Mini-Reviews: The Kitchen, Paper Girls Vol. 6, and Emily the Strange

The Kitchen by Ollie Masters
Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: October 1, 2015
Source: Borrowed

New York City, late 1970s. Times Square is a haven for sex and drugs. The city teeters on the verge of bankruptcy, while blackouts can strike at any moment. This is the world of THE KITCHEN.

The Irish gangs of Hell’s Kitchen rule the neighborhood, bringing terror to the streets and doing the dirty work for the Italian Mafia. Jimmy Brennan and his crew were the hardest bastards in the Kitchen, but after they’re all put in prison, their wives—Kath, Raven and Angie—decide to keep running their rackets. And once they get a taste of the fast life and easy money, it won’t be easy to stop.

THE KITCHEN takes one of the most popular genres in entertainment and, like The Sopranos, reimagines it for a new generation to present a classic gangster story told from a fresh point of view.

Written by talented newcomer Ollie Masters with stunning art by Ming Doyle (Mara) and killer covers by Becky Cloonan (GOTHAM ACADEMY, Killjoys, DEMO), THE KITCHEN is not to be missed.

Collects THE KITCHEN #1-8.

I hadn’t heard of The Kitchen before searching for books that I hadn’t already read that were becoming movies, but it was available on Hoopla and it sounded interesting enough. This graphic novel takes a very simple concept — what if a bunch of mobsters went to prison and their wives took over — and attempts to turn it into a story about gender roles.

I can’t really say that it succeeds, because there’s little difference between the husbands and wives. The women, understandably, want to be taken seriously, but their way of being taken seriously is basically just being very, very violent. Mob stories in general aren’t my favorite, and this one just didn’t have enough outside of the standard grisly murder scenes to keep my interest.

I can see how this could be expanded into a decent movie, but as a graphic novel, it left me disappointed.

#ps19: a book becoming a movie in 2019


Paper Girls, Vol. 6 by Brian K. Vaughan
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: October 1, 2019
Source: Borrowed

THE END IS HERE!

After surviving adventures in their past, present and future, the Paper Girls of 1988 embark on one last journey, a five-part epic that includes the emotional double-sized series finale. Featuring a new wraparound cover from Eisner Award-winning co-creator CLIFF CHIANG, which can be combined with the covers of all five previous volumes to form one complete mega-image!

Collects PAPER GIRLS #26-30

Paper Girls has been kind of hit or miss for me, wavering between “um, it’s fine” and “wow, that was actually pretty good,” depending on the volume. I was pretty excited when I saw that the final volume was out. I’d definitely been missing Vaughan’s work.

The final volume definitely falls into the “um, it’s fine” category. A lot happens and, honestly, it’s a little confusing. But as usual, the characters are great and the art is amazing. This isn’t my favorite of Vaughan’s work, but I’m glad I read it.


Emily the Strange by Rob Reger
Rating: ★☆☆☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: November 19, 2002
Source: Borrowed
Emily the Strange is not your ordinary thirteen-year-old girl — she’s got a razor-sharp wit as dark as her jet-black hair, a posse of moody black cats and famous friends in very odd places! She’s got a broodingly unique way of experiencing the world, and you’re invited along for the ride. Legions of fans worldwide have joined forces to make Emily a pop-culture phenomenon.

I’ve seen Emily the Strange stuff for years without really knowing what it was all about. I needed a book that someone was reading in a movie or on a TV show, and this was on the Gilmore Girls book list, so I went for it.

I am confused.

Because there’s no story.

That can be okay depending on how it’s done. I mean, graphic novels can just be a collection of short stories. But I want it to at least tell me something, not just show me an edgy teenage girl doing edgy things. I guess the title is accurate because I was lost, the story was dark, and it was incredibly boring.

#ps19: a book you see someone reading on TV or in a movie


Have you read any of these books? What’s the best graphic novel you’ve read recently?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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Book Review: Roommates by M.E. Parker

Roommates by M.E. Parker
Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Links: Amazon • Goodreads
Publication Date: March 26, 2018
Source: Freebie

An MMF Bisexual Menage Romance

One failed blow job…
One steamy encounter between a professor and student…
One bad break up…
Two seriously hot, womanizing rugby players…
More than a few shots of whiskey…
One dirty game of truth or dare…
Put them all together and you a get a recipe for a night that will change everything for Janie and her college roommates, Jake and Ethan.
Truth? The truth is, it gets hot. Very hot. Very fast.
Dare? I dare you to keep reading to find out just how hot.

Roommates is an erotic m/m/f contemporary romance that follows three college roommates—Ethan, Janie, and Jake—on their journey from friendship to love. This unconventional love story between the three graduate students deals with the struggles they will have to face living in a small southern college town as they try to overcome societal barriers to their relationship.

