– Est. 1981

The Pet Shop Society: Mike and the Dog-Gone Labradoodle written by Emlyn Chand






Releases September 26th, 2015 (Pre-orders available)


Keeping with the departures from my normal genre's the opportunity presented itself to take a look at some children's books by Emlyn Chand. Emlyn Chand publishes a series of books called "The Pet Shop Society" that follows a group of kids solving very lighthearted mysteries. These books are targeting an audience between 6 and 11 years old and because my daughter will be interested in reading books like this before I know it, and I have friends who have kids around this age I thought it might be interesting to get involved in this genre now.

Let's read!


This is a kids book, so I'm expecting kid level vocabulary and phrases that a kid of around 11 or 12 years old might say. I took some notes as I was reading, as I always do, on some phrases I thought were kind of odd for a kid of this age to be saying. Hell, they're kind of odd for an adult in 2015 to be saying, but it's OK and I'll tell you why after the jump, so to speak.

"...we rule the roost..." This was referring to a group of kids at school. I Googled this and the last time anyone actually said this was 1942. But, this was basically internal dialogue so maybe that's OK.

"...She would lord it over me all weekend..." says Late 1500's on this one and I believe it.

As you're reading you will notice these things throughout the book, it's not like I'm just over analyzing here. But let me tell you what else you will notice. These kids are incredibly well spoken and actually kind of nerdy on purpose sometimes. I'm guessing they come from a fairly educated family... These are the kids I want my kid hanging out with. I'm OK with some of this adult sounding dialogue because how else are our kids going to learn new words?

One day my daughter will read this book and when she turns to me and asks what some of these phrases mean I'll know she's learning something.


A 6 to 11-year-old is going to identify with this story very well. It's a simple mystery that nearly everyone with a dog has experienced at some point. When it all starts the protagonist, Mike, and his friend need to decide whether or not they want to help a pretty girl or go eat pizza. This is a real struggle here people...

As the story develops there are plot points that are incredibly identifiable for children of any age; lying to your parents about where you're going or where you have been, attending musical lessons because your parents expect you to, hating music lessons but being afraid to tell your parents, getting grounded. Don't worry, these kids aren't lying about selling drugs or anything; it's more like lying about going to violin lessons but instead joining a softball team. Criminal! At the end of it all there is a lesson to be learned and as a father I was satisfied with how the parents acted and how the children reacted.

As an adult you could probably assume how this story ends just by the title alone. Yes, it has a happy ending. It's the journey that counts!

This is Book 1 of the Pet Shop Society books so naturally at the end of the book the kids form a club called THE PET SHOP SOCIETY! Each one of the characters gets a title; President, Co-President, Treasurer, etc... This stood out to me because as a kid I did the same thing with my group of friends; creating a club and having some pretend power. I had forgotten all about that so this was a little reminder.


Mike and the Dog-Gone Labradoodle takes place in my neighborhood; or your neighborhood. Emlyn Chand is not specific about where this takes place because it doesn't matter. The only thing that is obvious is that we're in the suburbs.


There is a character here for everyone. There are strong male characters, strong (genius, actually) female characters and vague enough parental units that any kid could relate to their interactions very easily. Mike and the Dog-Gone Labradoodle obviously follows a character named Mike, which by all accounts and a recent Fox News Demographic Poll is a mostly male name. However, everyone gets pretty equal amounts of face time.

Mike is a pretty typical preteen kid. His biggest decision to this point is pretty girl or pizza. Which did he choose? Haha... I know, right?

Maddie is Mike's sister and she's a certifiable ner... I mean genius. But seriously, you probably are not smarter than this 5th grader.

Nic(ole) is the pretty girl who is new to school and lost her dog. She's also the LIAR who hates MUSIC LESSONS. What? I know... It's OK it all works out.

There were some other tertiary characters involved as well, every story needs extras.


This is a 39 page story that is an easy one session read for us taller folk. For your kid, depending on how old they are or how well they read it would be a good two session bed time book to read together, at least that's how I imagined doing it. But hey, they're your kids you do what you want.

