The Pet Project – Amanda Milo

Oddball equals interesting, pure SciFi, not romance

Rating: 4 out of 5.

This novella is a riff on the thought, “What if aliens didn’t recognize humans as sentient and kept them as pets?”  

It must be taken at face value. It is not an allegory. I sensed no intention to comment on the history, tragedies, and foibles of humanity. If you can’t put these things aside, you will probably be offended or even disgusted.

I personally found this very easy to imagine as I *know* that my cats are sentient. They control me. I am their slave. You don’t see them going out to work or the grocery store or cleaning my toilet! They understand English but would never stoop to speaking it as they have a much more elegant language comprised of subtle nuances on the basic sound “me-ow”. Besides, they get their point across to me just fine, know it, and point this out with just a look at me from time to time. I accuse them of “being all cute again” and they say, “It’s the treats I train you with. You know you love it.” I do.

The entire novella is 1st person present tense from the alien who is conducting the breeding project. We don’t get the alien’s name until the very end, in an epilogue that is an interview with our scientist. Very little is revealed about the alien species. No gender is given. We don’t even know if these aliens have genders.

There is some forced mating between the experiment’s subjects, but it is clinical rather than violent. These are the scientific notes of the doctor, so that tone removes most of the emotion and trauma we might otherwise feel when reading about these. There is nothing sexual between the aliens and the pets. I viewed it like putting cats or dogs together for mating as that is how the doctor views it. It is clear that the doctor can’t remain an impartial observer and truly cares about the pets, so mistakes made during experimentation are corrected.

Amanda said this wasn’t funny, but I found some very amusing nuggets. Overall, I found it interesting, amusing, and a fast-paced read. I think other animal lovers or anyone who doesn’t view humans as vastly different from other animals will have an easier time accepting the spirit in which this was written and appreciating the cuteness.

There you go Amanda, being all cute again!

Favorite Quotes:

Because of the male inclination towards bellicosity, most males are not fit for household pets.

Distractedly, I’m aware of how welcome even her intrusions are to me. Her staring is so loud that I often pause whatever I’m working on to pay her some small attention. If I were wise, I would put a stop to her disruption; it is somewhat rude behavior.

(My cats!)

“No. You don’t mark the indoor plant. Only outdoor plants.” Then Dr. Xan’-Tay `్ turns to me and sighs. “You see environment enrichment? Male tenders see targets.”

Braking Hard – Gloria Joynt-Lang

Contemporary romance with imperfectly perfect hero and lots of humor

Rating: 5 out of 5.

As a female mechanic, Eden suffered way too much sexual harassment until she was hired by Gage. Gage has his own troubles keeping his garage running with a wandering mind, the fidgets, and the stress of his business partner and mentor just dying. Hiring Eden helps, and Gage would like to be more than her boss, but he would never want to make her uncomfortable.

This was fast paced, engaging, and funny, with a writing style I appreciated. A fantastic job of “show not tell” is done throughout. I loved that we don’t get a label put on Gage’s psychological struggles until midway through, so much so that I don’t want to put the label in this review. When we label something, we often dismiss it and discount the unique experiences of those who suffer with it. The great descriptions and metaphors used allowed me to laugh at and empathize with Gage’s thoughts.

I loved all the characters in this, main and secondary. My absolute favorite is Aunt Iris. She doesn’t get much screen time, but I want to invite her for a long stay and might keep her. She’s hilariously unfiltered and reminds me of my mother who had to make sure she was wearing Depends before I came over for a chat because we made each other laugh so much. I laughed often throughout this book, which nicely balanced the serious parts.

Eden is a strong woman, confident in herself and her abilities. She was reluctant to get into a relationship with her boss. Of course I wanted them to get together, but her reasons were sound, logical. I wasn’t irritated with her or thinking she was stupid. Gage is honorable, hot, cute, and funny. They both grow along the way. The secondary characters add lots of spice to this stew. I appreciated how developed they all were with strengths and flaws. No one was one dimensional.

I don’t know much about cars, but I didn’t have to. Both of them being mechanics and the background of the garage added flavor but didn’t leave me confused. At one point, Gage laments that, “…mechanics never topped the list of women’s fantasies.” True, they didn’t rank in mine, but the ones that have worked on my cars have looked nothing like Gage! Having a hot man who can always fix my car sounds very appealing now that I think about it.

3rd person past tense from alternating main characters. Graphic sex scene (just one, so not a big part of this novel). No cheating or OW/OM drama. Occasional mild foul language.

Grammar – the author fixed the errors I pointed out.

I highly recommend this and would read it again in the future, so 5 stars!

Favorite quotes:

Gage: (After coming home with a dog when he was supposed to pick up a car part.) …he hoped he’d never stray so bad that he’d end up at a nearby farm purchasing a llama. But even if fate doomed him to seek out llamas, he’d probably load up a Jersey cow instead.

Eden: An elderly man even struck up a conversation while she selected feminine hygiene products at the pharmacy. Most men would avoid stopping in front of the tampon display but not this guy. Midway through the conversation, she thought about heading to the condom aisle to see if he would follow but decided against it. She doubted he’d gossip about her selection of tampons with plastic applicators, but he might start a rumor if she lured him near the prophylactics.

Apparently, the lonely senior made a 911 call when faced with the insurmountable challenge of opening a jar of pickled beets. The police attended to the matter, broke the seal, and left with one of her delicious apple pies.

Telling an anxious person to relax was akin to cleaning a cat by shoving it under the kitchen tap.

Being annoyed with Gage O’Neill was the equivalent of shaming a puppy for jumping on your lap.

Gage: “Aunt Iris is brutal. […] She’s beyond horrible. At my sister’s wedding, she tried pairing me with this long-haired blonde sitting across the room. […] And just so you know, hair color wasn’t the issue. I objected because the blonde at the wedding was a dude.”

Gage: “There are two times a man should do this.” He rose from his chair, shook his head and lowered himself to his knees. “And one of them is when he’s scared of his eighty-three-year-old great aunt. Please, I’ll buy you whatever dress you want. I’ll even toss in a pair of shoes. Just come to this wedding with me.”

Aunt Iris: “Maybe if you went up to Lotus Point with my handsome grandnephew, you’d toss away this friendship nonsense.”

Aunt Iris: “Getting married on the beach. A bikini and a veil. It’s utter nonsense. I hate boring weddings but if I wanted to see a bride in her skivvies, I’d go to a strip club.”

I received a free copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.