Love for the Cold-Blooded by Alex Gabriel

coldbloodedLove for the Cold-Blooded: Or: The Part-Time Evil Minion’s Guide to Accidentally Dating a Superhero
by Alex Gabriel
2014

This is such an amazingly delightful and hilarious book! I highly recommend it! It had me chortling to myself. It also had so many scenes that I would have expected to hit my second-hand-embarrassment squick but instead sailed right past it with a derogatory look of: don’t expect these characters to be embarrassed by anything they do or allow anyone else to be embarrassed on their behalf. They are just fine with rolling with the situations.

And as a warning to Anna: it does have graphic sex scenes, that are not only graphic but also involve significant character development and plot progression so they can’t just be skipped.

This is the world of superheroes at it’s best: the superhero world of Saturday morning cartoons where the good guys win but the bad guys get away and no one is ever permanently harmed. The drama is high, the philosophy is pointed, and the aesthetics are amazing.

It also reminds me a bit of The Rest of Us Just Live Here since Pat, our main character who does the occasional part-time duty as a minion to whatever supervillain is currently making a bid for world domination, is mostly a college student who loves his major and has a pretty decent part-time job. He’s just so irrepressible and he loves his mom and dad and his sisters and his studies to be an urban developer and even being a minion is often annoying but sometimes fun and just part of life.

And Nicholas Andersen is the Tony Stark / Bruce Wayne of this world: the billionaire philanthropist tech-genius with awkward social skills who starts out thinking that Pat is the prostitute he requested sent up. (And Pat isn’t about to say “no” to sex with a hot guy who apparently wants to have sex with him.) And then life happens and it is all so ludicrously delightful and I love it!

stillwatersStill Waters
by Alex Gabriel
2015

As soon as I finished “Love for the Cold Blooded” I went to check out the author’s page for more. Sadly, there’s not much else and nothing in the last three years, but this novella is still really good.

It packs a fascinating amount of world-building around a very character-driven fantasy plot. Anyone who has read a lot of urban fantasy knows that it comes in a wide range of styles: from dark/gritty/game-of-thrones-esque to light/fluffy/romcom-esque. Are werewolves vicious slavering creatures going on murderous rampages or are they people who turn into puppies? In this story, they are both! Because the background premise is that there are rips that will occasionally allow people from one world to pass into a different world.

Drakjan, going by Julian, is one such individual. The world he’s from is a dark and dangerous fantasy world in which vicious creatures fight and kill and the world he’s now in is a softer fantasy world in which those same fantasy creatures share borders and have council meetings and are shocked when one of their own is murdered!

One of the great things about this book is Drakjan’s perspective because the whole world is so foreign to him even after  he’s settled in to the periphery of life in the new world, giving up the joy of killing for the pleasure of peace. But he’s still very much an outsider looking in, not quite understanding how (or even why) to fit in with the rest of the society.

The plot happens when someone else comes through another rip. (Two someones actually: a love-interest and a plot-point.) The plot is extremely straight forward but the characters and the world building are amazing and it’s just as well that the plot doesn’t get in the way of that. I would love to read more but it’s also self-contained as is.

Hey Ladies!

By Michelle Markowitz and Caroline Moss

Hey_LadiesAfter all my recent disappointments, I decided to go with a book with zero male voices at all. Hey Ladies! started as a randomly occurring column on the late, lamented Toast.

It was one of my favorites – just a series of emails from the most vapid group of friends trying to plan outrageous outings – but it was also a bit controversial on The Toast, with some commenters feeling like it was too broadly satirizing women in general and tipping over into anti-feminism. For the book, which borrows and expands from the original columns, the authors wrote a forward in which they explicitly write:

We’re not making fun of you or your friends or women in general. We’re making fun of ourselves, and how mass emails to big groups seem to bring out the “OMG SO EXCITED!!!!!!!!!” in all of us.

I have to admit that I was skeptical, because while I always looked forward to a Hey Ladies! column, it was definitely a sharply-pointed satire of a certain class of women. And the beginning of the book was exactly the same seven truly appalling women (and one audience-proxy who mostly doesn’t respond) that entertained me so much before.

