Mini Review: Fortunately, The Milk by Neil Gaiman

Fortunately, the Milk

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

"I bought the milk," said my father. "I walked out of the corner shop, and heard a noise like this: T h u m m t h u m m. I looked up and saw a huge silver disc hovering in the air above Marshall Road."

"Hullo," I said to myself. "That’s not something you see every day. And then something odd happened."

Find out just how odd things get in this hilarious story of time travel and breakfast cereal, expertly told by Newbery Medalist and bestselling author Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Skottie Young.

Review:

I love Neil Gaiman’s writing, and I love that he’s so entertaining in so many different creative arenas.  He creates for adults and children with equal skill, and don’t forget his celebrated writing for comics.  He confidently stretches his creative muscle, and his audience is made the richer for his efforts.

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Graphic Novel Review: Binky Takes Charge by Ashley Spires

 

 

Title: Binky Takes Charge

Author: Ashley Spires

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

 

Binky the space cat has been promoted to lieutenant. He’s now in charge of training the next generation of space cadets. But then he meets the new space kitten — who isn’t a kitten at all! Is someone trying to pull the fur over his eyes? Binky and Captain Gracie need to figure out the new cadet before the next alien attack!


Review:

I love Binky!  Somehow I allowed this installment of Binky’s space adventures to languish on my iPad, but I’m glad I finally had a chance to read it.  Binky has been given a promotion, and he’s getting a new cadet to train.  To his dismay, however, he learns that FURST (Felines of the Universe Ready for Space Travel) has morphed into PURST (Pets of the Universe Ready for Space Travel) in an effort to diversify its membership.  He’s upset to think that he’s a Space Pet, instead of an esteemed Space Cat.  To add insult to injury, his new trainee isn’t a CAT, but a lesser life form instead.  Gordon is a puppy! What is the world coming to?

This book is hilarious!  Poor Binky is at his wit’s end.  Not only is Gordon clumsy, noisy, and an attention hound (pun intended), Binky starts to think that he’s a double agent.  Why else would the aliens be so interested in Gordon’s waste matter? Why else would he be stealing Binky’s human’s possessions?  Why else would he deactivate the anti-alien device??  Things are looking mighty grim in Binky’s world, but he needs concrete proof before he can go to his superiors.  With Gracie’s help, Binky begins a careful and thorough investigation into the motives and behavior of his new charge, and what he discovers is surprising.

This is such a cute series.  The art is comical yet expressive, and Binky’s adventures are always good for a few laughs.  I enjoyed the introduction of Gordon, and more specifically, I found Binky’s reaction to his new student amusing.  With his superior cat attitude, he is resigned to teaching a not so bright trainee, but he isn’t certain of success.  Once the evidence stacks up and Gordon looks like a double-agent, Binky and Gracie race against the clock to maintain the integrity of their space station and the safety of their humans.   This is great stuff, and now I am convinced that Bumble and Poppy are member of PURST.  They are like ninjas, albeit  occasionally clumsy ninjas, in their efforts to take out aliens.  I have never had dogs so determined to wipe out the insect population in the nearby vicinity, so I wonder – have these guys been through boot camp, possibly with Lieutenant Binky?

Recommended for animals lovers of all ages

Grade:  B+

Review copy provided by publisher

Graphic Novel Review: Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong by Faith Erin Hicks and Prudence Shen

 

Title: Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong

Author: Faith Erin Hicks and Prudence Shen

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

 

You wouldn’t expect Nate and Charlie to be friends. Charlie’s the laid-back captain of the basketball team, and Nate is the neurotic, scheming president of the robotics club. But they are friends, however unlikely—until Nate declares war on the cheerleaders. At stake is funding that will either cover a robotics competition or new cheerleading uniforms—but not both.

It’s only going to get worse: after both parties are stripped of their funding on grounds of abominable misbehavior, Nate enrolls the club’s robot in a battlebot competition in a desperate bid for prize money. Bad sportsmanship? Sure. Chainsaws? Why not. Running away from home on Thanksgiving to illicitly enter a televised robot death match? Of course!

In Faith Erin Hicks’ and Prudence Shen’s world of high school class warfare and robot death matches, Nothing can possibly go wrong


Review:

I have to admit that I wasn’t too eager to dive into Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong, and I don’t know why.  I think that the synopsis just didn’t grab my imagination.  A surprise day off due to power issues at work prompted me to pick this up, and I’m glad I did.  This is such a fun read, with plenty of humor to keep the conflict between Charlie and Nate from getting too intense. 

