Posted in Book Reviews, Novels

REVIEW: Columbus Day (Expeditionary Force #1) by Craig Alanson

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*No Major Spoilers*

We were fighting on the wrong side of the war; we couldn’t win. And that was the good news.
The Ruhar hit us on Columbus Day. There we were, innocently drifting along the cosmos on our little blue marble, like the Native Americans in 1492. Over the horizon come ships of a technologically advanced, aggressive culture, and BAM! There go the good old days, when humans only got killed by each other. So, Columbus Day. It fits.
When the morning sky twinkled again, this time with Kristang starships jumping in to hammer the Ruhar, we thought we were saved. The UN Expeditionary Force hitched a ride on Kristang ships to fight the Ruhar, wherever our new allies thought we could be useful. So, I went from fighting with the US Army in Nigeria, to fighting in space. It was lies, all of it. We shouldn’t even be fighting the Ruhar; they aren’t our enemy, our allies are.
I’d better start at the beginning…

~

I have been looking for a sci-fi novel that involved first alien contact that didn’t leave the reader with their nose stuck in a military dictionary trying to figure out what was going on. I don’t usually read military fiction because the author can forget that not everyone reading their books may not know all of the military terminologies. Luckily Columbus Day explains all of the jargon and military slang. I like how the main character is telling his story like he’s talking to ordinary people, all of the lingoes is explained, and he explains various types of strategies and the pros and cons of each.

Another thing I enjoyed about Columbus Day is how the main character relates to the enemy as well as their allies. When the Ruhar first attack, Bishop and a ragtag team of military friends abduct one of the enemy soldiers to get intel on the enemy, and one of the other enemy soldiers got hurt by debris. Later, we learn Bishop felt guilty for not being able to check for injuries on the enemy.

“Soldiers are soldiers, whether they have fur, skin or scales. So, logically, the Ruhar lobbed a missile at the most imposing structure in the area, the potato warehouse, and took it out in impressive fashion. I mean, they blew the hell out of it, those soldiers must have had something against potatoes.” – Columbus Day

However, my opinion of the story took a dip when the author introduced Skippy, an all-powerful AI built by ancient beings many millennia ago. I feel like the author hit a roadblock in the story and created Skippy as a way to get the story going again. The author then forces us to read a game of “Pete and Repeat” about everything we had learned up to this point. I felt this dialogue was unnecessary to the overall plot.

I have since gotten used to Skippy helping Bishop and other human soldiers. Once you get over that significant speedbump, the story smooths back out into military space action. Even with Skippy doing a lot of the critical technical aspects of the operation, this doesn’t slow the momentum down.

Overall, if you are looking for a sci-fi space adventure, then I would recommend Columbus Day. I would also recommend this novel if you are a fan of military fiction, space adventures, and just looking for an overall good story. Columbus Day will leave you binging the whole series before the day is over.

~

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Posted in Book Reviews, Graphic Novels, Manga

REVIEW: BEASTARS: Vol. 1 by Paru Itagaki

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*No Major Spoilers*

At this high school, instead of jocks and nerds, the students are divided into predators and prey.

At a high school where the students are literally divided into predators and prey, it’s personal relationships that maintain the fragile peace. Who among them is a Beastar—an academic and social role model destined to become a leader in a society naturally rife with mistrust?

Last night at Cherryton Academy, an herbivore student was killed and eaten. Among the members of the drama club, the herbivores’ suspicions naturally turn to their carnivore classmates… The prime suspect? Legosi, a large wolf. But he wouldn’t hurt a fly—or would he? And will dwarf rabbit Haru bring out the beast in him? Or are his feelings for her…something else?

BEASTARS has been a series I’ve been wanting to get into, however, since the world has ADHD it’s taken me a bit longer than it should have to give this manga a chance. Now with season one of BEASTARS on Netflix, I feel like now is the time to check this exciting series out.

First off, the art style is interesting. It looks like it was painted in watercolors (but of course it’s in black and white). There’s so much detail in each and every character I found it beautiful even though I’m not a fan of watercolor-like styles. The artist definitely took his time to study each animal the characters are based on.

This story touches similar themes that Zootopia touches on, racism in the fact that the carnivores are segregated from the herbivores. Now in Zootopia, they put this in an easy to understand way for children to follow and understand. BEASTARS discusses this in a more grown-up and blatant way. There’s even segregation amongst the carnivores themselves. I like stories that take on social issues, without it taking over the entire story.

