Book Review: The Creeps (Deep Dark Fears Collection #2) by Fran Krause (2017)

Tuesday, October 3rd, 2017

everything to fear

three out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free copy of this book for review through Blogging for Books.)

The second in cartoonist Fran Krause’s “Deep Dark Fears Collection,” The Creeps is a compendium of reader-submitted fears, given eerie, undead life by the author’s illustrations. The result is a little uneven, but ultimately enjoyable.

With ninety-seven new fears, it’s more likely than not that you’ll spot one or two or several dozen of your own fears in these here pages. A certified crazy dog person ™, Fear #7 (your animal friends are only being nice to you because you’re dying, and only they know it) hit me right in the feels.

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Ditto: just about every panel about being followed, stalked, robbed, or accidentally maimed.

The supernatural ones didn’t have as much of a chilling effect, but that’s just because I don’t believe; I found them entertaining, if anything. Fears eleven, twenty-nine, and thirty-eight actually read a lot like those “horror stories in 140 characters or less” that pop on Twitter every now and again.

While many of the panels are dominated by ghosts and other monsters (sadly, not many zombies!), some are disconcertingly mundane and, um, relatable. Take this one from anonymous:

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That one hits a little too close to home for comfort, mkay.

On a lighter note, I absolutely delighted in number thirty, on account of my youngest brother sold his soul to a kindergarten classmate – for five cents, I think? Or was it a piece of candy? – way back in the mid-90’s. Either way, cue The Wonder Years nostalgia.

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The ones involving murdered and dismembered animals – haunting their consumers, resembling the look or feel of human flesh a little closely – made me, the vegan, entirely too smug.

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Don’t worry, the coming superbugs (thanks, animal ag.!) will probably kill me the same as you.

The Creeps is an, erm, interesting reading choice for someone prone to anxiety, as I am. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll lay away at night, wondering whether that strange scratching noise you hear in the walls is actually a homeless person living in your attic. Or a rabid bat about to bust out of the heating vent and eat your face. Tomato, tomahto.

(This review is also available on Amazon, Library Thing, and Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you’re so inclined!)

Mini-Review: Star Trek Cats by Jenny Parks (2017)

Friday, July 7th, 2017

Apawximately as cute as it sounds.

four out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free copy of this book for review through Library Thing’s Early Reviewers program.)

A general rule of thumb: you can make just about anything better by adding cats, and Star Trek is no exception.

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In Star Trek Cats, illustrator Jenny Parks recreates famous scenes from the original run of the show using cats. (I’m not a huge fan, but my dad is and he recognized most of the scenes. Plus there’s a handy little cheat sheet in the back of the book.)

Kirk is an orange tabby, Chekov is a Russian Blue (could possibly be the distant cousin of Lemmy, my British Shorthair), Scotty is a Scottish Fold, and so on.

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Really the only negative about this book is that there’s not more of it! It’s pretty tiny at 6 3/4″ x 6 3/4″ and 64 pages. I’d love to see an entire episode reimagined this way (though copyright issues probably make it a non-starter; still, it’s nice to dream).

On the positive side, there are Tribbles!

And Uhura being her typical BAMF feminist self!

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And a unicorn dog!

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Really, what more is there to say? Answer: nothing. There is nothing left to say after “unicorn dog.” I AM SOLD.

(This review is also available on Amazon, Library Thing, and Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you’re so inclined!)

Book Review: Ghosts from Our Past: Both Literally and Figuratively: The Study of the Paranormal, Erin Gilbert, Abby L. Yates & Andrew Shaffer (2016)

Thursday, September 1st, 2016

Now ruining your childhood in print format.

four out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free book for review through Blogging for Books.)

The great Carl Sagan said that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Who are we to argue with him (or his ghost)? We are unquestionably proposing some extraordinary concepts here. At the same time, it’s one friggin extraordinary book.