WARNING: This book is for readers over the age of eighteen. There is a lot of steam. It depicts m/m, m/f, and m/m/f sexual situations and contains graphic language.

Buddy read with my boyfriend!

After the success that was the Jealous Revenge buddy read, my boyfriend and I decided to make this a regular thing. We scoured our shelves, we explored my Kindle, and we settled on Roommates, an erotic menage romance. I probably wouldn’t have batted an eye at this book a couple years ago, but it had been a loooong time since I read anything like this. It was an experience, to say the least.

Now… I didn’t hate this book. I can’t say I really enjoyed it, either. It’s a sexy book and not much else. There’s very, very little plot. In fact, they hardly ever leave their apartment because they’re having so much sex. The only real conflict is that they’re worried about how their families will react to their relationship. The characters don’t really have personalities. I will say that they do seem to be genuine friends, although that mostly gets forgotten as they just have sex over and over again.

If I could sum this book up in one quote, it would be this one:

“Oh my gosh Jake, I didn’t think it was possible, but I’m pretty sure I’m more in love with you than I was an hour ago before we started this conversation.” I grinned at Jake, “No Janie it’s possible, because I am too.”

Roommates by M.E. Parker

Janie grins (or giggles), and one or both of the boys agree with her about whatever it is she’s said. Aside from the sex, that’s the book. And that’s fine, if that’s what you’re looking for. If you want a sexy erotic novel that requires basically no effort to read, this is the perfect book for you. If you want something with an actual plot, or actual conflict, you’ll be disappointed.

I’ll end this review with another quote, and my boyfriend’s response:

As soon as Jake put his mouth around me and started sucking, my hips bucked upwards.

Roommates by M.E. Parker

“Why is everyone bucking in this book? It’s not like it’s a rodeo.”

my boyfriend

#romanceopoly: firestation


Have you read Roommates? Is it on your TBR?
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Book Review: Trinkets by Kirsten Smith

Trinkets by Kirsten Smith
Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Links: AmazonTBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: March 12, 2013
Source: Borrowed

Sixteen-year-old Moe’s Shoplifters Anonymous meetings are usually punctuated by the snores of an old man and the whining of the world’s unhappiest housewife. Until the day that Tabitha Foster and Elodie Shaw walk in. Tabitha has just about everything she wants: money, friends, popularity, a hot boyfriend who worships her…and clearly a yen for stealing. So does Elodie, who, despite her goodie-two-shoes attitude pretty much has “klepto” written across her forehead in indelible marker. But both of them are nothing compared to Moe, a bad girl with an even worse reputation.

Tabitha, Elodie, and Moe: a beauty queen, a wallflower, and a burnout-a more unlikely trio high school has rarely seen. And yet, when Tabitha challenges them to a steal-off, so begins a strange alliance linked by the thrill of stealing and the reasons that spawn it.

Hollywood screenwriter Kirsten Smith tells this story from multiple perspectives with humor and warmth as three very different girls who are supposed to be learning the steps to recovery end up learning the rules of friendship.

Before I get into this review, I want to say one thing: Trinkets is not my kind of book. It’s not the kind of thing I’d willingly buy if I saw it in a bookstore and it’s not the kind of thing I’d really ever think I’d check out from the library, either. But because of the Netflix show, my best friend asked me if I’d read it, and of course my answer was no. Shortly after, I saw the audiobook on Overdrive, and since it’s only four hours long, I figured… why not.

Why not is because it’s not my kind of book.

And this isn’t like a one-star, worst thing I’ve ever read kind of review. At least I finished it, which is more than I can say for many other books I’ve started this week. It’s just that all of the girls have the exact same voice and they’re all terrible.

(breaking a sentence up
into a bunch of lines
so that it’s technically
written in verse
doesn’t mean that character’s voice
is distinct from everyone else’s)

Because, yes, I really would like to spend my work day listening to the story of three bored teenage girls who just want to gossip about shoplifting and sex. That’s what this book is about. Shoplifting and sex. There are, of course, a few other themes thrown in and then almost immediately discarded without any adequate resolution, like an abusive relationship, but overall, it’s about sex and shoplifting.

In fact, it’s so much about sex that there are frequent penis jokes throughout! One high school boy has a penis as big as a horse! Amazing! An actor gets an erection on stage and just keeps acting, my goodness, like it’s his job or something!!! There are also period jokes, because it’s so funny to laugh at women for their natural bodily functions! SHE NEEDED A TAMPON AT A DANCE, GUYS, HILARIOUS. LET’S ALL LAUGH AT HER.

I mean, somehow the book managed to be both very boring and have me irrationally hate every character at the same time. But, the thing is, it’s an easy book. It requires exactly zero thought or effort to read. If you just want to zone out and stare at a page or listen to an audiobook without making any mental effort whatsoever, this is your book. If you’re looking for the most unsatisfying ending possible, go for it. If you’re looking for something more than that, I have reviewed approximately four hundred or so books that are better than this.