I recommend it, and will be recommending it to my friends with children around this age. I'll also be taking a look at Emlyn Chand's Bird Brain books that are geared more toward the 2-5 age range.

If you want to take my recommendation scroll back up and click on the Amazon link that will take you directly to the book. You can also visit Emlyn Chand's website for more info on the author.



What Dragons Rule written by John C. Fontaine – Audiobook by John C. Fontaine

What Dragons Rule





Warning: It's impossible to accurately review this title without some spoilers. If you're reading this book now go read one of my other reviews. Come back when you're done. Also, there's some language that may be offensive to some people. I don't mind offending you I just want you to know the word COCK is down there.


I really enjoy supporting indie scenes whether it be video games, films, or books. This is 2015 and some of the best work is coming out of small passionate groups of people creating "the game they want to play" or "the book they want to read", in this case. The problem you run into with this type of work is that the audience either LOVES it or HATES it.  When it comes to literature the indie scene is basically an unknown author trying to make a name for himself. The books are not on the best sellers list, have very few reviews and may be buried by several pages of better known authors. They may also have varying levels of quality throughout a piece of work, which is the case with What Dragons Rule by John C. Fontaine.

Let's dive in...



I hate to say it because I'm not entirely sure if it's true in all instances; What Dragons Rule suffers from a dialogue written by a male for a female protagonist intended for a female audience. Some of the dialogue is cringe worthy. I know I am not the intended audience but I still have a pretty good indication of whether or not the target audience would be engaged or not. Some of this dialogue is going to alienate that target demographic.

I'll get to some examples in just a moment but I want you to know that this is basically Twilight with dragons. The case could be made that this is Dungeons and Dragons fan fiction and I'm not sure that John C. Fontaine would disagree with that. There are references to D&D spells in and out of combat situations. There are also references to D&D inspired situations, like charming someone and resistance to certain spell types. That being said, there are some very modern sounding phrases and words used throughout the book that sound a lot like how a group of guys might role play during a D&D game.

"He's dumber than a box of hammers."

"...not the sharpest tool in the shed..."

This isn't really an issue, but it's certainly a line taken from around the table while you're role-playing a scene with your buddies. It fits into the world if you approach this as D&D fan fiction. However, if you're looking to this book to be some fantasy epic it does not work.

Dialogue in some places seems to serve no other purpose other than to give history and back story on the world and even having finished the book I don't feel the need to know any of this back story... This is a love story and when it comes down to it that's ALL it is. Example:

***Spoiler Alert***

A demon named Samuel goes on and on describing the history of demons and dragons as if he is reading from Encyclopedia Britannica and the only responses from the protagonist, Raina are short little questions that are obviously meant to push along the story telling session.

Raina: "What about the 7 hells?"

Samuel: "Thanks for asking Raina. For a limited time only, buy 6 hells and get the 7th hell completely FREE!"

That's how this whole scene comes off to me. Information for information's sake...

Here's a spoiler for you... There's a SEX scene!

...and it's a little hard to take seriously. She grabs his cock (it's my blog I can say what I want) but he grabs her bottom. If you're going to say words like cock you may as well say ass instead of bottom... Hell let's go crazy and call it a vagina instead of "lady parts" also.

That's right... She refers to her vagina as lady parts but the context is even worse.

*clears throat*

(paraphrased for sanity)

Thax: "I want you again..."

Raina: "Oh not right now I need to rest my.. um.. lady parts."

(some time later)

Raina: "Do dragons umm.. uh.. have... you know... lady parts?"

I've known a few women and I've seen a few lady parts and I have never myself heard them referred to as such. This is what I was talking about when I said the dialogue suffers in places from being written by a male from a female perspective for a female audience. Instant alienation.

Ok this next part comes (Lol) during pillow talk.. almost all of this was cringe worthy but because I was mowing my lawn my hands were too busy to press the stop button.

Raina: "What do you want Thax?"

Thax: "I want everything."

