Friday Fiction Feature

fictionreboot2Hello all and welcome back to the (now monthly) Friday Fiction Feature! This week Tabatha is back with another themed Feature. As mentioned in last month’s feature, I’m getting ready to travel far, far away. Far enough away to have many flights, a lot of luggage, and oh my goodness so much packing… so this month’s feature is themed around the fact that I expect to be on a plane in less than a week! (Unless you don’t read my posts the minute they go online–for shame). And so I thought I’d share some thoughts, advice, and hopes as a soon-to-be world traveler.

Moving Day: A Thriller by Jonathan Stone

Moving Day: A ThrillerAs I look forward to the adventure of traveling abroad, learning a new language, seeing new people and places, I am learning something more thoroughly than I ever have before: Packing Sucks. It is just awful. It takes forever, it’s a pain, and I don’t get to just unpack everything six blocks away the same afternoon. That is why I am taking a rather unorthodox approach to the setup of Moving Day. The book begins when a man’s possessions are stolen in a moving-day scam. Now I know, I know, that’s bad and it’s awful to lose all of your stuff. But after weeks of sorting, packing, and unpacking-to-get-at-stuff-I-still-need, that just sounds nice. No more junk to worry about, no more real-life tetris trying to get everything to fit in an old sedan… ah. Just imagine the freedom of it. Only a few suitcases of junk to move around… Or you know, imagine that sounds like the worst thing ever and that the criminals are terrible people who must be tracked down, etc. (since my version does tend to undercut the novel a little I suppose…)

Forty years’ accumulation of art, antiques, and family photographs are more than just objects for Stanley Peke—they are proof of a life fully lived. A life he could have easily lost long ago.
When a con man steals his houseful of possessions in a sophisticated moving-day scam, Peke wanders helplessly through his empty New England home, inevitably reminded of another helpless time: decades in Peke’s past, a cold and threadbare Stanislaw Shmuel Pecoskowitz eked out a desperate existence in the war-torn Polish countryside, subsisting on scraps and dodging Nazi soldiers. Now, the seventy-two-year-old Peke—who survived, came to America, and succeeded—must summon his original grit and determination to track down the thieves, retrieve his things, and restore the life he made for himself.
Peke and his wife, Rose, trace the path of the thieves’ truck across America, to the wilds of Montana, and to an ultimate, chilling confrontation with not only the thieves but also with Peke’s brutal, unresolved past.

Moving is Murder (A Mom Zone Mystery #1) by Sara Rosett 

Moving is Murder (A Mom Zone Mystery, #1)Fortunately the cozy mystery industry has come along with books like Moving is Murder to remind me that moving isn’t that bad. It’s still awful, and a pain in the but and… ahem. Sorry. Already said all that… Anyways, small reminders that as obnoxious as moving is, at least this move hasn’t involved any corpses. (It would probably be the hardest thing to pack up and ship anyways).

Moving four times in five years has honed Ellie’s considerable skills. But unpacking with a newborn daughter, record-breaking heat wave, and the realization that their dream neighborhood is known as Base Housing East is enough to make her turn to chocolate for comfort. She and her husband, Mitch, moved off-base for privacy. Now half of their neighbors are with the 52nd Air Refueling Squadron. Driving home from her first squadron barbecue, Ellie finds neighborhood environment activist Cass Vincent dead on the side of the road. The police call it an accident — but Ellie’s not so sure. She saw Cass argue violently at the barbecue with Mitch’s buddy Jeff… and it just so happens Jeff knows a lot about bee-keeping. Hoping to clear Jeff’s name before the police suspect him, Ellie starts snooping in earnest. What she finds shocks her. But what’s the connection to Cass? When suspicious accidents start happening in her own backyard, Ellie realizes she’s getting closer to the killer… maybe too close!

Moving Mars (Queen of Angels #3) by Greg Bear

Moving Mars (Queen of Angels, #3)Now I would love to continue this trend of ‘at least it’s not…’ with Moving Mars, but honestly, a Martian revolution isn’t really all that much worse than what people tell me I’m headed into. [It should be stated for the record that I don’t much believe them] But the way our more worried relatives and more alarmist friends tell it we’re headed into a terrifying land of maniacs who stay up nights thinking of new ways to torture house pets and give travelers food poisoning (*a word to the wise, don’t watch any youtube videos you are sent before traveling somewhere new. The people who sent them are just meanies who don’t want you to eat ever again).