At the beginning of the book, when the cheerleaders were forcing Charlie to run for Student Body President, I just wanted him to tell them to go jump off a cliff.  He gets caught up in an election campaign that he wants nothing to do with, and it is destroying his friendship with Nate.   Nate only wants to win because he’s discovered that the Student Body gets to decide whether funding will be available for the cheerleaders’ new uniforms or his beloved robotics club.  Charlie doesn’t care one way or the other, except that the cheerleaders freak him out.  They are like ninja cheerleaders – they are scary and they get what they want, and what they want are those new uniforms!  As Nate’s war on the cheerleaders, and Charlie, by association, heats up, Nate doesn’t hesitate to pull out all of the stops, and many of the stops are embarrassing to Charlie.  The pony incident when he was little certainly didn’t need to be plastered all over the high school walls for everyone to see!  I enjoyed Nate and Charlie’s friendship, and how they interacted with each other.  Even when they were so pissed that they were driven to pummel each other, it was evident that they didn’t really want to ruin their friendship.  They are so different that they complimented each other, and I thought they made a great team.

When it’s apparent that the election isn’t going to have the desired results, Nate figures out another way for both sides to get what they want.  It requires working together, and the cheerleaders need mucho convincing.  Through all of the negotiations, it’s obvious that Charlie has a lot more on his mind than robots or uniforms.  He’s been having a hard time forgiving his mom for leaving him and his dad and moving to California.  He’s resentful of his dad, too, for never being home.  Charlie has a lot going on, and his way of dealing with his problems is to ignore them.  He is passive aggressive to both parents, and even though he wants to give them a piece of his mind and make them understand where he’s coming from, he just can’t find the words.  Instead, he hangs up on his mom a lot, and then avoids her calls.  I found him a very likable and sympathetic character, and kept hoping he would find the strength and courage to let both of his parents know how badly they had let him down. 

Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong is a fun, humorous read about robots, scary cheerleads, and all of the important relationships in the lives of two unconventional friends.   Friendship is work, especially when you don’t always have the same goals, and this book captured the ins and outs of working through adversity through the magic of spot on prose and expressive illustrations.  Highly recommended.

Grade:  B+ / A-

Review copy provided by publisher

Review: Binky Under Pressure by Ashley Spires

 

Title: Binky Under Pressure

Author: Ashley Spires

Publisher: Kids Can Press

ISBN: 978-1554535040

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

In Binky’s third adventure, our intrepid, sometimes accident-prone hero is shaken out of his routine when he’s forced to contend with Gracie, a dainty striped foster kitty who comes to live at Binky’s space station (aka his home at 42 Sentinel Parkway). Binky instantly resents the new arrival, whose cute face and perfect manners are downright annoying. Indeed, Gracie seems too perfect. So Binky decides to do some undercover investigating and discovers a shocking truth about the family guest. Soon Binky is thrust full-throttle into a situation that puts all his Space Cat skills to the ultimate test!

Review:

Binky’s back for another humorous adventure, and this time around he has a companion.  A decidedly unwanted companion, in the form of foster kitty Gracie.  When Binky’s beloved humans introduce him to his new room mate, he’s apprehensive at first, and then plain annoyed.  She’s eating his food, using his litter box, and playing with his best friend!  How could they do this to him?  Taking matters into his own furry paws, Binky explains to Gracie that there just isn’t room in the space station for both of them.  Then Gracie pulls out her triumph card – she’s a member of F.U.R.S.T., and she outranks him!

I loved this outing for Binky.  Gracie is there to evaluate him, and report back about his worthiness to keep his space cat card.  Binky being Binky, it’s kind of touch and go as he blunders his way through one test after another.  It’s only after an actual alien invasion that he’s finally able to strut his space cat stuff and save the day, with some team work with his CO.

The art showcases Ashley Spires’ distinctive comedic look.  Binky’s plump torso and triangle shaped head mask a skilled warrior who deals death to alien invaders with little hesitation.  Gracie is drawn with more cunning lines, and at first, I doubted her ability to commander a well-run space station like Binky’s.  A little adversity and a stealth invasion pushed those thoughts right out of my mind.

If you are looking for a chuckle worthy escape from the stress of your day, grab one of the Binky books and be prepared to laugh.  A lot.  If you want to laugh even more, read them aloud.  To anything.  Make sure you vocalize the sound effects.  You’ll be rolling around on the floor, even the dog isn’t quite as amused as you are.

Grade: B+

Review copy provided by publisher

Picture Book Review: Domo in the World


Title: Domo in the World

Photographs by Iain Browne

Text by Kate T. Williamson

Publisher: Abrams Image

ISBN:978-0810998155

Board book

All ages

For some weird reason that I can’t quite decipher, I have become alarmingly fond of Domo-kun.  I don’t know what Domo is, I don’t know if anyone does, and yet I can’t help but laugh every time I see the odd, sponge shape that is Domo.  Perhaps this haiku will help find some reason for my Domo affection:

Those glossy black eyes? 