Raina: "Does that mean you want to put it in my butt?"

Seriously, what in the absolute fuck, man? Who is the intended audience here? This is good for a healthy high school chuckle but as dialogue in a fantasy novel it's just awful.

Okay enough with the Prose.. I have so many notes I could go on and on forever. It's Twilight and Hunger Games style dialogue at best.


The plot here follows the expected path for this type of story.

  1. Girl meets mysterious / dangerous boy.
  2. Dangerous boy somehow sees some part of her that everyone overlooks, he's intrigued.
  3. Girl finds out that dangerous boy is more sensitive and caring than everyone else knows, she's intrigued.
  4. They fall in love.
  5. Girl in danger, boy saves girl.

There are a lot of stories like this these days because a lot of people are trying to capitalize on the success of Twilight, that much is obvious. I've seen this happen in other mediums also including one that I am all too familiar with. Gaming.

One company develops a retro style platformer, like the old Super Mario. It does great because it touches that nostalgia nerve. Everyone jumps on the bandwagon and saturates the market. The games that come after may even be better but the consumers are just so used to seeing the same formula that it just does not resonate. What Dragons Rule is exactly that... The PLOT of What Dragons Rule is actually very intriguing and I would actually say it is much more interesting than Twilight.

There's a twist toward the end of the book that really brings it all together and starts to make sense of some "WTF moments" that happen early in the book. I'll give John C. Fontaine some credit here, the plot is mostly strong.


What Dragons Rule rests squarely in a setting that I am intimately familiar with. The target demographic for this book will likely not have much knowledge of Dungeons and Dragons so there will be some mystery. The issue with the setting is the way it's all introduced and the way some real world things find themselves into the story very awkwardly.... I couldn't tell you much about the world these characters are living in because so much feels rushed. But I can tell you this.... There is pizza. Pizza is cooked on the belly of magma elementals. That's right, a wizard offers to cook some freaking pizza. So I'm left to believe that wizards are Italian because obviously Italian cuisine has a place in Fontaine's world.

We find ourselves in some various settings that all come to life in your mind. John C. Fontaine has the ability to describe things in a cohesive manner that makes it easy to visualize. He's also very good at describing movements in space. Tail swipes, sword swings... it does not feel like a series of "if  / then" commands. That being said, there are some places that the author takes us that seem completely useless and are only taking up several chapters in the middle of the book to serve as a reminder to the reader that Raina is indeed a know it all who is immune to magic spells and her lover, Thax is just kind of an asshole for no good reason.


You'll remember Thax and Raina and you will forget everyone else. I didn't take notes on the names of any of the characters because nothing of any value to the story happens with them. All of the dialogue involving tertiary characters is forgettable and they all seems to have very similar personalities. With one MAJOR exception.... fives. More on that later.

Thax and Raina however are very developed characters. There's so much character development in this book that if the author could have slowed down a bit he could have made this book two books. Their love affair starts very quickly and progresses rapidly.... two humans usually do not progress this quickly and considering the nature of this relationship I would expect it to be a little slower. You know, the whole "dragon wants to molest me" thing might be cause for concern for most women. But, the twist toward the end might explain that, too... so what the hell? Jump on in there Raina and ride some horn.

I know Fontaine was trying to make me like Raina, but I just couldn't muster the strength to involve myself emotionally with her character. Thax on the other hand is a fire-fucking-breathing dragon. So of course I liked him even though he's a neurotic asshole, but he's a dragon. He's not helping little old women cross the street here. He's eating all your cows, deal with it.

Some characters that could have used a lot more development were the wizards on the wizard island. That's not a spoiler because that's all you'll ever really learn about them. I think an entire adventure could have been written with these wizards at the center of the conflict. That's really a missed opportunity there but that leads me back around to that damn pizza...  After all, it was one of these Italian wizards that offered up the pizza.

Sooo... remember when I mentioned fives?  fives is a robot, I mean Golem. Named fives because he is the fifth of his kind. Readers of a certain age are visualizing this guy right about now:

Johnny-fucking-Five, ya'll.