Moving Mars is a story of human courage and love set within the greater saga of a planetary liberation movement. Mars is a colonial world, governed by corporate interests on Earth. The citizens of Mars are hardworking, but held back by their lack of access to the best education, and the desire of the Earthly powers to keep the best new inventions for themselves. The young Martians — the second and third generations born on Mars — have little loyalty to Earth, and a strong belief that their planet can be independent. The revolution begins slowly, but will grow in power over decades of political struggle until it becomes irresistible.
Told through the eyes of an extraordinary character, Casseia Majumdar, a daughter of one of Mars’ oldest, most conservative Binding Multiples,Moving Mars is Greg Bear’s brilliant conception of the human colonization of the red planet, with lovingly painted details and a grand historical sweep, embellishing an audacious scientific speculation.

Have Space Suit—Will Travel (Heinlein Juveniles #12) by Robert A. Heinlein

Have Space Suit—Will TravelSadly, this title is not a very apt description of my upcoming travels. Perhaps that will be my new life goal: to be able to say Have Space Suit, Will Travel and mean it. (Because you know what, owning a space suit, even if you don’t get to take it to outer space, is pretty rad). And maybe it’s not so unrealistic! I mean come on, read the description here, a kid from the middle of the Midwest (yup) who works crappy college jobs (yup & more yup), and you know…other similarities I’m sure… why not? Hey, it’s not my fault the description is too short to show how similar my story is to this one. I guess you’ll just have to read it to find out likely it is I’ll get to follow in their footsteps and continue my travels “where no (wo)man has gone before!” (yeah, I know. But I couldn’t resist 😉 )

Kip from midwest Centerville USA works the summer before college as a pharmacy soda jerk, and wins an authentic stripped-down spacesuit in a soap contest. He answers a distress radio call from Peewee, scrawny rag doll-clutching genius aged 11. With the comforting cop Mother Thing, three-eyed tripod Wormfaces kidnap them to the Moon and Pluto.

The Traveling Vampire Show by Richard Laymon

The Traveling Vampire ShowI’d like to end today’s Friday Fiction Feature (and my last Feature for a long time written on this continent) with a book that serves a very different function. The others have shown annoyance at moving, the (real-ish) dangers of travel, totally unrealistic travel goals, and ‘at least it’s not _____’s. But this book, dear readers, is more of an inspiration for a level of awesome. The level of awesomeness inherent in the title Traveling Vampire Show. While I don’t exactly expect to make a fortune with the “Traveling Tabatha & Co. Show” but hey, we all need something to aspire to, and if only I can make the stories of my travels one third as interesting as the promise of a totally-not-a-scam Traveling Vampire Show I think I can consider this next year a success. I don’t even need starry-eyed teenagers to come in search of a mere glance at my awesomeness (though, you know, if they felt compelled, well that’s hardly my fault is it?).

Though gloomy with clouds, it is a hot, August morning in the summer of 1963. All over the rural town of Grandville, tacked to power poles and trees, taped to store windows, blowing along the sidewalks, fliers have appeared announcing the mysterious one-night-only performance of The Traveling Vampire Show.
The show will feature Valeria, the only known vampire in captivity. According to the fliers, she is a gorgeous, stunning beauty. In the course of the performance, she will stalk volunteers from the audience, sink her teeth into their necks and drink their blood!
For three local teenagers who see the fliers, this is a show they don’t want to miss. But they may have to.
Though they can probably scrape up the price of admission, other obstacles stand in the way. One problem, nobody under 18 years of age is allowed into the show. Dwight, Rusty, and Slim are only 16. Another problem, the show begins at midnight and the three teens always have to be home by then. If that weren’t bad enough, the show is to take place at Janks Field — a desolate patch of ground with a nasty history — that has been declared off limits by their parents
The situation appears hopeless.
Though Dwight and his friends fear they won’t be able to attend the actual performance of the Traveling Vampire Show, they do have the entire day to themselves. Why not hike out to Janks Field and take a look around? With any luck, they might be able to watch the crew make preparations for tonight’s performance. If they’re really lucky, maybe they’ll get a peek at Valeria, the gorgeous vampire.
And so the three friends set off on foot for Janks Field…
Dwight is a solid, honest kid, long on common sense and loyalty to his friends. He always tries to do what’s right.
Rusty is a husky guy who relishes trouble.
Slim, their long-time pal, is the brains of the outfit, a voracious reader of novels, an aspiring writer, and a girl. Also, she is sometimes too brave for her own good.
The Traveling Vampire Show is the tale, told in Dwight’s own words, of what happened to him, Rusty and Slim on that hot summer day they hiked to Janks Field. It’s the story of their friendship and love, their temptations, their betrayals, and their courage as they went where they shouldn’t go, did what they shouldn’t do…and ran into big trouble.

