The Beauty, Vol. 1 by Jason A. Hurley & Jeremy Haun

*This Review is Spoiler Free*

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To be completely honest I had actually completely forgotten I had this book in my collection. I was doing a major bookshelf dusting and was on the shelf holding my graphic novels when BAM! I got to this cover and was unnervingly surprised. I lovingly…and possibly a little creepily…consider all my books “my children”, so to come across one I barely remember receiving as a gift was quite the shock. So of course considering I’ve been in a bit of a reading slump lately (hence the recent overabundance of manga/comic reviews lol), but am almost always up for a bit of horror I decided to give this neglected volume some much needed love. 

Synopsis: I like to put things in my own words, but the opening first few pages honestly sum things up quite perfectly so I can’t help but just quote it (Pgs 1-2 of The Beauty):

Two years ago , a new sexually transmitted disease took the world by storm. This S.T.D. was unlike any other that had come before. This was a disease that people actually wanted. “Victims” of this epidemic were physically changed by the virus. Fat melted away, thinning hair returned, skin blemishes faded, and their facial features slimmed. It became known as the beauty. The beauty quickly became a fad. Suddenly, perfect skin, flawless features, and a gorgeous body were only one sexual encounter away.

The only downside appeared to be a slight fever, but that didn’t seem to slow many people down. Now, over half the population has the beauty, and the other half of the country hates them for it. Anti-beauty cells have popped up around the nation. The majority teach preservation, reminding everyone that the beauty is still a disease. A few, however, have taken a more aggressive approach to stopping the spread of the beauty…

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Image from Pg 3. of The Beauty

Rating: 9.5/10 Unicorn Horns!

A page after such an intriguing introduction to the modern world setting of The Beauty, we meet detectives Foster and Vaughn of the local city’s Beauty Task Force as they respond to the possible anti-beauty murder of a young woman. Only once they arrive at the scene it’s clear things aren’t as they appear as the young woman, by all appearances, looked instead to have spontaneously combust while traveling on the train. Things are quickly complicated even further when the case is quickly pulled from them by the Center for Disease Control by “Federal mandate”. This leads both detectives Foster and Vaughn (an unwilling carrier of ‘the beauty’) to look into the buried secrets behind the mysterious STD and those seeming to keep this horrific secret from the general public.  

Honestly…I don’t have much negative things to say about the first installment of what looks to be a very promising adult series. The story had a really good flow to it and was riddled with action, thriller, conspiracies, and a great diverse group of characters. One thing I loved was the bits of real life socially controversial thoughts and ideas about beauty woven in here and there. The art was visually appealing, and though I can’t say the main characters were personally among my favorites they were very well created and felt pretty genuine. The only reason it’s not a 10/10 is purely because of personal reasons. I would recommend this to just about every story loving adult, but warn about explicit violence, language, and a couple nude and censored sexually explicit scenes. This was an amazing start to a series with such a unique idea I couldn’t praise it enough!

Old Man’s War by John Scalzi

*This Review is Spoiler Free*

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So, I recently read my first John Scalzi novel, which was Lock In, and did a review of the novel on here a view weeks ago. I liked that book so much that I went to the library soon after that and picked up Old Man’s War, as well as the next two books in the series. About half-way through Old Man’s War I returned to the library and grabbed the rest of the books in the series. If that is any indication at all that I enjoyed this novel as much…and more than I enjoyed Lock In…I don’t know what is lol. 

The main character of this novel is 75 year-old John Perry, who after visiting his wife’s grave on his 75th birthday joins the Colonial Defense Forces. The CDF is an army of the Colonial Union that is situated in space, which is where the bulk of this novel is set. The novel follows John as he enlists in the CDF and follows him through his journey to become a soldier. Once again you shall only be getting the bare bones of the synopsis (…sorry, not sorry!)  because a great part of my reading experience was discovering the world and the intricacies of the CDF as Perry got his understanding of life in space. There are no real spoilers if you do read a full synopsis of the novel on Goodreads, or elsewhere, but when I went back and read the synopsis after reading the novel I was glad that I went into reading it with as little knowledge of the story as possible.

The novel is very interesting and the world building is amazing. The pacing of the story is well done and it’s fitting to have a MC that doesn’t know everything that’s going on around them and get to figure it out with him. This added to my overall enjoyment of the novel because it aids on giving the novel an aire of suspense and an added level of intrigue. This book was very well thought out and the more scientific aspects of the story were not just simply glossed over. You can very easily tell that Scalzi put in the effort to make the novel’s more otherworldly aspects, as well as, the connections between what John Perry experiences interesting, inventive, but at the same time believable. Let me not forget to mention that John Scalzi’s humorous writing is superb! I laughed out loud, in public, at least a dozen times while commuting to and from work. Now, this may embarrass some other unicorns, but as a seasoned transit reader it doesn’t even phase me anymore. Okay, admittedly the few times I snorted in public while reading this book were not my finest moments and I *may* have sported some good ole anime/manga style diagonal line blushes.

I enjoyed this novel and HIGHLY recommend it. There was not much that I can recall disliking. I’m making my way through the rest of the series and hope to be able to provide an overall review of the series when I complete it. I give this novel 9 out of 10 unicorn horns! Any fans of Science Fiction should definitely check this novel out. Readers who don’t tend to generally read Sci-Fi, but would like to venture into the sub-genre should give this novel a try…especially if you like combat scenarios, political intrigue, good world-bulding, stories that bring into question what defines our humanity, and/or humorous writing.