Johnny-fucking-Five, ya'll.

I kid you not. Johnny Fives has a cameo in What Dragons Rule. Well not technically but damn... how could this not be on purpose? Oh yah, Fives is a Golem built to teach fighting styles to people. So he's a program in the Matrix, basically.


The plot and the character development were the strongest parts of this story but damn the shadow of that prose is long... almost everything good about this book lives in the shadow of corny dialogue. I'm not sure who that dialogue is appealing to but I'll be damned if I'm letting my teenage daughter read a book with the kind of language and an older woman is going to be completely put off. The setting is going to appeal to men ages 24 to 56 but Fontaine is aiming for a 16 to 56 female audience and unfortunately I think the book as a whole misses both of those marks.

I hesitated pressing the Publish button because I really wanted to give Fontaine a good review when I started reading What Dragons Rule but as the story progressed I had a sinking feeling that I was going to have to write a pretty bad review. Fontaine is a GOOD WRITER, guys... seriously. I think he got caught up in trying to appeal to an audience and fell into a story that is made up of so many conflicting elements, ideas and pop culture references that what we're left with is a puzzle with edge pieces forced into the middle and the middle pieces all forced on to the edges. I think the next try will be better... the writing competency is there.





Filed under: 2015, Book Reviews 1 Comment

The Musubi Murder written by Frankie Bow – Audiobook by Nicole Gose









This was an interesting one for me. I don't usually read crime or mystery novels but it came to me completely by accident and I just happened to be looking for a new audiobook so I decided to delve into a genre I was not very familiar with. I'm going to go a little out-of-order than I would usually do just because of the nature of the story. So let's get to it...


Frankie Bow is really good with dialogue, as is evident by the abundance of it in her first book, The Musubi Murder. The dialogue between characters is very believable and I did not have a hard time following their conversations at all. Nicole Gose did a good job making each character stand out in a book with quite a few characters that could come off as very similar. Casual listeners will be thrown off by the Hawaiian accents at first but it grows on you rather quickly.

There's only a couple of things that really stood out to me as something I didn't find entirely believable. Molly Barda likes to correct people's spoken grammar.... a few times this happens and every time I thought to myself:

"Who would actually correct someones spoken grammar?"

Because if you do that, you're a truly annoying person. In most cases I could make a case for the dialogue that seemed disconnected from the story but in this instance I feel like Frankie Bow is projecting herself into the character and allowing her own pet peeves for misspelled or misused words to show through into Molly's personality. It doesn't add anything to the story at all.. it only serves to lessen the likeability of Molly Barda, but not by much.

The other issue is that when a revelation is delivered and a major plot point is revealed the dialogue does not seem to be strong enough to represent the emotions that someone should feel at that time. I can't say too much without spoiling the book but as an unrelated example:

Murderer is revealed.

Protagonist: "Wow I need to come up with a headline."

Real Life Protagonist: "You have to be kidding me?! How did he do it?" -or something along those lines.


The plot kind of took me by surprise, maybe because I'm not accustomed to reading this genre of book? Maybe it's just Frankie Bow's writing style? I'm not sure but at first I took issue with how slow the book seemed to move, *then I realized that it was me that was the problem. 

Back to the point about dialogue that seems to be disconnected from the story or at very least loosely connected somehow, which serves to slow down the plot in spots.

The first time I really noticed our protagonist, Molly Barda going off on a tangent to the point where it was noticeable was Chapter 15 (which is very early in the book as each chapter is fairly short) where she goes on longer than I expected about her students, furniture and body odor. That being said, it's all still relatively entertaining.

Another example of the dialogue seemingly growing a little long in the tooth is around Chapter 21 where Molly and a couple of her friends are participating in a trivia night at a local restaurant or bar. The two friends go off on a tangent talking about one of the trivia questions, units of measure and human anatomy. It kind of lost me for a minute but the dialogue was interesting enough that I continued to pay attention.