 

Farewell for now good readers, and remember, the FFF will return, this time as an international series!

Friday Fiction Feature

FictionReboot2Hello all and welcome back to the Friday Fiction Feature!
Sorry for the long delay in posts, but your series editor Tabatha has been busy graduating & getting ready to move far far away. Now that I’m back with a new job in a new country, we’re on a new schedule–the Friday Fiction Feature will now be coming to you only once a month.

In the meantime, I have been experimenting with a state wholly unknown to all graduate students–applied laziness (over more than 30 minutes). The secret? BOOKS! I have been reading books! For fun! (Yes, yes, I know that’s rather the point of the FFF, but all the students/academics out there can explain how rare and impressive that is). And so, with a renewed appreciate for how awesome it is to be able to sit back and read, I am back to bring you a few more suggestions for your studiously lazy days.
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The Accidental Highwayman: Being the Tale of Kit Bristol, His Horse Midnight, a Mysterious Princess, and Sundry Magical Persons Besides (Adventures of Kit Bristol #1) by Ben Tripp

The Accidental Highwayman: Being the Tale of Kit Bristol, His Horse Midnight, a Mysterious Princess, and Sundry Magical Persons Besides (Adventures of Kit Bristol, #1)The first book on the list is one that means a lot to me because I only survived graduate school by narrow margin, by which I mean I very nearly ran away to become a pirate about once a week. By getting to fight monsters, fate, magic, and a rebellious princess, Kit Bristol the Accidental Highwayman is very literally living the dream.

In eighteenth-century England, young Christopher “Kit” Bristol is the unwitting servant of notorious highwayman Whistling Jack. One dark night, Kit finds his master bleeding from a mortal wound, dons the man’s riding cloak to seek help, and changes the course of his life forever. Mistaken for Whistling Jack and on the run from redcoats, Kit is catapulted into a world of magic and wonders he thought the stuff of fairy tales.
Bound by magical law, Kit takes up his master’s quest to rescue a rebellious fairy princess from an arranged marriage to King George III of England. But his task is not an easy one, for Kit must contend with the feisty Princess Morgana, gobling attacks, and a magical map that portends his destiny: as a hanged man upon the gallows….

Nine Kinds of Naked by Tony Vigorito

Nine Kinds of NakedNo, this one will not be another description of how I spent my lazy days. (Given teh title, that’s an important promise). This next book is up mostly for a small tangent. In the following summary you will read the description of what sounds like the world’s sturdiest secret society. I cannot draw my mind away from the image of a cult whose motto is “walk away.” This must be the most-populous and longest-lived cult ever formed (allowing for the lowered intake of new members, because it doesn’t have the razmatazz of a cult that actually does something…) because these walk-awayers will never summon a demon (and if they do, I suspect they will promptly find themselves out of its immediate range), they will never incurr the wrath of gods, district attorneys, or impossibly effective mourners-after-the-sacrificed. They will, effectively, be the safest cult ever formed. So if you want the mystique of being in a secret society without all the danger or derring-do of actually being involved in anything at all, Nine Kinds of Naked has just the cult for you!

