Thursday, April 26, 2018

Hyperbole and a Half

By Allie Brosh

The author is a blogger and cartoonist and the book contains some of her online work and some new stories. She writes about her life and her childhood and her dogs with accompanying illustrations. Her drawings of herself are crude and simplistic. But her drawings of her dogs are very evocative and true.
Most of her essays are very funny. But she does address her struggle with depression and poor self image. She beats up on herself a lot.

I wasn't familiar with her blog when I got this book. I had read that the book was very funny and so I wanted it. When I saw her drawing of herself, I couldn't figure out what I was looking at. First I thought it was some kind of shark/human hybrid with a yellow shark fin sticking out of its head. Then, as I got a little further in the book, I thought maybe she drew herself with a yellow dunce hat. It took quite a while before I realized that it was her hair in a pony tail and that the fuchsia part was a dress.  Her drawings of herself and her sister are grotesque but funny. But I loved the drawings of her dogs. So charming and funny. And I really liked her funny stories. The ones about depression and identity not so much.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Pen Pals

By Olivia Goldsmith

Jennifer worked on Wall Street. But now she works in prison because she let herself be talked into taking the fall for her boss, Don and her fiancé, Tom. They had assured her that she would probably never do any jail time and that she would be well compensated when it was all over. Don told her, "These charges are going to be dropped. And even if you do go to trial, you aren't going to be found guilty of anything. Trust me." And Jennifer never questioned it. Tom reinforced what Don said, promising her that, "Nothing is really at risk. It never is in cases like this. Even if you are convicted — which is virtually impossible — we'll have an appeal before the judge can pound his gavel." She believed him, after all, because "Tom was not only a Harvard undergrad and Law Review at Yale, he was also much more than her brilliant attorney. He was her beloved fiancé." And she bought it all, joking, "I only regret that I have but one life to give for my firm."
So instead of all the promises made her, Jennifer finds herself doing three to five years for insider trading and to make matters worse, there will be no appeals. Tom has also informed her that they are no longer engaged to marry because, "...under the circumstances . . .You know my family — it would be very bad publicity for them if I was involved with . . . a convict. . ."
So Jennifer is stuck in circumstances she never envisioned when she agreed to the two men's scheme. Their promises were all empty and now she is on her own in a strange and dangerous new world. How will the pampered Wall Street princess cope with life in the dirty, depressing and degrading women's prison?

This was a pretty good read, although the opening premise of the book is more than a little hard to swallow. Jennifer is portrayed as some kind of hot Wall Street wheeler-dealer. How could she be that savvy and not know that her boss and her fiancé were giving her a sucker's deal?
But never mind that. The real story is Jennifer's timely arrival at the prison just in time to help protect the inmates from the effects of the prison management being transferred from the public to the private sector, with plans by the new management to turn the prisoners into virtual slaves, working to generate revenue for their new bosses, while being paid nearly nothing for their labor.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Night of the Mary Kay Commandos

By Berke Breathed

Bloom County comic strips from the late 1980s. Breathed looks at some of his favorite issues: political incompetence, corporate greed, animal welfare and human stupidity. And he introduces Ronald Ann, the character he built a new comic strip around called Outland.
The main thrust of this collection is Bill and Opus running for the presidency against George Bush and Mike Dukakis. It is a very political collection and not one of my favorites. I've never been a big fan of Bill the Cat. Anyway, here are a couple strips I lifted from online:

Humans, Bow Down

By James Patterson, Emily Raymond and Jill Dembowski

So the robots have taken over and most humans are dead, defeated in the war between the humans and robots. The remaining humans work as humbled servants to their robot masters and those who wouldn't are held in enclaves, living in squalor and poverty.
Two misguided kids from the Reserve, as the enclave in this story is called, make their way into the former city of Denver, now under robot control, looking for fun and mischief. One of them chances upon an unlocked sports car and he steals it and talks the other, the girl, called Six, into taking it back to the Reserve. As it turns out, not unsurprisingly, this is a really dumb idea and before much longer the robot cops are at the Reserve led by one young detective, a robot "woman" known as MikkyBo. Mikky is an idealist and is shocked when her fellow cops open fire on a group of teen kids, killing several. Turns out they were just doing what their boss & Mikky's ordered. Although Mikky doesn't know it yet, the robot leaders have decided on a final solution for the "human" problem: extermination.
So, in its innocence, Mikky thinks it can track down the two car thief teens and bring them to justice, and that will defuse the situation. But Mikky ends up in the hands of a secret band of humans being led by the man who was the creator of the robots. And he is planning on using Mikky as a secret weapon against the robot overlords.