But, damn me if by only a quarter through the book, I started getting twinges of sympathy for each character: Nicole who is always mooching off her friends, but is clearly scrabbling to maintain the lifestyle that lets her keep her friends; Ali who railroads everyone into her preferred decisions, but is also just trying to a decision made; Caitlin who is on the edge of success as a social media influencer but also really does honestly want to help everyone around her; etc.

I mean, good satire lures you into some introspection on how you view yourself and others, right?

Homeschool Sex Machine

By Matthew Pierce

Book Cover: Homeschool Sex MachineI don’t even remember what internet rabbit hole led me to Matthew Pierce’s blog, but the entries I read were funny enough that I decided it was worth $2.99 to get them compiled in his kindle book. The author was primarily homeschooled up to 10th grade, and he describes the experience, and that niche community, hilariously and self-deprecatingly. I kept expecting some anger or bitterness, but he writes respectfully, if briefly, about his religiously conservative parents, and ultimately affectionately about his upbringing.

I got a little grumpy about it, actually, and ended up having to face some personal bias against religious conservatism that I would have preferred to ignore in myself. Personal issues aside, though, it was a really interesting and entertaining look a childhood much, much different from my own. He has a sequel about attending a Christian college, which I look forward to reading just as soon as I work up some acceptance for Christian colleges.

In case this review has not already made my religious lack clear, I have tested as being damned to an inner circle of Dantes’ Hell. Rebecca found an online quiz that tells you where you belong in the 9 circles, and it was all fun and games as every other member of my family headed off to limbo to hang out with famous philosophers, and then I was consigned to burn in sepulchers with all the other heretics.

—Anna

The Dante’s Inferno Test has banished you to the Sixth Level of Hell – The City of Dis!
Here is how you matched up against all the levels:

Level Score
Purgatory (Repending Believers) Very Low
Level 1 – Limbo (Virtuous Non-Believers) Moderate
Level 2 (Lustful) Low
Level 3 (Gluttonous) High
Level 4 (Prodigal and Avaricious) Low
Level 5 (Wrathful and Gloomy) Moderate
Level 6 – The City of Dis (Heretics) Very High
Level 7 (Violent) High
Level 8 – The Malebolge (Fraudulent, Malicious, Panderers) Moderate
Level 9 – Cocytus (Treacherous) Moderate

Take the Dante’s Inferno Hell Test

Darths & Droids

Screen Shot 2015-10-11 at 7.16.08 PMDarths & Droids
by The Comic Irregulars (Andrew Coker, Andrew Shellshear, David Karlov, David McLeish, David Morgan-Mar, Steven Irrgang, Ian Boreham and Loki Patrick)
and, of course, Lucas Films
2007 – present (and ongoing)

So, I’m currently reading book 3 of this series, while the authors are still regularly updating book 6. And, with the soon-to-be released Star Wars episode 7, I’m sure hoping the authors continue to write a book 7.

Because this is a graphic novel parody re-telling of the Star Wars movies and it is hilarious!

I actually blasted my way through Books 1 and 2 and am now laughing my way through Episode 3, even as I also go back to Episodes 1 and 2 to laugh at that over Anna’s shoulder as she reads it.

The great thing about this is that it doesn’t actually deviate from the plot (as best as I can tell, although I admittedly don’t really remember the movies all that well) – it uses screen captures for the illustrations. The parody aspect comes with the fact that it’s told as the adventures of a Dungeons & Dragons style role playing game and has the dialogue of the players, both in and out of character, overlaying the events. And let me tell you: all the things that make no sense in the movies, suddenly make all sorts of perfect (and perfectly hilarious) sense when you see the motivations of the players making the decisions.

I have no real interest in role playing games, but this almost tempts me to try because it’s so funny, except that then I remember that I find them kind of tedious. It doesn’t matter, though: this makes it look fun and awesome! And the author’s comments below each page are also hilarious bits of commentary either on making that particular update or on the joys/frustrations of role playing games.