I hope a lot of things changed with the Netflix adaptation, but I will not be watching it.


Have you read Trinkets? Have you watched the show?
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Book Review: The Song Machine by John Seabrook

The Song Machine by John Seabrook
Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: October 5, 2015
Source: Borrowed

There’s a reason today’s ubiquitous pop hits are so hard to ignore—they’re designed that way. The Song Machine goes behind the scenes to offer an insider’s look at the global hit factories manufacturing the songs that have everyone hooked. Full of vivid, unexpected characters—alongside industry heavy-hitters like Katy Perry, Rihanna, Max Martin, and Ester Dean—this fascinating journey into the strange world of pop music reveals how a new approach to crafting smash hits is transforming marketing, technology, and even listeners’ brains. You’ll never think about music the same way again.

The Song Machine is one of those books that I’d seen at my library countless times but never got around to reading. But ever since I started listening to audiobooks while I work, I’ve had an extra, you know, 40ish hours each week for reading, so I added this one to the lineup. While I was listening to it, I thought it was moderately interesting. I didn’t hate it or anything. But after finishing it and thinking about it, I have some things to say.

The thing is, if you’re looking for information about the actual process of creating a hit song, this isn’t your book. This book is about producers and songwriters and that’s about it. The actual artists are glossed over, except when Seabrook has found an anecdote of someone being difficult that he’d like to share.

And, quite honestly, those “difficult” artists are actually pretty relatable for me. At least, I related to them a lot more than I related to the old men telling them what to do. I mean, if Kelly Clarkson really hated a song, why couldn’t they just have someone else sing it? After all, Seabrook devoted countless pages to talking about how songs that are meant for one artist frequently end up actually being recorded for another.

And don’t even get me started on Kesha. Seabrook has such disdain for Kesha while placing Dr. Luke on some kind of untouchable pedestal. He’s clearly chosen Dr. Luke’s side, painting Kesha as a terrible person who (although he doesn’t come directly out and say it, he strongly alludes to it) has falsely accused Dr. Luke of sexual assault for no real reason.

The chapter on Katy Perry was just gross. I’m not Katy Perry’s biggest fan (I haven’t really listened to her music since the “Teenage Dream” days) but I can recognize that there’s more to her than her body. It was insulting to read and made me feel so bad for her that she can’t escape men ogling her body even in this non-fiction book about how the music industry works.

The last thing I want to mention is the lack of structure in the book. Seabrook will talk about early pop music, Michael Jackson, Elvis Presley, etc, and then he’ll throw in some random anecdote about a modern pop star before jumping back to early pop again. He’ll mention Ester Dean in the middle of talking about someone else even though she gets her own chapter later in the book. It didn’t make a lot of sense and even just listening to it threw me off.

All in all, there is some interesting information here, but I can’t really recommend it.


Have you read The Song Machine? Can you recommend any good books about the music industry?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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Book Review: Illuminae by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff
Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: October 20, 2015
Source: Borrowed

This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do. This afternoon, her planet was invaded.

The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to fight their way onto an evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.

But their problems are just getting started. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results; the fleet’s AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady hacks into a tangled web of data to find the truth, it’s clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: the ex-boyfriend she swore she’d never speak to again.

BRIEFING NOTE: Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents—including emails, schematics, military files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more—Illuminae is the first book in a heart-stopping, high-octane trilogy about lives interrupted, the price of truth, and the courage of everyday heroes.
 

In case you didn’t see my rating up there, I’m going to say it here: I did not enjoy this book. I know it’s a well-loved book and this is probably heresy or something, but this book was just not for me, and here’s why.

The characters: Did I care about even one single character? No. They were roles, not characters. We have the Strong Female Protagonist who’s ready to save the world. We have the Charming Love Interest who… doesn’t really have much more of a function than that. We have some Fun Side Characters whose only purpose is to die for shock value.

The plot: I’m sorry, what plot? There are two ships, okay. There’s a very contagious sickness on one of them. Some lovers who’ve been separated after breaking up but they’re still in love? There’s a war, I guess, but it’s not really explained in any kind of detail. I don’t even know what the plot is, really, aside from Kady and Ezra pining over each other for no reason.

The relationship: I’m a romance lover and even I can admit that the romance in this book was entirely unnecessary. If Kady and Ezra love each other so much, why did they break up at the beginning of the book? I couldn’t take them seriously.

The plot twist: I rolled my eyes. It wasn’t one of those “oh wow, that plot twist!!” kind of situations. It was one of those “really? are you actually serious? this is what I waited for??” kind of moments. The big plot twist was some nonsense.

