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…

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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 Discussions, Personal Blogs

Looking Back on “The Sheep Look Up” by John Brunner During the COVID-19 Pandemic

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I know we’re only halfway through 2020, however, with everything that’s been going on in the world lately, I found it hard not to look back on When the Sheep Look Up by John Brunner. I reviewed this realistic post-apocalyptic novel last year, and such aspects that have stuck with me are how everyone in the story is wearing gas masks, the water is polluted, and there is general unrest amongst the civilians.

With the fear of COVID-19 hanging heavy in the air, most people are sheltering in their homes and leaving the house only if they have to. I know gas masks and protective face masks aren’t the same, but I don’t think that matters in the grand scheme of things.

To make a seemingly tense and stressful situation worse, we are again reminded of the gross mishandling of police officers who have a record of valid complaints. If a police officer has a complaint filed, I think it should be investigated through an unbiased third party. No police officer should have excessive allegations that have been swept under the rug. Just because he has “connections” or is a “good ole boy” makes this unfair to the people they’re sworn to protect.

People are upset. With COVID-19 being the biggest pandemic since the Spanish Flu, and witnessing our own government’s and to a certain extent, our society’s lack of trust of the scientists made this more deadly than it needed to be. The economy and unemployment rates are the worst they’ve been, and we’re still witnesses to police brutality. Everyone is on edge. It’s the perfect deadly stew for public unrest.

We need justice, we need peace, and until then, stay safe and don’t do anything stupid. If you want to read my thoughts on The Sheep Look Up Click Here to read my review!

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Posted in Book Reviews, Novels

REVIEW: The Magnificent Monsters of Cedar Street by Lauren Oliver

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*No Major Spoilers*

Cordelia Clay loves the work she and her father do together: saving and healing the remarkable creatures around Boston at the end of the nineteenth century. Their home on Cedar Street is full to the brim with dragons, squelches, and Diggles, and Cordelia loves every one of them.

But their work must be kept secret—others aren’t welcoming to outsiders and immigrants, so what would the people of Boston do to the creatures they call “monsters”?

One morning, Cordelia awakens to discover that her father has disappeared—along with nearly all the monsters.

With only a handful of clues and a cryptic note to guide her, Cordelia must set off to find out what happened to her father, with the help of her new friend Gregory, Iggy the farting filch, a baby dragon, and a small zuppy (zombie puppy, that is).

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First off, I’d like to say, if you are a fan of the monsters and creatures in the Harry Potter universe, this theme gets expanded tenfold. Even though most monsters are only mentioned in passing, I feel this monster-filled world is just as fleshed out as in Harry Potter.

To imagine our world is filled with creatures that are only featured in mythology and fairy tales reminds me of the Pokemon video games, just without the animal abuse. The world feels so strange and alien since Cordelia was sheltered growing up in a house full of monsters.

One small nitpick I had early on was the similarities between the father and daughter’s names. I had to go back and reread sections because I got the two mixed up. Although to make up for it, I’m impressed at how the author gets us to bond with Cordelia and Cornelius and makes the disappearance more impactful without wasting our time.

As Cordelia’s search for her father and the monsters continues, I love all of the hijinx and misadventures the characters get into. In one case, Cordelia finds herself at a traveling circus that boasts a freak show of monsters. For Cordelia to think this circus as her monsters almost instantly, shows how young and somewhat immature she is.

I love the ending of this story, it wrapped everything up all nice and neat. Everyone learned from the struggles faced on the adventures shows through. Even Cornelius learns from his mistakes and moves on from the loss of his wife. So if you’re looking for a novel with a happy ending, you’ll find it here.

Although I know this is a children’s chapter book, I feel the issues discussed are appropriate for all ages. Friendship, racism, and growing up in a world that looks down upon the “lesser than”. Big issues discussed in appropriate ways.

I would recommend this for lovers of fantasy, monsters, and a coming of age story that’s worth the read. The Monsters of Cedar Street is a fun read for readers of all ages.

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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 Book Reviews, Graphic Novels, Marvel Comics

REVIEW: Daredevil vs. Punisher Means & Ends by David Lapham

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*No Major Spoilers* 

*This is a collection of Daredevil vs. Punisher 1-6*

Daredevil and the Punisher vie for the soul of Hell’s Kitchen as half the East Coast’s underworld – in chaos since Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin of Crime, was deposed – scramble for a shot at the big chair. And as the city descends into chaos – as murder and intimidation become the staples of the day – Daredevil and the Punisher each seek to restore order in their own unique way. For Daredevil this means dispensing justice at the end of a billy club. But for the Punisher, justice at the end of a billy club isn’t justice at all. For the Punisher, justice for these animals is at the end of a shotgun. Featuring more Marvel villains than you can shake a stick at – including Hammerhead and the return of the nefarious… Jackal!

This graphic novel is a must-read if you’re a fan of either Daredevil or the Punisher. They are both on the side of good, they just go about it in different ways. Daredevil believes in the justice system and locking the bad guys up in prison. Punisher has little to no faith left in society and so he only believes in killing the bad guys.

This story is mainly told from the Punisher’s perspective. So if you don’t know anything about the Punisher, the comic will fill you in. This will definitely make you see the flaws in both Daredevil’s and Punisher’s thinking and methods.

One aspect I like about this story is how we find out that the Punisher killed a prominent D.A. and Daredevil said that Punisher crossed the line. When in fact, the D.A. was taking bribes from one of the bad guys. Even though Daredevil finds out the truth later in the story, this shows a major flaw in Daredevil’s beliefs about the justice system.

Overall, if you’re looking for some superheroes fighting each other, even if it’s on a more low-key scale, then this graphic novel is for you. Fans of Daredevil, the Punisher, and Marvel Comics as a whole will enjoy this graphic novel collection.

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