Delightfully full of play.

Maybe you should floss?

Or as I am confused by Domo’s gender:

Is Domo a boy?

Or could  Domo be a girl? 

Does it matter which?

This board book follows Domo through the seasons, with adorable photos featuring the fuzzy creature.  The haiku is occasionally silly and made me laugh aloud, but the humor will go over the heads of most younger readers.  The colorful images should delight, though, and if you have a small child you want to brainwash with Japanese pop culture, this is a good choice to begin the subtle encouragement towards an appreciation for all things anime- and manga-inspired. 

Did I like this book?

Photos made me smile a lot

Haiku made me laugh

Review copy provided by publisher

Review: Animal Magnetism by Jill Shalvis

 

Title: Animal Magnetism

Author: Jill Shalvis

Publisher: Berkley

ISBN: 978-0425239810

Reading Level: Adult

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Co-owner of the town’s only kennel, Lilah Young has lived in Sunshine, Idaho, all her life. Pilot-for-hire Brady Miller is just passing through. But he soon has Lilah abandoning her instincts and giving in to a primal desire.

It’s Brady’s nature to resist being tied down, but there’s something about Lilah and her menagerie that keeps him coming back for more.

Review:

Animal Magnetism is a book that I picked up on impulse at a Borders’ closeout sale.  One look at the woe-be-gone puppy cuddled to the cover model’s chest, and I had to have it.  I didn’t even read the synopsis on the back of the book.  I have been challenging myself to read books outside of my normal comfort zone, so I scooped this up, thinking that the puppy couldn’t steer me wrong.  He didn’t!

Due to preconceived, and highly erroneous,  impressions I had about the line, I have avoided any Berkley Sensation titles.  I am not sure why or when I started to view them in such a negative light, because I have never actually read one, but for the record, my idea of what they are like was so far off base it’s not even funny.  This is a fun, humorous contemporary romance with engaging characters and an added cast of critters to complicate the protagonists’ lives.

Lilah makes a bad first impression with Brady Miller when she crashes into his truck.  Oops!  It was  really the duck’s fault, but trying to explain that would make her sound absolutely nuts.  Lilah is lucky that Brady turns out to be a nice guy, because she has a carload of animals to ferry back to her kennel.  Instead of leaving her hanging out to dry, he offers to chauffeur her, and her charges, home.  Before you can say “Quack!” they share a mutual attraction, but as Brady makes it quite clear, he’s only in town for a short time to visit his foster brothers, and then he’s hitting the highway again.

And this brings me to the reason I gave the book a slightly lower grade than I would have otherwise.  Lilah pursues a fling with Brady, knowing that there is no future for them. She accepts that he isn’t going to be a permanent addition to her life, and she wants to get him and her blazing attraction to him out of her system.  This is my second least favorite romance trope, with the dreaded destined mate trope edging out in front.  I’ve only been reading romances again for a short while, and several of the book have featured this plotline.  Sigh. (Rant off)

Lilah isn’t the kind of girl to be content with a wild fling, regardless of how satisfying the sex is.  She takes her relationships very seriously.  She isn’t the love ‘em and leave ‘em kind of girl.  She values how other people feel, and that’s what I loved about her.  She grows attached to everything, even the stray animals she shelters for a short time.  It eats away at her every time she has to give them up, even knowing that she has found a wonderful, forever home for her furry charges.  I was a little resentful of Brady for what I saw as almost taking advantage of her.  He knows what she’s like, and he still agrees to a no-strings attached relationship.  Sometimes somebody has to be the adult and just walk away from a situation before someone else gets hurt.  When it started to look like his feathers were going to get singed, too, I forgave him.

The sparks fly between Lilah and Brady, and steam almost rises off of the pages.  While their relationship is riveting (and hot!), it’s the secondary characters who give this book its soul.  Lilah lives in a small town, and everyone knows everything about everybody else.  When a sexy stranger drifts into town and makes a temporary home above the animal clinic, every woman from miles around is drawn to openly drool over the very eligible bachelor.  Better yet, the staff running the clinic is made up of two more hotties, and I am left to wonder if the practice would be as profitable if Dell and Adam resembled some of their four-legged clients.  Dell, Adam, and even Jade quickly won me over with their humor.  All of these tough guys (and one snarky girl) are caring and concerned about the people around them.  I love people who will go out on a limb to give their friends a hand.  I am so happy that there will be more books featuring them, and am counting down the days until I can visit with them again and learn more about them.

There were a few places where I felt the plot was spiraling a teeny bit out of control, and I wondered at Lilah’s swift healing abilities, but I quickly shrugged these off and boosted up my suspense of belief barrier.  This is a quick, fun read, perfect for a little escape from reality.

Grade: B

Review copy purchased at Borders