge thieves are sent!

That's the kind of humor, and sometimes it's hit and sometimes miss. There were several of these I simply didn't get, or I did get (or thought I did!), but did not find funny, but there are enough here that anyone is bound to find something to their taste. The closest better-known example of this kind of humor that I can reference are the cartoons of The Far Side, although this is a bit different from that. I had the same feeling of hit and miss with those cartoons that I do with this, but this was, overall, funny enough and original enough that I consider it a worthy read.


Sunday, July 1, 2018

Oothar the Blue by Brandon Reese


Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

This story was so tongue in cheek that that I had to go see an orthodontist after I read it. Oothar isn't literally blue, notwithstanding the book's cover. In fact, Oothar is not withstanding anything. He ignores bedraggled dragons. He can't be bothered with railing, wailing wraiths. And he certainly isn't interested in gouging rouge rogue ogres. Nothing seems to bring him pleasure until he finds, after a fit of constructive rage, that a career change is in order, and suddenly, everything is coming up roses!

I'm not sure exactly who this forty-some page graphic novel book is aimed at, but I think it would entertain anyone, especially barbarians with its Aryan barbs. It did me, anyway. I recommend it.


Tug of War by Naomi Howarth


Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

This was a sweet and fun story of how brains beats brawn. I'm not sure it was a good advisory on how to make friends though. The story is that the elephant and the hippopotamus both reject the friendship overtures of the tortoise because it's small and wrinkled and slow. The tortoise challenges each of them to a tug of war which they both accept, but what they don't know is that they're tugging against each other, not against the tortoise!

In the end they all become friends. I'm far from convinced that having friends that dumb and bigoted is worth all this effort, but who knows? Maybe the tortoise will be a positive influence in their lives. Hippos are known to be irascible; elephants, not so much, and they're really smart, too, so while on the one hand I resent the elephant being misrepresented, I also found the story entertaining for kids who aren't going to analyze it at all. Plus it teaches a lesson about teaching lessons, so on balance, I consider this to be a worthy read.


A Sea of Love by Wilfred Lupano, Grégory Panaccione


Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

Illustrated by Panaccione in a playful cartoonish style, and "written" by Lupano, this is an absolutely authentic graphic novel since it's completely text-free! In some two hundred pages, it tells the amusing and event-filled story of a European fisherman who sets out in his boat one day with a friend to bring in the morning's catch, and ends up instead being 'caught' by a giant factory ship and through one misfortune after another, winds up somehow transported across the Atlantic, to Cuba.

His intriguing wife has to determine what happened to him. His friend survived the collision and reported what little he knew: that her husband bravely (or foolishly!) refused to abandon ship! His wife becomes ever more heroic, while he becomes ever more plagued by problems, including an environmentally-minded seagull which he rescues from a six-pack plastic yoke.

The lack of text made this difficult to understand at times, but overall I enjoyed the story, and I recommend this as an entertaining non-read, so to speak!



Friday, June 1, 2018

Please Don't Grab My P#$$y by Julia Young, Matt Harkins


Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advanced review copy for which I thank the publisher.

This was an amusing and very short book of poetry and paintings (which are indirectly tied to the poem) designed to teach certain presidents who are a disgusting stain on any civilized and self-respecting society, some lessons they badly need to learn, but are apparently unwilling to do so and/or incapable of doing so. There is something fundamentally wrong with a nation which will elect a boorish, sexist, racist, misogynist, outright lying person into public office, especially when he's three million votes shy of having won an actual majority in the election, but this passes for democracy these days.

While I did not feel the poetry was at its best, the book contains a bemusing variety of euphemisms for a woman's private parts some of which I had not heard before. I think my favorite is panty hamster now, replacing nappy dugout, which itself wasn't included in this collection, but I'm sure many readers could find one that was missing. I believe Mary Shelley's term of choice was 'pretty notch' but that was also, and I suppose unsurprisingly, missing from the collection.

That said, this was a worthwhile effort because I support anyone who does something rather than nothing, even if they don't have the courage to put 'pussy' on the cover (although that may be a Publisher Advisory), which is why I recommend this.


Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Catalina and the King's Wall by Patty Costello, Diana Cojocaru


Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

A dear friend recommended this to me and I was glad she did. She has a knack for finding cute children's books, and this is one of the cutest. Illustrated colorfully and prettily by Diana Cojocaru, and written wittily and with a great delight in making choice puns by Patty Costello, it tells the story of a young woman's quiet determination to undermine the isolationist policy of the king.

