Fowl Language: The Struggle is Real By Brian Gordon

Brian Gordon, excited to be a new dad, wasn’t quite prepared for the reality of children. Realizing that there was a lot of denial going on among other parents of his acquaintance (the term he used was “liar”) and wanting to right this societal equivocation, he decided to create a series of comics expressing his struggles in parenthood sprinkled with a healthy dose of self doubt and anxiety. On his website, Gordon shares his childhood dream of becoming a cartoonist (Plan B was starving to death), which reflects his ironic view of life.

The Fowl Language Comics are basically parenting humor books based on real life experiences. The cartoon characters are Ducks (Dad/drake, children/ducklings) which adds a dimension to the humor. Volume 2 of the series, Fowl Language: The Struggle is Real, the 128 pages explores topics such as making optimal use of free time without the kids, longing for adult conversation, the hassles of bedtime, teething, finicky eaters, baby proofing, etc., often using satire to make us laugh. (Might be Satan, then again, it might be teething).

Gordon, despite the simplistic artwork, is able to effectively convey the emotions of his characters. This is reinforced by some “foul” language which puts these particular cartoons in the adult category. While perhaps the use of swearing could be avoided, it does enhance the humor and, I would presume, accurately reflects his reactions to similar situations.

Four stars and a thank you to Netgalley and Andrews McMeel Publishing for providing this temporary ARC in exchange for an honest review. This review also appears on Goodreads.

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Disney Manga: Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas adapted by Jun Asuka

I had a little trouble accessing the temporary ARC of the Disney Manga: Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas adapted by Jun Asuka, sent to me by Tokyopop and Netgalley (in exchange for an honest review), but then, one day, voila, I figured it out, so I was able to get the complete experience of morphing an animated movie into an anime book.

I loved the Tim Burton’s film A Nightmare Before Christmas and was pleased that the manga stayed true to the original. I could actually hear the songs in my head as I read the story of Jack Skellington’s quest to find something he felt was missing, something even better than Halloween. Lost in his thoughts, Jack, the Pumpkin King, wanders into Christmas Town which houses the only holiday that could surpass Halloween in its celebratory flavor. Thinking to capture this essence Jack has Santa kidnapped and tries to transform the Christmas tradition, but everything backfires when Jack applies his Halloween knowhow to an already fine-tuned holiday, while back in Halloween Town avarice and greed threaten a possible turn around to the inevitable chaos. A parallel story has Patchwork Doll Sally, a devotee of Jack, trying to help him overcome his mounting difficulties, hoping he’ll notice her in a more romantic way. She has problems of her own as she must finagle her way out of the clutches of her creator who wants her all to himself.

While the illustrations remain true to Tim Burton’s representations, the black and white sketches, although detailed, don’t have the depth of the original. I strongly feel that this particular book would be better received in a print edition due to the limitations of the electronic version. However, even if this could be overlooked, the plot itself doesn’t quite carry over, leaving some gaps in our understanding of events.

Still, after reading the 176 page graphic novel, I am ready to revisit the movie which is currently available on Netflix. I was never quite sure whether this was a Halloween or Christmas story, but I’ll be watching it in time for Ground Hog’s Day. Scary Christmas!

Three and a half stars.

Big Mushy Happy Lump by Sarah Andersen

The illustrations are simplistic, the text fairly simple, the humor due to real life experiences – hey, why couldn’t I write an award winning book like that?

Yet it was Sarah Andersen that, through her Sarah’s Scribbles (this the second book of the series), brings us the further adventures of her alter ego in Big Mushy Happy Lump. Imagine getting the 2017 Goodreads Choice Award in Graphic Novels for writing down your worst neuroses and projecting them on to a cartoon character. Just the joys and more importantly, the angst, of being female can easily fill a book with plenty left for future editions. What’s so humorous is that the subject matter is so familiar – just everyday stuff exaggerated to the nth degree. Light hearted every day situations where one is able to laugh at themselves when life doesn’t quite go as planned. Perhaps a little too close to the truth, this is more a smile than a laugh out loud book, but a good way to escape the normal routines.