Legosi is a character I can relate to an extent. He’s awkward and introverted. He is mourning the loss of his friend while everyone is secretly suspecting him of the crime because he is a wolf. This affects his emotions throughout the story.

The title Beastar is something that is given to one of the animals, much like a class president except it encompasses a whole generation of students. So there’s this popular student, Louis, and everyone is expecting him to become the Beastar. Watching him struggle to rehearse for the play that the drama club is about to put on after an injury makes you realize just how much is at stake in his world.

Overall, I really enjoyed BEASTARS. The story is well written, the art is beautiful to look at, and I can’t wait to continue this series in the future. I will also be reviewing BEASTARS on Netflix soon, so stay tuned for that!

I would recommend this series who love animals, societal issues, low-key mysteries, a slice of life, and looking for something new to read.

~

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Posted in Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Novels

REVIEW: The Babysitters Coven (The Babysitters Coven #1) by Kate Williams

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*No Major Spoilers*

Seventeen-year-old Esme Pearl has a babysitters club. She knows it’s kinda lame, but what else is she supposed to do? Get a job? Gross. Besides, Esme likes babysitting, and she’s good at it.

And lately, Esme needs all the cash she can get, because it seems like destruction follows her wherever she goes. Let’s just say she owes some people a new tree.

Enter Cassandra Heaven. She’s Instagram-model hot, dresses like she found her clothes in a dumpster, and has a rebellious streak as gnarly as the cafeteria food. So why is Cassandra willing to do anything, even take on a potty-training two-year-old, to join Esme’s babysitter’s club?

The answer lies in a mysterious note Cassandra’s mother left her: “Find the babysitters. Love, Mom.”

Turns out, Esme and Cassandra have more in common than they think, and they’re about to discover what being a babysitter really means a heroic lineage of superpowers, magic rituals, and saving the innocent from a seriously terrifying evil. And all before the parents get home.

Since it’s the Halloween season, and this happened to catch my interest, I thought this would be a lovely book to read to get me into the spooky season. So let’s begin my review of The Babysitters Coven!

I feel like the Young Adult genre is a hit or miss, in my opinion. I’ve read some good, bad, mediocre and everything in between. I understand that it’s the same for any group of novels. However, I would place The Babysitters Coven in the four stars category.

This novel reminded me of how integrated texting lingo has become. The characters often said LOL and OMG. I found it annoying, but then I had to remind myself that even I talk that way occasionally.

Even though the characters are younger than me, I could somewhat relate to Esme. She overthinks everything and hates gym class. Seeing her gain her confidence through learning about her newfound powers made me happy.

I didn’t like Cassandra though, she abuses her powers and doesn’t seem to care how it affects her or those around her. For instance, she and Esme go to a department store and Cassandra sets small fires to distract the employees so she can steal some name-brand jeans. Esme felt guilty even though she protested what Cassandra was doing throughout her crime.

However, I am interested to see if Cassandra learns the consequences of her magical mischief, or is she becomes a “bad guy” of her own. Whatever way Ms. Williams chooses will suit me just fine.

I won’t spoil the ending, but I guessed 1/2 of the mystery. So the other half surprised me and kept me engaged in the story overall. I love how this novel ends on a good note and leaves just enough to continue the story.

Overall, I enjoyed this novel. I found the story overall to be creative, and I felt the characters were real people and not cardboard. If you are fans of Young Adult paranormal, enjoy novels about witches, or just want an entertaining read, then I’d highly recommend The Babysitters Coven.

Read other Young Adult Reviews Here

Posted in Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Novels

REVIEW: The Green Ember (The Green Ember #1) by S.D. Smith

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*No Major Spoilers*

Heather and Picket are extraordinary rabbits with ordinary lives until calamitous events overtake them, spilling them into a cauldron of misadventures. They discover that their own story is bound up in the tumult threatening to overwhelm the wider world.

Kings fall and kingdoms totter. Tyrants ascend and terrors threaten. Betrayal beckons and loyalty is a broken road with peril around every bend.

Where will Heather and Picket land? How will they make their stand?