Catalina is cookie-maker to the king and when she learns of his plan to build a wall between his nation and the nation next door (because they're 'different'), she cannot bear the thought of being separated from her family and concocts a series of seditious subterfuges to sabotage the king's plan - and she succeeds!

I loved the story, and adored the art. The book is short and very telling, and is most enjoyable. I fully recommend it.


Tuesday, April 24, 2018

This Is a Taco! by Andrew Cangelose, Josh Shipley


Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

This short, illustrated story was hilarious. Told as a children's story about a perky and rebellious (and it must be said, slightly corpulent) little squirrel, it starts out innocently enough, introducing us to the squirrel and its habitat and foods, but as the descriptions are trotted out, the squirrel becomes more and more disappointed in its own story. "Wait I eat bark?" (or words to that effect) it complains at one point. Its preferred food is, of course, tacos, and who can argue with that? I can say without fear of common diction that some of the best squirrels I know are partial to tacos. They don't like the soft ones, only the hard ones. This completely explains corpulent squirrels.

Now you know those redheads are feisty (at least that's what every YA writer, and not a few grown-up writers, would have us believe), so it's not surprising that the story deteriorates further (for the squirrel, not for the reader!) when we learn that the hawk likes to prey on squirrels. I won't go into any more details otherwise I'll start laughing and won't be able to finish this review. Oh! Too late! I feel the titters and giggles coming on! if you can't find a laugh on the Internet, then Giggle it! Let me finish quickly by saying: this is hilarious and the work thinks marvelously outside the book. I fully recommend this for a highly amusing read.


Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Graphix Goes to School by various authors


Rating: WORTHY!

This was a cute, small format, and amusing little graphic collection of stories related to school. It's mostly an advertising flyer (or a sampler, if you like) for full length comics, but that's not a bad thing when you get an amusing story (at least amusing if you're middle grade or thereabouts!), and it's a good way to find comics that might interest and entertain you. Graphix is an imprint of Scholastic, and I have no affiliation with either, fyi!

There is less than seventy pages and eleven stories all told (so to speak!), so they're very short:

  1. Dream Jumper: Permanent Detention by Greg Grunberg, Lucas Turnbloom, Guy Major is a poor kid trapped in a dreamworld (or maybe a nightmare world...) of detention until he's busted out by a friend. It has a certain element of gross-out, but it's not too bad. Graphics and color are nice.
  2. Amulet Stonekeeper School by Kazu Kiribuishi is semi serious fantasy tale about kids with magical amulets. Who can ask for more?! Nicely drawn
  3. Bird & Squirrel by James Burks is about bird and squirrel - what did you expect?! Very stylistic illustration which might be useful for young kids to copy.
  4. Sunny Side Up by Jennifer L Holm and Matthew Holm is how I spent my summer kind of a story and it's a doozy. Artwork scrappy but effective.
  5. Space Dumplins by Craig Thompson features kids and aliens in a satellite school. Nice art.
  6. Twist and Pout by Jimmy Gownley is about a shy kid at a school dance. Simplistically, but nicely drawn.
  7. Newsprints by Ru Xu is about a first day at a new school and has great art.
  8. Nnewts (yes I spelled it right!) by Doug TenNapel is not so well illustrated but tells a fun tale of a school for...yep, you guessed it - newts! Talking newts. We've all been there.
  9. Cleopatra in Space by Mike Maihack. What more is there to say? Maybe that the art is quite good?
  10. The King of Kazoo by Norm Feuti is am amusingly and startlingly illustrated story of a strange people. Really intriguing art.
  11. Ghosts! by Raina Telgemeier is an intro to a new comic (or at least new at the time this was published) about a new girl at school who seems to be quite pleased that it's not haunted. But she could be mistaken.... Art is simply but not awful.

So all in all I think this is a fun read, and a chance to maybe find something you might like to follow on a longer-length more permanent basis. As such, I recommend it.


Saturday, March 24, 2018

Hot and Badgered by Shelly Laurenston


Rating: WORTHY!