Plus, I had not thought it possible to be absolutely charmed by Jar Jar Binks, but apparently I can be. And I really want to tell you all about the hilarious things that happen (Shmi! Sally! “Summon bigger fish”!) but once I started, there’d be no end and you really just need to go start reading it yourself.

Go forth and read Darths & Droids: here!

I’m also going to include a couple of other somewhat related links, which are well worth exploring too:

DM of the Rings: Darths & Droids was originally inspired by DM of the Rings, another webcomic parody with the same premise of role playing gamers being the Lord of the Rings characters. It’s also hilarious, although I think Darths & Droids does it even better, in part at least because the Star Wars movies are active/ludicrous enough to support going through it scene by scene, while DM of the Rings necessarily skips over large sections.

Star Wars: Before The Force Awakens (original Korean: “스타워즈: 깨어난 포스 그 이전의 이야기”) by Hong Jacga is actually a fully licensed and approved addition to Star Wars that is also a free online webcomic being regularly updated. It’s also beautifully illustrated and adds scenes of Luke Skywalker’s early life even as it retells much of the story of the original trilogy.

I’m Not A Terrorist, But I’ve Played One On TV

By Maz Jobrani

Book Cover: I'm Not A Terrorist, But I've Played One on TVI first read an article in GQ by Jon Ronson (who I love) about Maz Jobrani and other actors of Middle Eastern descent, and about how they are only offered roles as terrorists. The actors describe all the different ways they are killed by the heroes, over and and over again, and how frustrating it is to get no other roles, not to mention feeding into negative stereotypes of your culture in order to make a living. Because it is Jon Ronson, too, it is depressing, but also a bit funny.

I thought it was a really interesting piece on something I had literally given zero thought to before, so when the article mentioned Jobrani’s memoir, I checked it out from the library that day. Jobrani, an Iranian-American, started as an actor, but turned to stand-up comedy when he decided that he didn’t want to play terrorists any more, which I think was a good move since his book made me laugh out loud several times.

Jobrani is an extremely positive person, disappointed by the anti-Middle-East sentiment in the US, but focused on creating a more positive presence. For my own part, I like humor that is a bit angrier and more biting, especially when it comes to social justice issues. However, even his light-hearted jokes revealed how little I know about Iran and the rest of the Middle East and this is a very easy way to learn some very basic truths about Middle Eastern culture. Jobrani has a lot of videos up on YouTube and is a semi-regular on Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me, so check him out!

—Anna

Interesting eBooks

First of all, I’d like to concur with Kinsey’s statement that we are not the sort of people that read a lot because we don’t watch TV; people are amazed at how many books and how much TV we are able to fit into our schedules, as well as our fair share of internet browsing.

Speaking of the internet, I bought a couple of very unusual e-books online over the last month based on Tumblr recommendations that are both absolutely ridiculous and sort of weirdly complementary.

Inspector Pancakes Helps the President of France

By Karla Pacheco and Maren Marmulla

Book Cover: Inspector PancakesInspector Pancakes is a picture book based on those old-school Golden Books in which Inspector Pancakes, a dog detective, helps the president of France track the thief who has been stealing his breakfast croissants. Or at least that’s the regular text. The really ingenious idea behind this is that it is two stories; each page has large bold text for the children’s story, and then much smaller italic text for the adult side, in which Pancakes is actually tracking down the brutal murderer of Parisian prostitutes.

The idea is just brilliant, and the pictures are adorable! The problem is the writing. For this type of thing the writing has to be as tight and spot-on as possible in order to work, and it just isn’t. The connection between the two stories is extremely tenuous and the pictures correspond with the children’s story without any winky reference to the adult story that would help tie them together.

Rebecca and I were brainstorming ways of correcting this problem, and we both agreed that the adult section has to be much more complex. It could be longer, of course, which would help, but theoretically at least, a skilled author could make an extremely powerful short story in just a few sentences. Rebecca thought that the author relied too heavily on ultra-violence to make the adult half stand out, and while I agreed that she needed more to it, I thought the violence was a funny contrast to the pictures.