“All of life is a battle against fear. We fight it on one front, and it sneaks around to our flank.” He paused, looked kindly at her. “Yes, Father. I understand.” “I regret many things I’ve done,” he said, “but most of all I regret those moments when I said to Fear, ‘You are my master.”
S.D. Smith, The Green Ember

If you have even heard of the classic children’s book, Watership Down, then I would add The Green Ember to your “to be read” list! This novel runs in a similar vein to Watership Down in that it’s about displaced rabbits who have to fight for survival. Although not as dark or grim as the classic, The Green Ember tells a story of survival, betrayal, loss, and overcoming obstacles.

The story is mostly told from Heather’s perspective, even though Picket sits in the narrator’s seat from time to time. Heather and Picket’s learning about how the real world for all rabbits really works, and their family history, feels genuine and real.

I enjoyed this story a lot, all of the characters are well developed, and the history for the rabbit colonies was well fleshed out. I could tell the author put a lot of love and care into the mythos of this world. My most memorable character other than the siblings was the wise elderly rabbit, Maggie Weaver. She is a mother/grandmotherly figure to those who live in the community. She is the fastest sewer, and she gives the rabbits a shoulder to lean on when times are rough.

!!This might be a small spoiler, so be warned!!

Near the end of the novel, Ms. Weaver makes an astounding speech to all of the rabbits. Reminding them she is just another elderly rabbit. She doesn’t see herself in this grandiose way that the rest of the colony seem to view her. She lost her husband in the fall of the last king, and she reminds the other rabbits that she is no one special.

This is a children’s illustrated chapter book. However, I listened to the audiobook and the audiobook was just as amazing as reading the ebook. I would definitely say that this novel is appropriate for most ages. The violence is PG, or in video game terms E10+. There is no bad language, so the only thing for parents to worry about is violence.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed The Green Ember. I would highly recommend it for a nice family read. I would also recommend this for lovers of fantasy, animal protagonists, and of course, rabbits.

Posted in Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Novels

REVIEW: Mind Games (Kaely Quinn Profiler #1) by Nancy Mehl

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*No Major Spoilers*

Kaely Quinn’s talents as an FBI Behavior Analyst are impossible to ignore, no matter how unorthodox her methods. But when a reporter outs her as the daughter of an infamous serial killer, she’s demoted to field agent and transferred to St. Louis.

When the same reporter who ruined her career claims to have received an anonymous poem predicting a string of murders, ending with Kaely’s, the reporter’s ulterior motives bring his claim into question. But when a body is found that fits the poem’s predictions, the threat is undeniable, and the FBI sends Special Agent Noah Hunter to St. Louis.

Initially resentful of the assignment, Noah is surprised at how quickly his respect for Kaely grows, despite her oddities. But with a brazen serial killer who breaks all the normal patterns on the loose, Noah and Kaely are tested to their limits to catch the murderer before anyone else–including Kaely herself–is killed.

First off, I must mention that this is Christian fiction. Not very often do I find this genre intriguing enough for me to read. I felt this novel was a nice break from all of the sex and foul language that most modern novels have. It reminded me that a story doesn’t have to have sex and vulgarity just to make it interesting.

Kaely is a Christian herself, she discusses it with her new partner Noah. Even though this book discusses religion, I didn’t feel like the author was shoving it down my throat. Kaely believes, but she doesn’t pressure others to share her beliefs.

One interesting characteristic is that I diagnosed Kaely as having schizophrenia. As the novel progresses, she’s slowly starting to lose grip on her “technique”. I can’t wait to see how this aspect of her affects her in the novels to come!

This novel’s plot twist was amazing! The pool of reasonable suspects was large enough to keep me guessing until the big unveiling. Along with the plot twist, I felt the murderer’s motives were reasonable and I could understand his frustration and pain.

Mind Games reminded me of the story of the Happy Face Killer. He was a serial killer who is well known for not only his despicable crimes but also because his daughter is out in the media, doing interviews, building a support group for families of serial killers. She feels the need to put some good in the world despite who her father is.

I recommended this novel to my mom. If anyone would be interested in what my mom says about this novel, I might post her review/thoughts in an upcoming blog post.

I would recommend this novel for lovers of Christian FictionMystery, and those who are interested in reading novels about protagonists with mental health issues, low key romance, novels loosely based on true crime, and serial killers and their families.