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, Novels

REVIEW: Oscawana: A Monster Novel by Frank Martin

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*No Major Spoilers*

*Trigger Warning: Sexual Assault/Child Molestation*

Located just forty-five miles north of New York City and isolated in the hills of Putnam Valley, Lake Oscawana is the perfect summer getaway. At least, that was what April’s mother told her when she dropped April and her brother off to spend the season at their uncle’s lake house. It wasn’t bad at first. April thought she might’ve finally found someone that made her feel like family and a place she could actually call home. But April grew worried when she found something living in the water. Something strange. Something growing. She wanted to tell someone and sound the alarm, but April would have to learn the hard way that not all monsters lurk beneath the water.

~

I found this novel on Twitter, a lot of authors I follow retweet their friends’ works. I thought the premise was unique and I couldn’t wait to jump into Oscawana: A Monster Novel!

I feel that the author did a really good job of making Lake Oscawana seem isolated and far away from civilization even though it is in Upstate New York. I felt like I was in the depths of Canada for as far as April had to travel just to get to the nearest small town.

Early in the novel, April stumbles upon the monster when he’s still small and not threatening. They quickly develop a friendship that grows as the monster, who April named Oscar after the lake he lives in, grows in size.

The build-up to the climax is really slow, we’re mostly following April as she watches Oscar grow into an actual killing machine. Even when April comes to this realization, I found Oscar just as adorable and harmless as when April first found him. Oscar reminded me of a genetically modified dog.

April as a character feels so ingenuine from one moment to the next, more or less for the first half of the novel she is your standard teenager who has been let down by the adults around her. Then after the climax, her motives and reasons flip flop. I can’t go into more detail due to spoilers, but it was frustrating.

Shocked, Brad pulled back from the water and watched in horror as what he assumed to be blood spread out like a blooming flower. The crimson tinge was thick and slimy, bouncing a blinding ray of light in Brad’s eyes. He couldn’t look away, though. Brad stared at the ever-expanding slick of blood as it continued to grow until it completely surrounded the boat. –Oscawana: A Monster Story

I feel the ending to be lackluster, the ending feels like there could have been enough for a sequel or even a short story sequel. The ending left me feeling unsatisfying and left me with a lot of questions. Will April reunite with Oscar? Where did Oscar come from? What will happen to Oscar? Maybe these questions will be answered in some way.

Overall, I have mixed feelings towards Oscawana. I think it’s an alright story. I was expecting more monster action but was disappointed when 80% was about the human characters and their drama. If you’re looking for a quick read, I would recommend this novel. The action was great, and the heart and emotion were as well.

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Posted in Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Novels

REVIEW: God of War by Matthew Stover and Robert E. Vardeman

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*Possible Spoilers for the God of War Games*

A brutal warrior, Kratos is a slave to the gods of Olympus. Plagued by the nightmares of his past and yearning for freedom, the Ghost of Sparta would do anything to be free of his debt to the gods. He is on the verge of losing all hope when the gods give him one last task to end his servitude.

He must destroy Ares, the god of war.

But what chance does a mere mortal have against a god? Armed with the deadly chained Blades of Chaos, guided by the goddess Athena, and driven by his own insatiable thirst for vengeance, Kratos seeks the only relic powerful enough to slay Ares . . . a quest that will take him deep into the mysterious temple borne by the Titan Cronos!

From the black depths of Hades to the war-torn city of Athens to the lost desert beyond, God of War sheds a brutal new light on the bestselling video game and on the legend of Kratos.

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I have been a fan of Greek Mythology for a long time. With the Percy Jackson series introducing young readers into the mythos in a kid-friendly way, God of War is basically Percy Jackson for adults. The video games are well known for their antihero Kratos, who let his bloodlust go too far and cause pain and death all around him.

If you’re familiar with the video games, then you are familiar with Kratos’ backstory. He is a Spartan who asked Ares to become his apprentice. This decision haunts him as he seeks relief from the nightmares and the decisions his younger self made in the past.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed God of War. The action, adventure, and feelings of other stories inspired by Greek Mythology were enough to keep me enthralled in the story. I haven’t played or watched any of the God of War games myself, but knowing there are novelizations of the games makes me want to continue on the adventure.