Join cult favorite Tony Vigorito in his acclaimed, surreal whirlwind of a novel exploring chaos theory. A prisoner spins a playing card into a somersault, stirring a wind that becomes a tornado that takes off the roof of a church in nearby Normal, Illinois. Elizabeth Wildhack is born in that church and someday she will meet that prisoner, a man named Diablo, on the streets of New Orleans—where a hurricane-like Great White Spot hovers off the coast. But how is it all interconnected? And what does it have to do with a time-traveling serf and a secret society whose motto is “Walk away?”
“Chaos theory says that a tiny, almost imperceptible event can have large, even catastrophic coincidences: a butterfly flapping its wings in North America leads to a hurricane on another continent, for example. In this fictional take on chaos theory, several offbeat characters are linked by a single event that expands through time, sweeping them up in it and changing their lives. A traveler works a nifty trick with a playing card, and a tornado strikes a small Illinois town; a woman is born during the tornado and later meets the man who set it in motion; 1,200 years earlier, a man who is supposed to be stoned to death discovers he has an uncanny knack for surviving; and, back in the present day, another man speaks only in the present tense. Comparisons of this novel to the works of Tom Robbins are both obvious and appropriate: the story meanders around in an entertaining manner, never getting too serious about itself; the characters are splendidly loopy, close to caricature but never quite reaching it, and the situations in which they find themselves are comic, dramatic, and everything in between.” —Booklist

Utterly Monkey by Nick Laird

Utterly MonkeyWith a severe turn careerwise, Utterly Monkey gives us a thorough path of what to avoid, and what to seek out as we (this being graduation season and all) move away from school (and hopefully our parents’ houses) and towards our dream jobs. Or our close-enough jobs. Or just any job at all really.
It seems Danny Williams has made the mistake many a recent graduate has stumbled into–he accidentally became a lawyer, yes, this is….wait, what? Accidentally became a….let’s see…college, law school, the bar exam… yeah… sure, who couldn’t accidentally stumble into that kind of thing… right.
Oh well. Maybe this book can teach me how to stumble into a high-paying job. “Accidentally”

Danny Williams didn’t mean to be a lawyer, but somehow he is — and for up to eighteen hours a day. He’s well paid, home owning, and twenty-seven but is also overworked, lonely, and frequently stoned. The plan was to leave the troubles of a small town in Northern Ireland for the big city in England, but one evening an old school friend, Geordie, bursts into Danny’s shiny new life. On the run from a Loyalist militia, Geordie brings everything Danny thought he had left behind and dumps it on his doorstep.
With infectious wit and energy to burn, Utterly Monkey is a searing, fiercely funny, and ultimately redemptive novel about surviving an office job, outwitting the bad guys, and, hopefully, getting the girl.

At the Villa of Reduced Circumstances (Portuguese Irregular Verbs #3) by Alexander McCall Smith 

At the Villa of Reduced Circumstances (Portuguese Irregular Verbs, #3)Mystery buffs will be familiar with the this-can’t-be-right-something-must-be-wrong beginning to an investigation. Just the other day I was listening to a mystery where a tone-deaf man hired a detective because someone had hired him as a tuba player, and the devoted musician just knew there could be to legal reason to pay him to play a tuba at a room of unsuspecting listeners. Well, At the Villa of Reduced Circumstances has brought this musical plot into the world of letters and joined together mystery and academe in a way many a published author has dreaded.

In At the Villa of Reduced Circumstances, Professor Dr. von Igelfeld gets caught up in a nasty case of academic intrigue while on sabbatical at Cambridge. When he returns to Regensburg he is confronted with the thrilling news that someone from a foreign embassy has actually checked his masterwork, Portuguese Irregular Verbs, out of the Institute’s Library. As a result, he gets caught up in intrigue of a different sort on a visit to Bogota, Colombia.

Hooked on Murder (Crochet Mystery #1) by Betty Hechtman

Hooked on Murder (Crochet Mystery, #1)My more observant readers will probably know that I have a special weakness for cozy mysteries. Inspired by the original Miss Marple (despite Dame Christie’s absolute refusal to give me all the clues!) and moving on to dozens of other set-in-a-small-town, everybody-is-nice-and-a-suspect-and-lying-about-everything, with the necessary inexplicable-importance-of-sewing-or-cooking-to-the-plot, with a mystery which absolutely must be solved by the unassuming-cook/seamstress/old lady/generally innocent _______. On the FFF I get to see all of these opportunities to integrate a real and intriguing mystery into my life in books like Hooked on Murder, without (apparently) having to interrupt my social life at all! Unfortunately, I have yet to become innocently embroiled in a dire mystery that threatens the peacefulness of my small town. I’m beginning to worry that it’ll take until I’m gray-haired and surrounded by cats and baked goods before I’ll get a cozy mystery of my own. Oh well, I guess all I can do now is move to a small town, get far to many pets, take up baking, and hope for the best…or do I mean worst?