I had really hoped to enjoy Illuminae since so many of my Goodreads friends and fellow bloggers love it, but I just couldn’t get into it. The format is fun, but that’s about all that I can say about this one. I love Jay Kristoff, but I’m not going to be continuing with this series.


Have you read Illuminae? Do you agree with me or did you love it?
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Book Review: MCMLXXV by Joe Casey

MCMLXXV by Joe Casey
Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: May 15, 2019
Source: Borrowed

Meet Pamela Evans. Much more than a typical Manhattan cab driver, she also happens to be a badass monster fighter who wields an enchanted tire iron. Yeah, that’s right. Welcome to the year of her greatest adventure.

MCMLXXV is modern mythology for a new generation, from JOE CASEY (NEW LIEUTENANTS OF METAL, JESUSFREAK) and IAN MacEWAN (PROPHET: EARTH WAR, SEX).

Collects MCMLXXV #1-3

This is going to be a pretty short review because I did not enjoy this one very much. Pretty much the only reason I read this was because of the title, which doesn’t even figure into the story at all.

Let me start with the positive. It starts off well enough. I’d probably give it four stars for the first issue. I appreciate that it features a strong female lead. I appreciate the premise of the story. The art is fine. Unfortunately, that’s about all I can say.

Some bullet points, because I don’t really want to devote too much more time to this graphic novel:

  • If you like random words being emphasized for no reason, you might enjoy this graphic novel.
  • Aside from a taxi driver fighting demons, there’s not too terribly much of a plot, and the world-building is basically non-existent.
  • I cared about literally none of the characters. I didn’t dislike them or anything, but I just didn’t feel anything for them. Even when some pretty major characters died, I was just like, “oh… alright then.”
  • Please explain to me how Pamela destroys her cabs on a nightly basis and still has a job??

I’m not mad that I took the time to read this, but I can’t really recommend it either.

#mm19: animal, number, color, name


Have you read MCMLXXV? Is it on your TBR?
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Book Review: Comics for Choice by Hazel Newlevant, Whit Taylor, and Ø.K. Fox

Comics for Choice by Hazel Newlevant, Whit Taylor, and Ø.K. Fox
Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: August 2017
Source: Borrowed

Comics for Choice is anthology of comics about abortion. As this fundamental reproductive right continues to be stigmatized and jeopardized, over sixty artists and writers have created comics that boldly share their own experiences, and educate readers on the history of abortion, current political struggles, activism, and more. Lawyers, activists, medical professionals, historians, and abortion fund volunteers have teamed up with cartoonists and illustrators to share their knowledge in accessible comics form.

Comics for Choice is edited by Hazel Newlevant, Whit Taylor, and Ø.K. Fox, and contains comics from exciting cartoonists like Sophia Foster-Dimino (Sex Fantasy), Leah Hayes (Not Funny Ha-Ha), Anna Bongiovanni (Grease Bats), Jennifer Camper (Rude Girls and Dangerous Women), Ally Shwed (Sex Bomb Strikes Again) and Kat Fajardo (Gringa!, La Raza Anthology), and reproductive justice scholars like Rickie Solinger, (Reproductive Politics: What Everyone Needs to Know) Renee Bracey Sherman (Program Director, We Testify), and Dr. Cynthia Greenlee (Senior Editor, Rewire).


I didn’t really know what to expect when I checked this anthology out from the library. All I really knew was that it was a ton of abortion stories and that it would probably make me very, very sad. The thing is, while I can’t see myself ever getting an abortion (except in a very extreme case), I don’t think it’s my place to tell anyone else what they can or cannot do with their life and their body. That means that I’m very firmly on the pro-choice side of the debate. I thought it might be a good idea to expand my horizons a little bit and learn more about abortion.

Turns out that this book was possibly not the right place to go for that. First of all, there are a ton of stories here. A ton. Most of them are very, very short, and most of them feel like they were put together very quickly. There are a lot of misspellings and a lot of grammatical issues. A few of the stories looked more like drafts than finished art. It’s not the end of the world, I guess, but this is a book that’s been put out into the world for people to purchase. I expected more from it.

As for the stories, some of them hit me very hard. I can’t imagine being in the situation that a lot of these women were in and I can’t imagine how difficult the choice to get an abortion must be. I also found the stories from the abortion doulas and clinic escorts very interesting. I hadn’t even known that abortion doulas were a thing before I picked this book up! But some of the stories seemed to be there just to prove a point or push an agenda, which is something I don’t really appreciate, even when it’s a point or an agenda that I can get behind.

When this anthology was good, it was good. But when it wasn’t good, it was just disappointing. Overall, I think two stars is probably the best I can do here.

Have you read Comics for Choice? Do you have any recommendations for feminist nonfiction?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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