Humanoids, vapors, several dozen more
Free-roaming, anchored, are you keeping score?
Possessing, repeating, alone or in swarms
Powerful metaspecters changing forms

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The author photos from the original (left) and revised editions.
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— 3.5 stars —

If you’ve seen the Ghostbusters reboot, then you know that Erin (Kristen Wiig) and Abby (Melissa McCarthy) co-wrote a book on the paranormal while in college – and that, years later, Abby’s decision to resell all those extra copies, unceremoniously crammed into storage, is what brought the estranged friends back together. In the vein of Pawnee: The Greatest Town in America by Leslie Knope and John Winchester’s Journal – fictional books pulled from screens both large and small and manifested right here, in the real world – Three Rivers Press brings us Ghosts from Our Past: Both Literally and Figuratively: The Study of the Paranormal. Revised and updated, with bonus content from Jillian Holtzmann, Patty Tolan, and Kevin the secretary.

(More below the fold…)

Mini-Review: Three-Year-Olds Are A**holes, Sarah Fader (2016)

Wednesday, May 18th, 2016

That escalated quickly.

four out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free electronic ARC for review through NetGalley.)

Sammy would blow up entire planets just to get the pink jellybean instead of the white one. God love her, but she may as well have been Darth Vader.

This is the story of three-year-old Samantha – Sammy for short – who just wants to make a beautiful, sparkly rainbow. At three in the morning. On the bathroom floor, using mom’s birth control pills and body lotion as her medium.

Sammy kicks off her morning of mayhem by throwing mom’s cell in the toilet and peeing on it and, while mom is preoccupied scrubbing the bathroom clean, Sam sneaks out and –

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– nope, spoilers! Suffice it to say that things escalate quickly (and probably in a way that keeps parents awake at night). It’s rare that a book makes me LOL, but this particular scene did just that.

Three-Year-Olds Are A**holes is a silly picture book for adults that would make a most excellent gift for parents – expecting, new, old, doesn’t matter. I had the pleasure of reviewing this on NetGalley and was surprised to find a “send to Kindle” option in addition to the expected “download a protected pdf file,” which is the norm for books that are heavy on graphic elements (picture books, graphic novels, photography books). Not only is it easily readable on a Kindle, but I think it actually looks better: the grayscale coloring minimizes some of the harsh, contrasting colors of the artwork.

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Horrifying, innit?
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I suppose that some people will object outright to the title of the book (children are precious!), and I get it. But calling kids a-holes is both a term of endearment and a way of blowing off steam; acknowledging that parenting is a hard and frustrating and often thankless job. Sometimes you’ll get overwhelmed or annoyed, and that’s okay!

I do the same with my rescue dogs – who, while not exactly like kids, are family members just the same. They are (affectionately) my assholes and shitbags and little monsters. Whether it’s Mags, nipping my hand as I lift her onto the couch (at her request!), or Rennie, plopping her fat ass down on the bed as I try to make it, they can sometimes be awful (though not always intentionally so), and usually I just love them all the more for it.

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My thirteen-year-old asshole Mags, who always turns the other cheek when I try to take her picture. I thought teens these days lived for selfies, no?
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Pairs well with: Go the Fuck to Sleep; You Have to Fucking Eat.

(More below the fold…)

Mini-Review: F*ck That: An Honest Meditation, Jason Headley (2016)

Friday, May 13th, 2016

Breath In. F*cks Out.

three out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free copy of this book for review through Blogging for Books.)

— 3.5 stars —

In the vein of such classics as Go the Fuck to Sleep and You Have to Fucking Eat, F*ck That: An Honest Meditation is a humorous little picture book for adults – just, say, yogis or members of the self-help set vs. parents. Or, let’s be honest: anyone who’s ever spent time on the internet, because two minutes online will most certainly make you want to choke a motherfucker.

Headley juxtaposes profanity-laden meditations with lovely nature photography to create a beautiful and surprisingly soothing picture book.

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It’s cute and silly and good for a few giggles…and maybe also handy to keep on hand for those days when the world seems to be conspiring against you and you just can’t even with this shit anymore. I suspect it’d make a nice gag gift or stocking stuffer for both the cynics and New Age types in your life, which isn’t a demographic that overlaps very often, I don’t think.

That said, Headley’s meditations get a little flowery at times (e.g., “Free of calamity created by every last ranch hand at the fuckup farm.”). While I give him mucho points for creativity in cursing, I would’ve rather seen him stick with simpler, more familiar phrases; ones that more easily slip off the tongue. Ones that could become mantras, easily repeated in times of stress. Or maybe I’m just overthinking things?

(This review is also available on Amazon, Library Thing, and Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you’re so inclined!)