Craft lovers and mystery readers alike will flock to this great new craft-based cozy with a delicious recipe and crochet pattern included!
When bookstore event coordinator Molly Pink stumbles across the dead body of a crochet group’s leader, her complicated past with the woman makes her a prime suspect.
But while Molly’s fending off a detective with a personal grudge and navigating the pitfalls of crochet group politics, the real killer remains at large. And it’s up to her to catch the culprit before she winds up in a tight knot.

Friday Fiction Feature

FictionReboot2Hello readers, Tabatha here with a big welcome back to the Friday Fiction Feature. It’s no secret that I am finishing up my last year of graduate school, and in fact, I expect to be graduating this May!  (PS: I have found that people don’t mind if you read a book all through the ceremony so long as you aren’t sitting front and center in a doofy hat). Anyways, as I sit back and count down the days to NO HOMEWORK EVER AGAIN, I realize that the 49 days between then and now are filled with a great deal of homework indeed! (Just two graduate papers,  a presentation on Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, and the dreaded Graduate Portfolio. Just.) And so, like any reasonable student with this much work and these few days, I have been entertaining the thought of running away. Far away. Where the homework can’t catch me.
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Glazed Murder (Donut Shop Mystery #1) by Jessica Beck

Glazed Murder (Donut Shop Mystery, #1)I have posted before on some possible career options for academics, but sadly most of those adventuring academics have degrees, so if I am going to flee, I’ll need a new set of options. After a recent visit to a local bakery, I have decided that I could run away to a bakery! Just think of it, you could spend your days surrounded by the smell of fresh baked bread. You could eat gooey cookies right out of the oven. And (perhaps best of all) you can trade in grumpy coworkers and disinterested students for happy customers! Since I’m pretty sure it’s physically impossible to be grumpy in the presence of pastry, almost everyone you see will have a guaranteed good mood! It’s a job to die for…or maybe kill for? Suitably enough our first book of the day, Glazed Murder, is the story of a woman who dropped what she was doing to run away and open up a baked-goods shop! (See, I told you it was a good plan!)

Meet Suzanne Hart, owner and operator of Donut Hearts coffee shop in April Springs, North Carolina. After her divorce from Max, an out-of-work actor she’s dubbed “The Great Impersonator,” Suzanne decided to pursue her one true passion in life: donuts. So she cashed in her settlement and opened up shop in the heart of her beloved hometown.
But when a dead body is dumped on her doorstep like a sack of flour, Suzanne’s cozy little shop becomes an all-out crime scene. Now, everyone in town is dropping by for glazed donuts and gruesome details. The retired sheriff warns her to be careful—and they’re all suspects. Soon Suzanne—who finds snooping as irresistible as donuts—is poking holes in everyone’s alibis…

A Peach of a Murder (Fresh-Baked Mystery #1) by Livia J. Washburn

A Peach of a Murder (A Fresh-Baked Mystery, #1)At first I was tempted to say that A Peach of a Murder seemed a rather violent way to go about making pies, but  it seems that if there’s any thing all this…we’ll call it research…has taught me, it’s that baking can be a dangerous business. And not just from the usual danger of trying to eat a hockey-puck of a cookie or the less usual danger of mistaking gnat poison for vanilla. Who knew trying to bake drew so many enemies? Oh well, at least if I do run away from school I’ll know there won’t be much competition.

All year round, retired schoolteacher Phyllis Newsom is as sweet as peach pie-except during the Peach Festival, whose blue ribbon has slipped through Phyllis’s fingers more than once…Everyone’s a little shook up when the corpse of a no-good local turns up underneath a car in a local garage. But even as Phyllis engages in some amateur sleuthing, she won’t let it distract her from out-baking her rivals and winning the upcoming Peach Festival contest. She and all the other contestants guard their secret, original recipes with their lives-and talk a whole lot of trash. With her unusual Spicy Peach Cobbler, Phyllis hopes to knock ’em dead. But that’s just an expression-never in her wildest dreams did she think her cobbler would actually kill a judge. Now, she’s suspected of murder-and she’s got to bake this case wide open.