Errata:
"Max opened ajar of honey-covered peanuts" should be "a jar"
"I don't have a million pounds just lying around to fix my father's fuckup." - The amount is a hundred million pounds, so I don't know if this is in error or just a character misspeaking.
"she wouldn't upset Stevie by killing him." - the phrase should, I believe, be precisely the opposite: she would upset Stevie by killing him.
"I'm going to crack his jackal bones like kindle." should read " I'm going to crack his jackal bones like kindling." Let's not give Amazon's crappy app any more due than it's worth, which isn't much! Now if it had read "I'm going to crack his jackal bones like a Kindle device," I would have found that funny!
There was a section that read (in part) "...last few months, but they’re already booked through the first of the year.” that was all in Italics. I think the first word of that section, 'is', was intended to be in italics, but the rest of it was not.
There was a merged paragraph where the second person's speech ran into the first person's without having a paragraph break between them so it read, “Out.” “Fine.”
There was also a sentence which began with Or, and which should have had a question mark after it but didn't. I was too tired to copy & paste it at the time and when I tried to find that in Amazon's crappy Kindle app, I discovered that their crappy search engine isn't case specific so when I searched for "Or" it found a bizillion of them including examples such as 'door', 'before', 'woodworking', 'disorder, and on and on. It should be easy to find it in a word processor.
One last one I noticed which may or may not be a mistake. At one point there was mentioned a "duffel Dbag." I have no idea what this is. I've never heard of a duffel Dbag before, so I wonder if it might be a mistake?

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

So this hilarious story is about the MacKilligan sisters: Charlie, Max, and Stevie. They all have the same father, but each a different mother. They're all honey badger hybrid shifters, and all are dangerous and violent, or at least paranoid when off their meds - which at least two of them are taking. I had the opportunity to read a sneak preview back in September 2017, which turned out to be the prologue of this book. Normally I don't read prologues because they're useless and antiquated, but that was all I got back then, so I read it and I really liked the idea and the story.

I'm not a fan of urban fantasy stories or of series and this was both - at least I assume it's volume one in a series - and this is the first such volume I've read in a long time where I'd actually welcome a volume two. That's very high praise from me! For me in general, it's tedious to read stories of endless werewolves and vampires all looking the same, behaving the same, doing the same things over and over. It goes completely against my grain to read a paranormal romance - which are beyond tedious and well into laughable. This book skillfully avoided that trap and instead went for the humor and the action, and especially for the out-of-left-field off-the-wall situations and it was right up my alley. I would love to see a movie of this.

The market is glutted with bad paranormal and urban fantasy stores, most of which are boring cookie-cutter vomit, and few writers seem to have the smarts or the ability to move on and write something different. This author is definitely not in that category. I don't usually have much interest in shifter stories, but the idea of reading about honey badgers was very appealing to me. I was thrilled to get a chance to read the whole novel (minus the prologue!) and I enjoyed this one thoroughly because it was so different from the run of the mill uninventive werewolf and vampire romances. This one actually had a story! it also had a romance but thankfully that was not the point of the story and it was well written.

I have to say I am not a fan of prologues or epilogues and this book had both. I honestly do not get why authors don't simply label them chapter one and Chapter whatever-the-last-chapter-number-is. The very word 'epilogue' puts me to sleep. But I read this one and it was, in effect, the prologue to volume two. Please no more epilogues and prologues! But please, volume two!

Anyway...the MacKilligan trio's father is a shiftless shifter, a worthless piece of non-human trash, and no one knows it better than the MacKilligans themselves. When they learn that he's dead, they're thrilled by the prospect of identifying the body, but you know how this is going to turn out, right? He's alive, he has absconded with a hundred millions pounds from his Scots relatives, and they are after him, and after the MacKilligan sisters to find their father. Other people are also after them, either to recruit them because they're so violent and deadly, or to kill them because...they're so violent and deadly.

This is the world we're in and oh my, there are lions, and tigers, and bears! The MacKilligans are semi-adopted by the bears who provide some protection, but this doesn't protect them from the machinations of their father, who is as sneaky as he is dishonest, and the kind of man who would be willing even to sell his children if he thought he could come out ahead on the deal. But to put that in perspective, the MacKilligan family is widespread and not altogether properly hinged. And that's the nicest thing you can say about many of them; then there's the wedding...and cousin Dutch.

Fortunately, theres also Charlie Taylor-MacKilligan, who is equal to any challenge. And her half-sister Max, who is barely shy of psychotic, and who regularly has knock-down-drag-out fights with kid half-sister Stevie, a bona-fide genius who is completely paranoid. Especially of bears. But they're sisters, and no one better try to mess with them.