All of that said, when the pieces started coming together toward the end of the story I had a couple "holy shit!" moments as I remembered some of this dialogue that appeared to be disconnected but ultimately serves the purpose of showing the reader that everything you need to know has been right in front of you the whole time.

*The problem with my original approach is that I was not listening to the book as a journey, but more so a means to an end. There's a lot of enjoyment to be had with the slowness if you just pay attention and let the story unravel.


The Musubi Murder takes place in the Hawaiian Islands, more specifically in what I visualize as a run down low-budget community college with plastic office furniture, hallways that need repainting and a dirty old coffee machine that everyone reluctantly uses. The picture is drawn for you very vividly.

Everywhere Molly goes is a well established and detailed figment of Bow's imagination that is very effectively put to paper with just enough detail to give you a mental image but not enough as to prevent your imagination from filling in the blanks.


Character development is what Frankie Bow does, its the basis for this book and ultimately why it works. The characters you're supposed to like, you do. The characters you're supposed to distrust, you do. No, it's not distrust it's mistrust. See? That made me a little less likeable didn't it? Aside from those little grammar and/or word use corrections from a couple of characters (mid conversation) I think Bow did a great job putting my emotions where they should be.

This book is basically 60% character development, 30% direct plot points and 10% "Holy shit this actually all connects somehow!"


The Musubi Murder is not a New York Times Best Seller, it's probably not high on the sales charts at all and I can tell you why... there is no tween/teen sappy love story. This story is not epic in nature and it likely will not become a Hollywood favorite. I get the impression from Frankie Bow that this was not one of her goals, anyway.

When the big reveal scene went down at the end I was brushing my teeth and looking at myself in the mirror, so I can confirm that my eyes were wide and I physically cringed.

If I had one piece of advice for you after reading this book, other than "read this book" it would be this:


The best books are not necessarily at the top of the Amazon best sellers list.


The Musubi Murder on Audible

Frankie Bow has a website, it's here!

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The Martian written by Andy Weir – Audiobook by R. C. Bray









I think I'm going to have an unpopular opinion based on all of the reviews I have read on this book. Most everyone is raving about how great it is and quite frankly, it's baffling.


Word choice is always the thing that stands out to me because it can really pull me out of the story and break immersion. The story is mostly written as a series of log entries in a written journal. Whenever something good happens in the story and Watney is recording it in his journal it is very common for him to say "Yay!" I didn't die. Yay! It may seem like a petty complaint if you haven't read the book but it comes at the strangest of times. Almost like Weir simply did not know what someone would or should say in this situation. Dialogue really is not Weir's area of expertise.

Watney: Thanks for coming back to get me.

Johanssen: It's the least we could do.

Really? Without getting too much into spoilery territory let me tell you that it is NOT the least they could have done. In fact, it's the MOST they could have done. So many more impactful things could have been said here.

Watney: Thanks for coming back for me.

Johanssen: I'm so sorry you're in this situation, Mark.

See, there's emotion there. Show us some emotion, Weir. Snarky sarcastic humor is not an emotion and all of the dialogue is dripping in snarky little jokes that just ruin any kind of emotion you may have for the characters.

There are examples like this all over the book but here are a couple more to pile on. In the following example Watney is literally about to die. I mean, he's moments from it and the crew is scrambling to save him, it's a very tense situation... or at least it should be. There's furious talking, fast thinking, lives on the line and shit is getting really complicated and this is one of the first times in the book that I'm squinting and really focusing, feeling the anxiety of the moment.

Lewis: Hang in there Watney, we have a plan!

Watney: Yayyyy, a plan!

What the...? Not "Is there anything I can do?" or even the obvious one... "What do you want me to do?" No no, the chosen words given to our hero is "Yayyyy, a plan!" I was completely pulled out of the moment. This went on for some time with this very serious situation and the lines coming out of this guys mouth were that of someone who had just fallen down a well and is waiting for rescue. Not someone who had just survived 500+ days on mars and was fighting for his life, and THIS was the culmination of that effort.