Sextrap Dungeon

By Kurt Knox

Book Cover: Sextrap DungeonOn the other hand, there is Sextrap Dungeon, which had a promotional free download day a little while ago, so I figured what the hell. I have to say now that I highly recommend it (for adult audiences)! It is a choose-your-adventure book where you play a pick-up artist out to get some action on a Saturday night. (You are asked to select male or female at the beginning, but if you select female, you are told that’s ridiculous, and to try again. You then also have the option of how many dicks you’d like.)

The whole thing is super tongue-in-cheek, with a pretty surprising feminist slant, and mostly ends very poorly for your character. There are three “levels” and you graduate up levels by getting some action. Spoiler(?): I graduated up one level by getting a blow job from a Nazi stripper. It truly is a joke book, and not intended to be erotica at all, so there are no graphic descriptions of the sex (the violence is slightly more graphic, but still not extreme) – it is basically at the level of an extremely dirty joke. Think of a choose-your-own-adventure version of The Aristocrats, though actually a bit cleaner than that.

—Anna

A Girl and Her Fed by K.B. Spangler

First: Happy American Independence Day!

Then we get to the part where I have various concerns regarding my country. I love it, but oof, there are some things that need to change. A Captain America: Winter Soldier fanvid that I particularly appreciate sums it up best by changing the chords of the Star Spangled Banner from major to minor. Just the music change, changes the connotations of the classic question from “does my country of freedom and bravery still exist?” to “is my country that exists still free and brave?” And given the recent prevalence of fear-mongering and preemptive actions, the second question is a timely one.

Anyway, on the same note but with a much cheerier tone: have an absolutely hilarious webcomic all about government surveillance, government conspiracies, non-government conspiracies, presidential ghosts, and some pretty raunchy jokes:

 

AGirlandHerFed_4574A Girl and Her Fed
by K.B. Spangler
2007 – present

This is awesome! It’s a webcomic, but that doesn’t really capture it, because it’s also a serial story and a graphic novel. While each update is quite awesome on its own, it’s very plot-driven and I highly recommend starting at the beginning and reading through to the end.

Of course, it’s not actually ended. Spangler is currently working her way through chapter 10 (updates twice a week!). However, the introduction thru Chapter 6 make up an entire plot arc. Chapter 7 starts with a quick montage of the next five years and then proceeds with the next plot arc, five years after the close of Chapter 6.

The premise (without any spoilers: this gets covered in the first 5 pages) is that a journalist who speaks to the ghost of Benjamin Franklin is on the terrorist watch list after an article on civil liberties. The fed in charge of monitoring her was part of a secret government experiment that implanted a cybernetic computer chip in his brain that includes an interface avatar that looks like George W. Bush.

And conspiracies abound!

Our two main characters have widely divergent political leanings but they’re both good intentioned. And our primary main character (the titular “Girl”) is incredibly outspoken and, while she has doubts about what to do, she is fearless in doing what she decides to do. Which is often incredibly dangerous and maybe she should be a bit more fearful, and yet, I love her because she is not.

There’s also a talking koala, Speedy. Speedy was the result of another government experiment, who is very smart and capable and yet remains very much a sexually-mature male koala (think tom-cat, except koala.) Speedy is largely the reason this story is PG-13 at minimum.

The whole thing is a joy to read and I love it. You should read it too!

You can read the author’s About the Story here (the webcomic equivalent of the back of the book.)

Or you can just dive in and start reading here.

Also, the art is lovely. I wouldn’t give a positive review of a graphic story if the graphic portion wasn’t good. Something to note is that Spangler developed a great deal artistically over time, and while she’s gone back and started redoing earlier pages to match up with the more mature art style, there’s a couple of chapters in the middle that are still significantly rougher than the rest. It’s not bad, by any means, but it is a bit jarring to hit that point where it starts to look like a rough draft to the final version rather than the final version.

But still: lovely!

Go read it!