Despite its rather silly premise and that it seems to be aimed at Hollywood moguls looking for another teen flick similar to the Hunger Games to produce, I found this book surprisingly readable and quite enjoyable.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Get Fuzzy : Groovitude

By Darby Conley

A daily comic strip featuring Rob Wilco and his two pets, Satchel, the dog and Bucky, the cat. Although these pets are more like really stupid or very innocent small humans than animals. Satchel is mainly the butt of Bucky's stunts and Bucky provides most of the drama, with his craziness and wild schemes.

I was not familiar with the strip since I haven't bought a newspaper since the 1990s. I found the idea of dogs and cats conversing with humans a bit strange. Snoopy never spoke out loud, nor did Garfield. They had thought bubbles but no actual voice. Not only do this dog and cat talk, but Bucky is supposed to clean out his own litter box and Satchel sometimes does the cooking, although his concoctions are apt to appeal more to dogs than humans, like his cake with liver frosting. I would have liked to post that comic strip on here, but my scanner is not currently available due to computer problems. So instead here are a couple strips  I found online:


Lost in a Good Book

By Jasper Fforde

A continuation from the first book, The Eyre Affair, in which Thursday Next killed arch-criminal Acheron Hades and imprisoned Goliath Corporation operative Jack Schitt in Poe's poem The Raven.
Now married to her lover from the first story, Landen, and pregnant with their baby, Thursday finds herself being hunted by persons unknown and the Goliath people demanding that she free Schitt from Poe's famous poem. When she refuses, Goliath agents go back in time and erase Landen when he was just a toddler, promising to bring him back when she brings back Jack Schitt. But not only do they want Schitt, they also want the Prose Portal, the device that enables humans to enter the word of the written word. And its inventor, Thursday's Uncle Mycroft.

This was a weird story, just like the first one. All this jumping about in time and in and out of books is more than a little confusing. At one point in the story Thursday is shot dead, but comes back, thanks to time travel, but I really didn't understand that part. A lot of this story doesn't make much sense, but that is part of its charm, I think.
Anyway, I enjoyed the story and am looking forward to the next in the series, The Well of Lost Plots.

You'll Grow Out of It

By Jessi Klein

Jessi shares her life and talks about her transition from administrative assistant to comedy writer and stand-up performer. From miss to ma'am. From single girl to married woman. From never wanting children to desperate for a baby and willing to endure the torture of fertility treatments. From childless to new mom. From loser to Emmy award winner. But never from wolf to poodle. (Klein has a theory that girls are born either a wolf or a poodle. Poodles are effortlessly feminine. Wolves are not.)

This was an enjoyable book even though I came into it not knowing who Jessi Klein is. I thought the reviews of the book made it sound interesting and funny. It was interesting though not all that funny. Mildly amusing at most although I will admit I don't have an East Coast sense of humor. Nor do I have access to non-free TV so I was frequently looking up references to see what she was talking about and because of that I learned what a blouson top is.

Thursday, April 19, 2018


By Sharon Sala

Set in the territory of Kansas, after the Civil War but before the turn of the century, the story brings together a cast of characters to the dusty town of Lizard Flats, all of them coming for one reason: to see the preacher from back East, the Reverend Randall W. Howe.
Rev. Howe is headed West to make a new life for himself and put aside his lustful ways and rededicate himself to his holy calling. He was invited to Lizard Flats to perform the marriage of the town's two leading citizens, banker Alfonso Worthy and his wealthy, widowed, eager bride Sophie Hollis.
Headed to the town, among others, is Henry Wainwright, a grizzled trapper, bringing the body of his partner, Parson Sutter, whose last request was to have burial presided over by a real preacher. And there are Hetty and Charity Doone and Wade James, seeking a reckoning with Rev. Howe, who took Charity's innocence.  Also headed to Lizard Flats are Miles Crutchaw and Truly Fine, who want to get married. Miles is a miner who has struck pay dirt and Truly is the saloon whore who is the light of his eyes. Another couple desiring to be married by the preacher are Joe Redhawk, a gunman, and Caitlin O'Shea, a young Irish girl. Redhawk rescued Caitlin from captivity by a half-blind Arapahoe brave. And finally there are the Jessups, Isaac, Minna and their adolescent son, Baby Boy. Isaac and Minna have decided it is about time Baby Boy got a real name and they want the preacher to christen him and make it official.
Meanwhile, back in Lizard Flats, Eulis Porter, town drunk and Letty Murphy, town whore, are about to spoil everyone's big plans when the lusty Reverend Howe dies in Letty's bed. Fearing she will be hanged because of the preacher's death, Letty talks Eulis into helping her. Together they will hide the body in a newly dug grave and, with a bath, shave and wearing the preacher's garments, they will try to hoodwink everyone and pass Eulis off as the Reverend.