Brownies and Broomsticks (A Magical Bakery Mystery #1) by Bailey Cates

Brownies and Broomsticks (A Magical Bakery Mystery, #1)Adding a little more…spice… to the list is Brownies and Broomsticks, the thrilling tale of bakers who mean it when they say their cupcakes are baked with love. Or jealousy. Or the cure for your rash. (Also this one gets a few more points for it’s title–on that note, A Sheetcake Named DesireThe Long Quiche Goodbye are available as well).

EASY BAKE COVEN 
Katie Lightfoot’s tired of loafing around as the assistant manager of an Ohio bakery. So when her aunt Lucy and uncle Ben open a bakery in Savannah’s quaint downtown district and ask Katie to join them, she enthusiastically agrees. While working at the Honeybee Bakery—named after Lucy’s cat—Katie notices that her aunt is adding mysterious herbs to her recipes. Turns out these herbal enhancements aren’t just tasty—Aunt Lucy is a witch and her recipes are actually spells! When a curmudgeonly customer is murdered outside the Honeybee Bakery, Uncle Ben becomes the prime suspect. With the help of handsome journalist Steve Dawes, charming firefighter Declan McCarthy, and a few spells, Katie and Aunt Lucy stir up some toil and trouble to clear Ben’s name and find the real killer..

 

Bliss (The Bliss Bakery #1) by Kathryn Littlewood 

Bliss (The Bliss Bakery, #1)Bliss brings us another magical bakery, this time with magical recipies that have been passed down from generation to generation of…apparently of stodgy parents who refuse to let anyone play around with the magic! (What party poopers). That is, until the arrival of the troublemaking witch who’s going to fix all of this ‘responsibility’ nonsense. Also, this book paints a picture of the woman I want to be in 50 years “a mysterious stranger…[who] rides a motorcycle, wears purple sequins, and [can’t cook at all]” (I mean going to graduate school in itself has declared me a bit of a crazy lady, why not go all the way?)

Rosemary Bliss’s family has a secret. It’s the Bliss Cookery Booke—an ancient, leather-bound volume of enchanted recipes like Stone Sleep Snickerdoodles and Singing Gingersnaps. Rose and her siblings are supposed to keep the Cookery Booke under lock and whisk-shaped key while their parents are out of town, but then a mysterious stranger shows up. “Aunt” Lily rides a motorcycle, wears purple sequins, and whips up exotic (but delicious) dishes for dinner. Soon boring, non-magical recipes feel like life before Aunt Lily—a lot less fun.
So Rose and her siblings experiment with just a couple of recipes from the forbidden Cookery Booke. A few Love Muffins and a few dozen Cookies of Truth couldn’t cause too much trouble . . . could they? Kathryn Littlewood’s culinary caper blends rich emotional flavor with truly magical wit, yielding one heaping portion of hilarious family adventure.

Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters by Ben H. Winters & Jane Austen

Sense and Sensibility and Sea MonstersI felt the need to tack this one on at the end because as wonderful as it sounds to surround myself with the smell of fresh bread, etc., I am still an English major at heart. And so I must admit that if Quirk Classics would have me, I’d be off like a shot to make something like Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters or Horrorstor in between loaves. I could spend my days composing the craziest, silliest mash-ups possible, and maybe even get paid (instead of my usual “Tab you’re weird” eye rolls). I’m thinking Tolstoy + 1960’s B-movie grade horror? Now that sounds like a fun way to use my English degree(s).

A new tale of romance, heartbreak, and tentacled mayhem.
Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters expands the original text of the beloved Jane Austen novel with all-new scenes of giant lobsters, rampaging octopi, two-headed sea serpents, and other biological monstrosities. As our story opens, the Dashwood sisters are evicted from their childhood home and sent to live on a mysterious island full of savage creatures and dark secrets. While sensible Elinor falls in love with Edward Ferrars, her romantic sister Marianne is courted by both the handsome Willoughby and the hideous man-monster Colonel Brandon. Can the Dashwood sisters triumph over meddlesome matriarchs and unscrupulous rogues to find true love? Or will they fall prey to the tentacles that are forever snapping at their heels? This masterful portrait of Regency England blends Jane Austen’s biting social commentary with ultraviolent depictions of sea monsters biting. It’s survival of the fittest—and only the swiftest swimmers will find true love!