This was a really beautifully-realized world, populated with interesting individuals. Even the bad guys were fascinating and nuanced. If I had any complaints, I have to say the story was a little bit on the long side and I was somewhat disappointed it wasn't nicely wrapped-up after this volume. Also there seemed to be far too many shifters for the human population not to be completely aware of them. And I won't get into the biological issues of inter-species mating (if two animals - or plants! - can successfully mate, they're the same species!). The definition of a species is that it can't mate outside it's own species. Since this is paranormal, pretty much anything goes, but I always think it would be nice to have some sort of rationale behind it, no matter how hazy!

Like I said, not a fan of series, but I'd read volume two and follow this series if it maintained (as opposed to tainted) the high standards set in this novel. I'd even buy this volume in hardback just to have it on my shelf, so hopefully I don't have to spell out that I fully recommend this. It's one of the best books I've ever read and unquestionably the best novel I've read this year.


Sunday, November 19, 2017

Why Cats Paint by Heather Busch, Burton Silver


Rating: WORTHY!

I'm not a big cat fan, that is, I am not a big fan of cats, but when I saw this book I had to take a look at it. My conclusion is that either these two authors are either high amongst the most tongue-in-cheek authors ever, or they're dangerously delusional. I shall be charitable and go with the first of those options, mainly because I share their evident opinion that the art world is just as bad as the fashion world for being puffed-up, vacuous, and ridiculous.

Seen in that light, this book, subtitled "A theory of feline aesthetics" is brilliant, and I salute the authors. The tone is pitch perfect, the images gorgeous, and the overall effect hilarious. Cats are not the only animals that paint. By 'paint' I mean daub a surface with color. Chimpanzees and elephants do it, rhinos and meerkats (Google's idiot spell checker wanted to change that latter to 'marketeers' LOL!), raccoons and pigs, goats and lemurs, parrots, and even seals, and not just at Easter (or estrus)!

Employing the word 'paint' suggests a purpose. Do they have a purpose? Clearly it attracts them, but what exactly is going on in their sub-human brains remains to be seen. Something does however compel animals to daub the paint, yet no one can possibly know what's going on in the animals' mind, except, of course, these two authors who deliberate over it and quote references, and have a high old time extolling both art and artist!

I recommend this not only because it's intriguing that animals do this, but because of the images of the artists, which are charming and adorable, and also the art itself, which is inspiring for anyone who, like me, who all to often thinks he can neither paint nor draw. I recommend the book as a coffee table book, a reading book and a guaranteed conversation-starter.


Sunday, October 22, 2017

The Matzo Ball Boy by Lisa Shulman, Rosanne Litzinger


Rating: WORTHY!

An hilarious take on the gingerbread man from a Jewish perspective, this book is about the runaway matzoh ball boy who is chased by various people, including a rabbi, and who meets with the fox, but the story doesn't follow the expected route, which is the best part of all.

I found it funny, nicely illustrated by Rosanne Litzinger, and amusingly written by the author. I recommend it.


The Adventures of Superhero Girl by Faith Erin Hicks, Cris Peter


Rating: WORTHY!

This is the second graphic novel by Faith Erin Hicks I've read, and this was better than the first I read, which I also really liked. I loved the irreverence of the story, the artwork, the coloring, and the overall presentation. it was told in a series of vignettes, presumably a compendium derived from a web comic, colored for the graphic novel by Cris Peter who did a great job.

Superhero girl has all of Superman's original powers. Most people forget that he did not used to be able to fly - he used only to be able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. He had other powers too, but a lot of what we understand about him today is actually an accretion of things which grew as he developed from his original form. Superhero girl has not developed. She can only leap a building if it's eleven stories or less. But she does have heat vision! Bullet proof? Unknown!

She's a very amateur super hero, never quite having enough confidence, desperate to find real villains to fight, and in search of an arch nemesis, which she can't even find. The best she can do is some skeptical dude who constantly belittles what she can do in relation to 'real' super heroes. I adored her relationship with the 'evil' ninjas ans her behavior towards he average criminals whom she seemed to eventually control almost by mind power so fearful of her were they. Take >that< Superman! >Pow!<

Unfortunately, she already feels this way because her brother is a 'real' super hero, with corporate sponsorship, and a sterling reputation - and your standard spandex costume. Superhero girl has a cape (which shrinks in the wash, and a stick on mask which she typically forgets to stake off and which hurts when she does. When he comes to visit it makes her feel so belittled, but she is the eternal optimist who will not sell out, and she presses on and wins through regardless. I fell in love with her pretty easily. She is one of the most engaging and strong female characters I've ever read about, and I completely and unreservedly recommend this book.


Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The Sacred Book of the Werewolf by Victor Pelevin


Rating: WORTHY!

Translated by Andrew Bromfield, and read beautifully by Cassandra Campbell, who at least in this novel has one of the most charming and captivating voices I've ever heard, especially when she does the Russian accent. I have a feeling that if I had read this rather than had Cassandra Campbell read it to me, I might not have liked it quite so much, but this audiobook pulled me in almost from the first word even though it's not my usual cup of tea.

I'm not given to reading werewolf (or shapeshifter novels) for one thing, and neither am I a great fan of social commentary novels, and this was both), but I find something very intriguing about a werefox story, and in this particular case, I felt almost like the leading lady had used her magical hypnotic werefox powers successfully on me!

It was not all smooth-riding. Sometimes it felt a bit like the author was a little too pleased with himself, and sometimes it felt like this was a guy writing from a female perspective (which it was of course!), but for me those were so mild that they were never really an issue. Truth be told, I hope authors are pleased with themselves, because writing a novel is a lonely, intensive, and all-too-often thankless pursuit, and it bears a certain amount of self-satisfaction to have completed one, even if it's one not destined for stardom.

I read some negative reviews of this to see if I'd missed anything, but I was more impressed by what those negative (and all other reviews that I read) had evidently missed: the light treatment of a rape scene. No one mentioned that at all, which was truly disturbing.

I think if a woman had written this, we would have had a different sort of novel, but whether it would have made for a better or worse read, I can't say. Here's the rub though: if a man writes and makes the woman too much like him, he's accused of writing about a man and pretending she's a woman (man-with-tits syndrome), whereas if he makes the woman more traditionally feminine, he's accused of making her traditionally feminine! You can't win, so my advice to men writing about women and women writing about men is full speed ahead and damn the slings and arrows of outraged readers. You can't write for everybody, and most of the time you can reliably write only for yourself.

The werefox is named A Hu Li, the pronunciation of which is apparently, in Russian, an insult along the lines of 'go have sex with yourself'. Though she's Chinese, she hasn't lived in China in several hundred years, so I found it a bit short-sighted that this author was accused in one review of being mistaken in putting her last name (Hu Li) last. On the other hand, if she's not human (she's a werefox who looks like a young Chinese woman despite being two millennia old), then why would she look Chinese? This isn't explained in this novel.

Frankly, the Asians annoy me because they tend to look so young when they're really much older(!), so this discrepancy didn't bother me, but this nationality issue is one of several that went unexplored, which annoyed me even more than young-looking-but-really-not-Asians, but because the author explored so many things (and amusingly so for me), I was willing to let other things go unexplained.

Besides, she's a werefox who can change her appearance to some extent. When she becomes foxy, she typically doesn't change her appearance into that of a fox. Her only unchangeable attribute is her tail, which can change impressively, but only in size. It cannot disappear, so she has to keep it well-hidden to pass as a human.

A, who has sisters who all evidently sport names starting with English alphabet vowels (Russian has vowels, and more than in English: а, э, ы, у, о, я, е, ё, ю, и, but we don't see any names prefixed with those). Doubtlessly Chinese has vowels too, but I'm not remotely qualified to get into that. Besides, this is set in Russia where she's lived for at least two centuries, so it's really disingenuous to look outside that nation for explanations or cultural attributes.

Additionally, this was an English translation of the Russian, so maybe the vowels were translated too! We hear about her sisters occasionally, and they're just as interesting as she is, but given the werefoxes apparently cannot reproduce, how they are sisters is another thing which slipped by unexplained. Maybe all werefoxes consider themselves sisters even though they really have no gender. They just look like women; they really aren't women. Or men. But given their lack of reproductive organs, their entire existence is unexplained. They are supernatural creatures though, so I let that go, too.

A is nominally a prostitute living in modern Moscow, and preying on her clients for the energy they release during sex, which is collected in her tail. I thought this was hilarious given that one abusive term for women (at least in English) is 'tail'. This tail is ostensibly a curiously masculine organ, since it become erect (after a fashion: enlarging and 'pluming out'), but given that the penis is really just an enlarged and slightly re-purposed clitoris, it's not masculine at all when you, so to speak, get right down to it.