Three stars and a thank you to Netgalley and Andrew McMeel Publishing for providing a temporary copy of this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

50 Cities of the U.S.A.: Explore America’s Cities With Fifty Fact-Filled Maps by Gabrielle Balkan, illustrated by Sol Linero

Although I received an electronic advanced reader copy of 50 Cities of the U.S.A.: Explore America’s Cities With Fifty Fact-Filled Maps by Gabrielle Balkan, this is one of those books which would be better pursued in hard cover.

Utilizing an A to Z format, the 112 colorfully annotated pages, illustrated by Sol Linero, highlights each of 50 cities with trivia focusing on famous people, inventions, foods, and historical/cultural tourist destinations, to introduce and perhaps whet ones appetite to visit these locales. Each city spans two pages chock full of vibrant details or info graphics laid over a map. This is a perfect introduction which parents can share with their children prior to a trip or which can assist families in reliving their vacation at a later date. There is a follow up Trivia Section at the end of the book to test ones knowledge of famous sites throughout the country. Selected cities include Boston, Charleston, Chicago, Detroit, Honolulu, Las Vegas, Miami, New Orleans, New York City, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. as well as numerous other venues.

While I thank Netgalley and the Quarto Publishing Group for providing this partial ARC for a book which appeals to people of all ages (in exchange for an honest review), I was disappointed that my hometown of Buffalo, New York didn’t make the cut. Four stars.

Superman and the Miserable, Rotten, No Fun, Really Bad Day by Peter Croatto, illustrated by Tom Richmond

We’ve all read DC comics but have we ever examined a typical day in the life of a superhero? Well here’s our chance in the picture book, Superman and the Miserable, Rotten, No Fun, Really Bad Day. A unauthorized parody of the popular children’s book Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judy Viorst, Peter Croatto has found a way to capture the essence of the original in a witty, laugh out loud manner which is sure to please both children and adults.

Poor Superman starts the day off by accidentally stepping on his glasses and blowing up his bottle of shampoo (drat that X-ray vision). Then on the bus he has to listen to the kids argue over their favorite super hero and his name isn’t even mentioned. Late for work at the Daily Planet (someone has to stop those super villains), he not only gets yelled at in front of the whole staff by Perry White, but he gets stuck covering a flower show. Ready to find solace at the Justice League headquarters he starts to long for his Fortress of Solitude when he’s assigned his least favorite task, Monitor Duty.

Cleverly crafted, Tom Richmond has packed the 32 pages chock full of details with Superman in color and the remainder of the images in black and white, all while utilizing the style created by the original illustrations of Judith Viorst. This fun, family-friendly book is perfect for parents to share with their kids. Even if you know nothing about superheroes, who wouldn’t chuckle over gum stick to someone’s butt.

Mad has done it again. Five stars and a thank you to Netgalley for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

The Rogue is Back in Town by Anna Bennett (The Wayward Wallflowers, #3)

Disclaimer: Much of the plot line of The Rogue is Back in Town, book three in the Wayward Wallflower series by Anna Bennett, ignores the societal rules and mores of the Regency Era. If you can suspend your sense of logic and accept the characters’ actions, no matter how ridiculous, then you’ll enjoy the author’s breezy style. If you’re a stickler for accuracy, skip this series.

The little bit we’ve seen of Juliette Lacey in the first two books of the series has shown us a spoiled little sister allowed to blurt out inappropriate comments including references to sexual activities. Due to her unrestrained behavior, it shouldn’t be surprising that the youngest of the Lacey sisters would be the most passionate.

At the masquerade ball held by Alexander Savage, the Duke of Blackshire, in
I Dared the Duke, Julie had a tryst with Nigel Travis, the Marquess of Currington, whose kisses turned her mind towards romance. Yet afterwards the gentleman remained scarce, neither calling or sending a message to the besotted girl.

Disturbed that her inappropriate behavior might reflect badly on her family, imagine Julie’s surprise when a disheveled Samuel Travis, with similar looks and build to his handsome brother Nigel, turns up at her door. Her reaction turns to horror when Sam nonchalantly requests her eviction from the place her Uncle Alister, Lord Wltmore, has called home for the past forty years. Seems Nigel has discovered the tumbledown townhouse is a part of his recently inherited estate and he’d like it back. Of course the headstrong girl refuses to leave until she is provided with proof, but the desperate Sam must stay put until he completes the assigned task. After some negotiation, Julie agrees to let Sam remain (hidden from outside eyes) posing as a research assistant to her Uncle.