This was quite the tale. I found it a bit hard to keep track of all the characters and had to make a list. But it was well worth it. The story is amusing, heartbreaking at times, and with overtones of tragedy but mostly is it just hugely entertaining. Well done!

Saturday, April 14, 2018


By Sheila Simonson

Two women are on holiday in London, England. One of them strikes up a friendship with a waiter from Eastern Europe. They go to see a play together but on the ride home via the Underground, the waiter, Milos, is attacked and knifed. A fellow passenger's shopping bag is also stolen, a bag that was similar to one that held a manuscript written by Milos, supposedly a translation of a Shakespeare play into his native language. As it later turns out, it was actually an eyewitness account of atrocities committed by the govenment of Milos' native land. 
When the police suspect one of the women, Lark, of being the attacker, Lark and the other woman, Ann, embark on a quest to find out the truth, protect Milos from further attempts on his life, and clear Lark of suspicion. And maybe get a little sightseeing in at the same time.

This was an interesting story and fun to read about fellow Americans coping with cultural differences between the British and the Americans. Plus an interesting and different mystery.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Reincarnation Blues

By Michael Poole

Milo has lived thousands of lives.  So far he has been unable to obtain perfection and pass on into perfect harmony with the Universal Oneness. But Milo is rapidly approaching the limit: 10,000 lives. If a soul is not able to perfect itself after 10,000 lifetimes, it is destroyed.
His first life ended in childhood. As he lay dying, he was visited by Death. Death appeared as a beautiful young girl. Death, or as she preferred to be called, Suzie, admired young Milo. She thought him resourceful and brave. And she sought him out in the land between life and eternity, a place were newly dead souls pause to wind down and take stock before jumping back into life. And so their attachment began, Milo and Suzie, and it lasted through and beyond Milo's thousands of lifetimes. It lasted through his repeated failures to achieve perfection. It lasted even when Suzie decided she would no longer be Death and she began to fade away.
Together, Milo and Suzie will face great suffering and deprivation. Will Milo finally be able to overcome his past and take the ultimate step into perfection?

The story follows Milo through some of his key lifetimes and explores his failures and his successes. Although his past lives were never good enough to win through to the ultimate goal of nirvana (although I don't think the word nirvana is ever used in the story). Three of the most important stories are set in the future and one in the time of Buddha where Milo is one of Buddha's followers. He ends up killing the Buddha. A mercy killing, but murder nonetheless. Perfection not attained.
In one of the stories set in the future, Milo as a promising young student is accused of rape by a disturbed young woman and is sent to prison. While in prison he discovers he has special powers, one of which includes the ability to heal the minds of his fellow prisoners resulting in them becoming peaceful and productive. Just as he is beginning to make a real difference in the lives of the inmates, he is told the woman has recanted and he is free to go back home. But he doesn't want to leave the work he has started with the inmates and resists. He is then shot with a stunner and transported against his will back home. The stunner destroys his special abilities and Milo drifts into a life of idleness and alcoholism. Then his accuser pays him a visit. She tells him she is sorry, that she was mentally ill but has undergone treatment and is doing quite well in her life. The injustice of it all hits Milo very hard and he commits suicide after she leaves.
This story was pretty typical of the tone of the stories. Most of them are kind of sad and depressing.  I also found the book kind of preachy. But the stories are very interesting and thought-provoking, if a little to grim for me.

Thursday, April 05, 2018

Pearls Before Swine : BLTs Taste So Darn Good

By Stephan Pastis

Another funny comic strip collection featuring Pig's enormous stupidity and lots of puns.


Wednesday, April 04, 2018

The Sopratos

By Stephan Pastis

A Pearls Before Swine Collection. Featuring Stephan's twisted sense of humor and plenty of puns.


A very amusing and enjoyable comic strip collection!