She uses her tail to send hypnotic suggestions to her client, making him (or her, lesbians apparently love werefoxes) believe they're having sex with her when they're really just masturbating and she's sitting off to one side reading books by Stephen Hawking. So she's paradoxically a prostitute and a virgin. Until she meets a werewolf who rapes her. How can he do this when she has no sexual organs? She has a penis catcher which is an extensible pouch underneath her tail and which is there solely for tricking males into thinking they're had penetrative sex with her. This seemed like an oddity to me, but again, she's a supernatural creature, so I didn't worry about it.

It bothered me more how accepting she was of the rape. Not only did she 'get over it' quickly, but she entered into a continuing sexual relationship with her rapist. Again, supernatural creature, but even so it was hard to read and I had mixed feelings about how that rape was depicted and wondered (as I had several times reading this), how it might have been written by a female author. I also wondered if some form of punishment was coming, and for the longest time it did not, but in the end it did, so this lent a form of justice to the horror, although there really is no meaningful justice for rape.

At the same time I tried to keep in mind that neither one, the rapist nor the one who was raped, was human. They were more animal like than human too boot. On top of this (or beneath this if you will), she had no actual sex organs, merely a flexible bag of skin expressly for containing stray penises (or large clitorises, too, I guess). This did not mitigate the rape, but it did put an unusual spin on it.

The two of them are both human-looking (at least the wolf was until he got her scent when she tried to take him to the cleaners), but they're paranormal. She rarely becomes an actual fox, and he becomes a wolf only when sexually aroused (and that;s when he loses control apparently).

This certainly doesn't make rape permissible; nothing does, but I wondered if these supernatural human-animal hybrids viewed what had taken place in a somewhat different light to we humans. Had a woman written this, I think this would have been explored and the reader would have got a lot more form it, but we were left without any exploration of it, and this was the worst aspect of this novel for me. As it was, all we had was a largely barren thought-exercise on how animals behave in the wild. Is there rape in the animal world? Yes. That much is quite clear. How do the animals view it? That's a lot less clear.

That aside, the rest of the story was entertaining and quite fascinating, The werefox was completely entrancing and I enjoyed listening to her and learning about her. The werewolf was pretty much what I expected from a werewolf, and is why I do not find their stories interesting. On the contrary: they're boring, and telling endless more stories about them brings nothing to the table at all. Werewolf story writers need to get out of the fathomless rut they're in, and you can interpret that in any way you like. But I recommend this for the easy story-telling, the fascinating werefox, and the ever-present but very subtle humor.


Monday, July 24, 2017

Lies We Tell Our Kids by Brett E Wagner


Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

Do not under any circumstances let this book fall into your children's hands! It's a highly whimsical and hilarious illustrated guide to the lies we tell our children to make them do things they otherwise might be lax or loathe in doing if we didn't scare the little pests into it!

If any children found this, the game would be up, and beleaguered parents everywhere would be disarmed! We cannot let this happen.

Some might even question the wisdom of committing these treasured secrets to paper in the first place, especially since there are relatively few of them, but there's a ready answer to that and it's not that trees are evil, although this is what we tell our kids to explain why we have a bark-load of paperbacks and hardbacks sitting in our personal library. I will think of the reason before this review is finished, I promise you!

So, if you ever wondered what the personification of the poetical "Mittens are made out of recycled kittens" or the creepy "The toothpaste ghost haunts your plaque" mottoes look like, then this is your go-to book. It covers all the common ones and many you may never have heard of. Indeed, some might question if some of these are really parental lies at all, but if they are not, then they should be, and anyone who disagrees will undoubtedly lose their car keys in the morning. Not that cars really have keys anymore in this electronic day and age, because the babies have swallowed all the keys! Yes!

I promised you a reason why this book had to be committed to paper. You'll kick yourselves when you read this, and probably pull a ligament doing so, because you know I'm right, and the reason is not the one you were thinking of: that your kids inevitably write on any blank paper they find, so the author had to cover the sheet with printing ink otherwise the kids would have vandalized perfectly good and pristine sheets. You know what I'm talking about!

No, the real reason - and this is backed by extensive scientific research - is that children cause Alzheimer's. You know it's true. You've been thinking this selfsame thing yourself - or you were, before you lost track of the thought. As soon as kids come around pestering you for something, you completely forget what you were doing. This is why we need these lies written down, and why we need to have this book handy, so we can speedily dispatch the kids out of our hair (for those of you who still have hair), and get back to what's most important in family life: making more kids!

So, I recommend this book for a fun read, and some pretty decent art into the barking.