I would highly recommend this novel for fans of the Percy Jackson series as well as fans of Greek Mythology in general. There is plenty of action, adventure, and plenty of Greek gods to keep you invested in the story. I can’t wait to jump back into the world and continue on with Kratos.

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Posted in Book Reviews, Novels

REVIEW: Ghostland by Duncan Ralston

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*No Spoilers*

After a near-death experience caused by the park’s star haunted attraction, Ben has come to Ghostland seeking to reconnect with his former best friend Lilian, whose post-traumatic stress won’t let her live life to the fullest. She’s come at the insistence of her therapist, Dr. Allison Wexler, who tags along out of professional curiosity, eager to study the new tech’s psychological effect on the user.

But when a computer virus sets the ghosts free and the park goes into lockdown, the trio finds themselves trapped in an endless nightmare.

With time running short and the dead quickly outnumbering the living, the survivors must tap into their knowledge of horror and video games to escape… or become Ghostland’s newest exhibits.

”If they didn’t get out of there soon, they would all die at the hands of the exhibits, then they too would become a part of Ghostland, a part of Garrote’s ghost army.” – Ghostland

I found this novel when I renewed my Kindle Unlimited subscription. I found the concept of a haunted amusement park to be intriguing and exciting. The thought of ghosts being the museum exhibits instead of the objects or buildings being the exhibits.

I will warn you upfront, this novel gets to be a gorefest at points. So if you are the squeamish type, I’d pass on this one. Otherwise, it is clearly a love letter to the classic horror movies that weren’t afraid of showing blood and letting out curse words.

I love how the author built this universe from the ground up. He even included footnotes for the ghosts and exhibits in case you wanted to know more about these fictional ghosts. Even though you learned about the barebones of the universe through dialogue and the main characters’ knowledge of the exhibits, it was nice to read more into each of the famous attractions. I think my favorite one was about a guy who got lost in his own mirror maze and ended up cutting off pieces of himself to try and keep from going around in circles.

I don’t want to spoil too much, but each character has depth and personality. Both Ben and Lillian change throughout the novel. Not only through witnessing so much trauma and horror, but just by trying to survive the murderous park. Lillian was so affected by Ben’s near-death that she stopped living life.

I was gripped to the edge of my seat until the epilogue. The anticipation of wanting to know who was going to survive, and who was going to have a gruesome demise kept me guessing until the end. One thing I did like was that the author wasn’t afraid to kill any characters. I often wondered if no one was safe.

I often found myself forgetting that Ben and Lillian were only able to see the ghosts through the artificial reality headsets they wore throughout the majority of the story. I kept forgetting about this and was amazed at how the fictional technology seamlessly blended into the background.

Overall, I really enjoyed Ghostland it was a breath of fresh air to the horror genre for me, the author wasn’t afraid to kill off characters, and even though the story is from the perspective of two teenagers, I feel like it was written for adults. If you are looking for a novel to help with your horror genre burnout, then I would highly recommend Ghostland.

Click here to read an interview I did with Duncan Ralston.

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Posted in Author Q&A

Q&A with E.L. Croucher

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About E.L. Croucher:

E.L. Croucher is a young author, living in London. She started writing over two years,
with her first novel The Butterfly on Fire, which she published on Amazon. Alongside
her career as a writer, she works as a Japanese translator and interpreter for a well-
known Japanese gaming company, after studying Japanese at university and living
in Tokyo, Japan.

Her latest novel, Horned Winged Blessed is an ironic look into a world in which
gender roles are swapped, and minorities are forced into labels that they did not
choose. With a mix of feminist views and a pro-LGBTQ+ stance, E.L. Croucher writes
to further her dream of a world free from prejudice, hate crimes, and bullying.

 

  1. How has the LGBT+ community affected your life?

I would put this down to two stages. Stage one was when I tried to live as a gay man in the world, so we can call that the “G” phase. It was never right for me though. Everyone, including myself, worked that out over time. My heart was never happy. Still, I learned a lot about minorities and what it means to fit in whilst in the “G” phase – so I don’t regret a single second of it. I made some wonderful friends along the way.