Book Review: I Know What I’m Doing — and Other Lies I Tell Myself: Dispatches from a Life Under Construction, Jen Kirkman (2016)

Wednesday, April 13th, 2016

Comedian Jen Kirkman on Life After Divorce, Turning 40, and Finding Gray Hairs (Down There!)

three out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free electronic ARC for review through Edelweiss.)

So here’s the thing about memoirs, especially humorous ones written by comedians and actors: if I can, I usually try to “read” the audio versions. Even though I miss out on the funny-embarrassing awkward family photos and cringe-worthy ’80s/’90s pics, the trade-off is more than worth it. Funny people aren’t just funny for what they say, but how they say it: much of a joke’s charm is in its delivery. An audio book at least restores the verbal part of the joke (and makes the visuals a little easier to imagine). This is true pretty much across the board: Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Kathy Griffin, Mindy Kaling – I always find myself laughing harder when they read their books to me.

I suspect the same is true of Jen Kirman’s second book, I Know What I’m Doing — and Other Lies I Tell Myself: Dispatches from a Life Under Construction. (Her first book, I Can Barely Take Care of Myself: Tales From a Happy Life Without Kids, is still in my TBR pile.) Kirman writes about her divorce (amiable, but inevitable); her brief stint as a cougar; her hep C scare (doctors, ugh!); maintaining a decades-long friends with benefits relationship; participating in an undercover blackmail sting; traveling alone; and dealing with overbearing neighbors. While the material is entertaining enough, I often wondered how much more I’d enjoy it if I could hear her perform it aloud. In some cases, I didn’t have to wonder: the chapter on finding gray public hairs was part of her Netflix special, I’m Gonna Die Alone (And I Feel Fine), which I love-love-loved.

Kirkman is best when deconstructing sexism, especially in the comedy circuit.

(More below the fold…)

Mini-Review: Fowl Language: Welcome to Parenting, Brian Gordon (2016)

Monday, March 21st, 2016

Naps are objectively the best tho.

three out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free ebook for review through NetGalley.)

Are you a mom or a dad? How wonderful and annoying for you!
Do you know someone who will soon have a baby? How exciting and terrifying for them!
Are your friends parents, too? Of course they are, those poor sons of bitches…

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then FOWL LANGUAGE is for you.
If you answered no, then congratulations, and feel free to sleep in this weekend!

Even though I’m childfree by choice, I picked up a copy of Fowl Language because a) who doesn’t love humorous web comics and b) I have adopted seven dogs over the years and caring for dogs can’t be completely different, right? Like, I’m pretty sure there’s got to be some overlap between asshole kids and asshole dogs.

Exhibit A: the only time my dogs let me sleep in is if the sky’s overcast and their bladders are close to empty. Otherwise I’m up with the sun, or at 2AM for a potty break. Sometimes, with the fosters, I even have to walk them out in the snow wearing nothing but slippers and a hoodie. They just can’t seem to pick the right spot unless I’m there to bear witness. Fun times. (And cats? It’s 4AM, or whenever they’re feeling insufficiently entertained. Shoot me now.)

Exhibits B through I: these comic strips, to which this dog person was totally able to relate.

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(Replace “covered in stickers” with “covered in dog hair” and this could be me.)

(More below the fold…)

Book Review: Adulthood is a Myth: A "Sarah’s Scribbles" Collection, Sarah Andersen (2016)

Friday, March 4th, 2016

Not Just for Millennials!

five out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free e-book for review through NetGalley.)

Are you a special snowflake? Do you love networking to advance your career? Have you never wasted a fresh new day surfing the internet? Ugh. This book is not for you. Please go away.

This book is for the rest of us. These comics document the wasting of entire beautiful weekends on the internet, the unbearable agony of holding hands on the street with a gorgeous guy, dreaming all day of getting home and back into pajamas, and wondering when, exactly, this adulthood thing begins. In other words, the horrors and awkwardness of young modern life.