Sam’s resemblance to her crush Nigel evokes Julie’s sensuality and the electric attraction between the two housemates soon results in an inappropriate liaison. While the scandalous Sam is prone to over indulge in drinking, gambling, and wenching, the true scoundrel is Lord Travis who has a hidden agenda which defies the outward gentlemanly manner presented to society.

Foolishly, the headstrong, independent Juliette tries to resolve this crisis without disturbing either sister (or their well connected husbands). To complicate matters, her attraction to Sam turns steamy with the two lovers having difficulty keeping their hands off each other. Perhaps Julie is responding to Sam’s vulnerability or his innate desire to be respected. Uncle Alister has a positive influence on his new assistant and the two develop a heartwarming bond. Determined to find a purpose in life, Sam strikes out on his own. He truly loves Julie and is resigned to accept her choices, hoping that if he can prove himself worthy she’ll choose him. Of course, events spin out of control and someone needs to play the hero.

One wonders whether the randiness of the three Lacey sisters is due to the untimely death of their parents, or perhaps for the ridicule they previously experienced as the Wilting Wallflowers. Either way, each was easy to seduce, succumbing to their lusty nature almost instantly after meeting their perspective paramours. Samuel, known for his prowess in the bedroom, is a worthy partner for the amorous Juliette. Definitely steamy!

Three and a half stars and a thank you to Netgalley for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review. This review also appears on Goodreads.

I Dared the Duke by Anna Bennett (The Wayward Wallflowers, #2)

Perhaps what I liked best about the Regency Romance, I Dared the Duke by Anna Bennett, is the emphasis on the importance of family. Elizabeth Lacey has a strong bond with her two sisters, Margaret and Juliette, as well as her Uncle Alister, Lord Wltmore, who “adopted” them when their parents were killed in a carriage accident. Alexander Savage, the Duke of Blackshire, adores his grandmother, the Dowager Duchess, the only family he has left. Both main characters suffered trauma in their lives involving the tragic death of loved ones with Alex still bearing scars around his neck from the devastating fire which killed his parents. It’s not a wonder that these two find sympathy for one another, but not without first developing a contentious relationship, arguing over the treatment of the chief object of their attention – Lady Blackshire.

At the request of her uncle, Beth has agreed to serve as companion to the elderly Duchess and she resents the Duke’s request to convince her charge to hasten to their country estate instead of remaining in her beloved London. Beth finally agrees to help Alex with his request but only after he grants his grandmother three “wishes”.

Beth quickly discovers that the Duke is a hoax. Although he is ornery, underneath all the bluff is a decent, caring heart. His undeserved reputation as a reprobate who has seduced numerous wives throughout The Ton, is a myth. In fact, his sexual experience is somewhat limited and he is tentative with his romantic liaison with Beth. She, however, only feels the power of their attraction, despite her questions about his intentions. Little does she know that it was his offhand comment which cemented the title – the “Wilting Wallflowers” on the three sisters when they entered society.

Eventually Alex has to reveal the real reason for his concern – he has been the target of numerous murder attempts. Not wanting his grandmother or Miss Lacey accidentally hurt in the crossfire, he pleads with her to move to the safety of the country. By this time the two have become quite “close” and Beth, who likes to be in the center of the action, wants to help discover the culprit’s identity. Of course, chaos ensues.

As in Book 1 (My Brown-Eyed Earl) of the Wayward Wallflower series, in Book 2 the details and vernacular ignore the accepted mores of the Regency Era. Yet the witty banter and easy reading style overcome some of the unlikely plot details. Alex’s behavior doesn’t always mesh with his role as Duke, yet his gruff exterior hiding a compassionate soul is endearing to the reader. While the pig-headed Beth isn’t as likable as her sister Meg, the reader can’t help but root for her happily ever after. A major annoyance is the repetitive reflections by the two protagonists as the author flits back and forth detailing their individual points of view. Some selective editing could easily take care of this exasperating tendency.

Three stars and a thank you to Netgalley for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review. This review also appears on Goodreads.

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