Then eventually, at around 21 years old, I admitted to myself that I wanted to change my body to match my mind. I entered the “T” phase and embraced my life as a woman. Wow, what can I say? It was like living in monochrome all my life until suddenly waking up to color. I’d never felt so happy. Today, I am happier and happier with every new tick that I cross off my transition-goals-list.

And the LGBT+ community has been there to support me in its different forms the entire way. I’m so grateful and feel so blessed to be as lucky as I am.

 

  1. Do you think LGBT+ will no longer be a niche subgenre in the next 5-10 years?

It looks to me that the sub-minorities within what was already a minority are started to come out of the closet, now that people are finally learning more about the world and questioning themselves. Next, I would like to see the normalization and acceptance of straight cis men that find transwoman attractive and visa-versa. In general, the movement of sexual orientation exploration, non-binary people and their different genders is only just starting.

Unfortunately, I fear that the entire group won’t always fall within the giant LGBTQ+ bubble. I hope it does. In a world like ours, we should try and stick together! Ls should love Ts. Gs should love Ls. That is what love and acceptance are all about, right?

So to answer the question, I think that there is every chance that LGBT+ will no longer fall under the term “niche subgenre” as it grows and expands. But I hope that with whatever form it takes, we can still stick together. Power in numbers.

 

  1. What inspired you to write this novel?

I wanted to make a social commentary about how gender plays an important role in our lives, and how we cannot assume to label or group together people that do not want that. The main theme of Horned Winged Blessed is that the government in the novel has attempted to make it fairer for all genders by classing them as a ‘third’ one. This, however, is flawed because when forcing it upon the subcategories within the LGBTQ+ community those minorities are in fact having their freedom stolen from them.

My main motive was to give non-binary and transgender people a voice without making the story a huge trope about the journey we go on. (That was perhaps the mistake I made with my first book…)

 

  1. What do you wish people outside of the LGBT+ community knew about the movement?

It’s not our choice. And it has nothing to do with anyone else other than us what we do.
What I mean by that is that my identity and gender has nothing to do with the men that catcall me whilst I walk to work in the morning. When I get chatted-up in a bar, I’m not attempting to “trap” anyone. How self-centered of them to assume that! I’m simply just living my life as I want to and as I always should have. The lines that this blurs between gender and sexual orientation are a secondary issue that modern society has to awaken to and solve in itself.

That is literally what paving the way means to me.

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  1. Who inspires you? LGBT+ figure? Author? Someone close to you?

I can’t chisel this down to a single person, but I am truly inspired by allies to the LGBTQ+ movement that have no direct link to it. So for example, a perfectly happy straight cis person who in no way relates to the LGBTQ+ minorities that are 100% supportive and understanding of our cause. That’s an ally. That kind of pure acceptance and benevolence is inspiring. I think that the voice of an ally will resound a thousand times louder than any LGBTQ+ member. When I see or meet someone like that, it makes me want to fight even harder for equality.

 

  1. How has the writing community supported/helped you with your writing(s)?

There is a great pool of resources out there for any indie writer. I often asked opinions of my cover art, of which editor to go for and whether or not I was making the right decisions. It was always so fantastic to gain such proactive and honest support when those close to me were often too blind with love to tell me the truth.

 

  1. What advice would you give to other writers in the LGBT+ community?

I honestly mean this when I say that: if I can do it, so can you. My English is a native level, but it’s not perfect. My story had plot holes until my editor tore it apart and rebuilt it back up. It’s a long process, but anyone can write a book if they put their minds to it and are motivated enough.

 

  1. What is your favorite childhood book/series?

As a kid, it was, of course, Harry Potter. I always aspired to be as hardworking and focused as Hermione, and wished that my muggle parents would eventually tell me that I was off to Hogwarts next year at school.

I’m still waiting on my owl… should be here any day now!

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Thanks, Ms. Croucher for taking the time to answer my questions! I had a lot of fun learning more about the LGBT+ community!

Learn More about E.L. Croucher’s Works

E.L. Croucher’s Website

Follow her on Instagram @emi13230