I’m 37 years old (emphasis on old) and am still waiting for the day when it feels like I’ve crossed over into adulthood. My lack of human kids doesn’t help, but you’d think my dog kids (both rescue and foster) would help get me at least halfway there. But I prefer sweatpants to jeans (skirts and slacks, what?), never carry a purse (though will stoop to a tote bag if absolutely necessary, like when begging fistfuls of free sample meds from the dermatologist), and wear sports bras exclusively (but only if I must). Last summer our water got shut off for a day because I didn’t realize that the city, in its infinite wisdom (i.e. laziness), had ceased its direct deposit payment plan and now requires all bills to be paid by cash or check. I have a bachelor’s degree that’s probably too old to mean anything anymore, and am still trying to figure out what I want to do when I grow up with my life.

In short, Sarah Andersen might be a Millennial, but I can still relate to much of what’s in Adulthood is a Myth.

Like, any one of these could be an illustration in my (definitely not best-selling) autobiography.

(More below the fold…)

Mini-Review: Poorly Drawn Lines: Good Ideas and Amazing Stories, Reza Farazmand (2015)

Wednesday, October 7th, 2015

Party or Daiya

four out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free electronic ARC for review on NetGalley.)

If you use the internets, chances are you’ve encountered a Poorly Drawn Lines strip at some point in your travels. Creator Reza Farazmand has a generous fair use policy (non-commercial attribution; also, they’re kind of genius, so there’s that), and they really seem to get around. Which is good: though I count myself a fan, I often forget to keep up in the absence of an email newsletter. I know, how quaint! So you can imagine how thrilled I was when I learned of Farazmand’s new book on NetGalley!

Filled with a mix of old and new material, Poorly Drawn Lines highlights the same irreverent humor and uncanny insight that the web strip is known for. Here you’ll find plot twists old and new: douchey owls, birds who are totally judging you, smack-talking robots, cheese goals you should adopt like yesterday, mountains that want to be human, various apocalypse scenarios – and yes, Ernesto the bear from space.

In with the new stuff are a smattering of essays which are enjoyable enough, but not nearly as rad as the comics. Since they have the same weird, off-beat vibe as the strips, sometimes the essays feel just a step or two removed from explaining a joke. (Excessive elaboration, no want!) I could easily envision them more artfully done up as three- to nine-panel strips.

I read this on a Kindle and was surprised to find that the comics actually look okay: small, yet readable enough. Naturally the art is much more impressive on my laptop and iPad, but options are good.

Try it if you like: Calvin & Hobbes; Hyperbole and a Half; animals behaving badly.

(This review is also available on Amazon, Library Thing, and Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you’re so inclined!)

Book Review: Hyperbole and a Half, Allie Brosh (2013)

Monday, December 16th, 2013

YOU NEED THIS BOOK.

four out of five stars

I kind of feel like a d-bag using the term “laugh out loud funny” in a review – or any kind of everyday conversation, for that matter – but Hyperbole and a Half is just that. Several times I got to laughing so hard that one or more of my dogs fled the room in fear and confusion. Whether reliving especially bizarre and embarrassing childhood memories (my mother will be relieved to know that I was not the only ten-year-old to run around on all fours, lapping water from bowls, pretending to be a leopard or a horse or a slobbering German Shepherd), or trying to reassure her neurotic rescue dog (see: the previous sentence), Brosh’s stories are consistently hilarious, not a little heartbreaking, and totally relatable. In an interview I caught online, Brosh said that she draws herself as a lumpy, weird-looking little creature because that’s how she sees herself. I know the feels.

Fans of the web comic may wonder whether they really need to buy this book. Rest assured: YOU NEED THIS BOOK. If you don’t buy it, at least borrow it from the library (have fun waiting out the queue!). With a mix of previously published (“The Party,” “The God of Cake,” “Depression” Parts One and Two) and new material (“The Hot Sauce Debacle,” “Lost in the Woods,” “Identity” Parts One and Two), you don’t want to miss out. Plus, you kind of have to love a book whose dedication page reads “For Scott. What now, fucker?” And the chapters are even color-coded, yo! This is easily one of the soundest buying decisions I made in 2013.

Not sure what to get your potty-mouthed introvert of a cousin this holiday season? Unlike the writhing mass of anxiety and self-loathing that forms the heart of this book, Hyperbole and a Half will easily fit inside an x-mas stocking. Bonus points if it’s paw-shaped.

As much as I adore it, I’m giving Hyperbole and a Half four stars instead of the full five because the author uses the r-word to refer to “the simple dog.” Not cool.

(This review is also available on Amazon, Library Thing, and Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you’re so inclined!)