Here's some other lines that seemed out-of-place, and honestly a little meta, self knowing. Dialogue meant to make the reader laugh instead of conveying any sense of emotion of realism. Weir is trying to convince us that HE is funny, not that his characters are funny. This shows in almost every character that has any semblance of personality.

"Prepare your body" Yes... someone said that, 30 years in the future.

"Fuck me raw" I don't even know what to say about this. It's like cussing for the sake of cussing, it adds nothing to the story.

A man and woman embrace in a bar on earth while watching the rescue of Watney on television. "The woman sways back and forth in SHEER TERROR." Sheer terror? Wouldn't it be anxiety? Why is she rocking back and forth? When I'm SHEERLY TERRIFIED I do not rock back and forth. I just don't get it... it's lazy.

I made so many notes with examples like this, I just need to move on.


The setting of the story is incredibly believable. That is actually what this book has going for it. It's a nerds paradise. By the way, I'm a nerd and this was way, way overboard for me. In depth analysis, equations, numbers, physics, numbers. You can tell me you're turning shit and sand into soil, I'll believe you without the complex equations and paragraphs explaining how the C02 you're exhaling is assisting the plants by percent and the oxygen the plants are giving off... you get the point. He drones on this way about EVERYTHING. It got to the point where I was sick of hearing the guy talk and I was longing for some terrible dialogue from anyone else. Anyone.

So I did this. And then I did this. And then I did that. I did this and that and then this and then that.

Oh shit I'm fucked. Wait, I have an idea that might work. Yep it worked. I'm going to live. Yay!

Oh no, I'm fucking going to fucking die fuck! Hmm.. now that I think of it I might be able to yada yada yada numbers fucking equations. Yep that worked I'm going to live! FUCK YAH!

The guy is impossible to kill and I feel no real danger for him. He's on mars by himself and I never felt like the guy was in danger. It's a real slog to get through all of these details.


The plot is great... I actually love books like this most of the time and I love the movies even more. The plot is established right off the bat. The story gets going quick and it keeps going. The problem is that the plot is constantly interrupted by so many in-depth details and "I did this then that" sequences that I consistently forgot what he was doing or trying to do and where we were in the story. There were moments of slightly better than mediocre writing that had me really paying attention. All of these moments were moments AWAY from Watney. Conversations at NASA had me interested, conversations with the other crew members on Hermes had me interested.

Unfortunately though, the only time I felt any real emotion or anxiety was during the last chapters during the rescue attempt but it was quickly cast aside by the snarky little sarcastic jokes. It's a shame... I felt like I was going to have a real emotion for a second.

Ok I admit, I teared up for a second so I did feel an emotion but it was short-lived.


Everyone else keeps describing Watney as loveable. I don't feel anything for the guy... most of the time I just felt like he was droning on and reciting scientific equations. I admit, because it was an audio book I tuned a lot of stuff out because it just all sounded the same to me. I probably would have skimmed those pages anyway.

Most of the characters just seemed to have similar personalities... snarky and sarcastic. Others were just kind of bland. R.C. Bray did a decent job of trying to portray personality through his voice but ultimately it just came down to different accents. Everyone had their own one liners and spoke like they spend a couple of hours on Reddit every day, which is an obvious fact about the author with lines like "fuck me raw" and "prepare your body."


Here's where it gets really weird.... I like the book. Well, I like the story and I like the potential and I think this is going to be one of those rare cases where the movie is better than the book.

Other movies that were better than the books include:

The Twilight Series

The Hunger Game Series

Yes, I made that comparison. Andy Weir is a nerd, and so this book gets some serious credit where that is concerned. Research was done, accuracy was attained, grammar was good enough. But the dialogue was simply as cringe worthy and lazy as Twilight and Hunger Games. Unfortunately the negatives cast a fairly long shadow over everything great about the book. I am genuinely excited for the movie. It looks like they turned all of the journal/log entries into video log entries. That is going to make all of his dialogue make a lot more sense.

No one writes "Yay" in a journal.

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