Lock In by John Scalzi

*This Review is Spoiler Free*

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Twenty-five years after an illness known as Haden’s swept through the world, infecting millions of people before it even got it’s name, we are introduced to Agents Shane and Vann of the FBI. Lock In follows main protagonist and Haden’s survivor Chris Shane as he begins his career with the FBI. Hadens is a disease which causes flu like symptoms of varying severity. In a small percentage of the people infected with Hadens, some experience what is now known as Lock In, where victims are fully awake/aware but have absolutely no use of their bodies. 

There is so much more that can be mentioned about this novel without really be any form of a spoiler, but I want to give you just the “bare bones” of the story. I went into this reading experience with  only the skeletal synopsis of what I remember hearing around the time of the books initial release in 2014. This was also my very very first John Scalzi novel which pains me to admit. I had heard nothing but positive recommendations of Scalzi’s work and I don’t even understand why I had yet to read anything by this author. Now, I can add my own words of wisdom to the John Scalzi adoration fest. 

The novel is very well written, the characters are dynamic, well thought out and developed, especially considering that the novel in not that long. I have come to think of John Scalzi as a hardcore Sci-fi writer who writes all the things you stereotypically associate with the genre, so I was very surprised by how non-stereotypically Sci-fi this novel is. There are most definitely aspects to the story and characters that scream ‘SCIENCE FICTION’ at you, but I feel that the novel is very much a Political Thriller. Now, there, there, Sci-fi fans, don’t you fret, this novel is highly enjoyable and I think that many fans of the genre will adore this novel. I think this is an amazing novel to be considered for a ‘Swiss-Army Knife’ recommendation for Sci-fi. It is enjoyable for seasoned fans and would be a great introduction to the genre for readers who do not tend to gravitate Science Fiction and/or Fantasy and who may be intimidated by other-worldly storylines. I give Lock In 8 out of 10 unicorn horns…and I will for sure be checking out more novels by John Scalzi. 

 

Immortal Hounds by Ryo Yasohachi

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I randomly happened to pick this one up during my “walk through” the bookstore a.k.a 3hr book hunt. I’d never heard of this fairly newly released book before, the mangaka a.k.a author or the manga itself, but I decided the bad-ass looking cover coupled with the interesting title made it worth checking out, though to be honest I actually thought it wouldn’t be interesting enough for me to want to keep it. I was wrong. This was a really good read that exceeded my expectations on every point. The characters weren’t bland, the plot, though consisting of themes not entirely original, wasn’t at all generic and I think Yasohachi successfully made the story his own. 

I won’t go into much detail past the first couple pages or reveal anything past the 2nd chapter as the mystery and desire to put all the puzzle pieces together is part of why I’ll now be stalking each release date, but this story is set in an alternative universe where humans are immortal.  Things start off with a bang…literally, and surrounds two opposing characters- Shin’ichi Kenzaki, a young detective hunting and detaining humans infected with RDS (Resurrection Deficiency Syndrome), and a mysterious woman part of those known as ‘Escape Artists’ who show up to snatch such humans away from the Task Force, generally in a very violent manner. In a world where humans have taken to killing themselves to ‘reset’ and heal from any illnesses/injures RDS is a new and very terrifying disease that turns humans mortal. Kenzaki’s job (which he is hell bent on completing) is to hunt these offending people, called Vectors, no longer considered human by the government and send them to a facility for extermination, but the Anti-Vector Police Task Force begins to meet opposition when an Escape Artist comes tearing through the scene sending limbs flying to rescue these infected humans (though actual deaths are rare queasy readers should stay clear).

Though the whole immortality thing has been toyed with many times already I don’t know of any other stories that have put this type of twist on it. It was very interesting to see the Yasohachi’s take on how widespread human immortality would change and effect human society and can’t wait to delve deeper into this world, no seriously, why isn’t the next volume out yet?! Yasohachi’s world building and pacing are great and I’m pretty surprised it’s not more popular…could be that I’m just really out of touch lol. One thing I absolutely love about this series so far is how everything is just a big shade of grey. The good and bad sides are not clearly defined leaving readers to make their own conclusions, and the character’s moral stances are often in question. The story is amazing so far with tons of unanswered questions I’m dying to have answered, and (THANK GOD) the story ended with me needing more in my life ASAP but not feeling like I’d go completely insane, wondering about in a confused daze, having violent outbursts directed at the people in charge of the release dates, and not knowing what to do with my life while waiting. Though the 3 week wait helps. As you could probably already tell, I despise cliffhangers lol.

 

Clearly there were plenty – characters, events, hints towards future events, and lack of information- to keep me coming back for more I’ll definitely continue collecting this series and recommend it to anyone looking for a good sci-fi, mystery, action, or really to anyone who wouldn’t be put off  by the violence. 

7.5 Unicorn Horns for now, but with the exception of getting a higher rating in later volumes.

The Host by Stephanie Meyer

*This review is SPOILER FREE*

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You know, I never thought I’d actually pick up this book and read it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m actually one of those people that loved Twilight (not crazy about it, hated some things here and there, but overall I loved it), but more cause I’m not a big alien fan- a few movies aside. Even after reading I Am Number Four (the first book) and really liking it, I still had no interest in reading this. I was content to let it sit on my to-read shelf and never read a single page. But then I came across it at the library and, for some reason, I brought it home. After a few days I finally picked it up thinking, why not? I’ll just read a few pages and if I don’t like it, I can put it back and… I liked, kinda even loved it. In fact, I was shocked that Meyer could write like this. Sure sometimes it seems to drop back and starts feeling a bit too close to Twilight, but for the main part I believe this book deserves to stand apart. Whether or not you notice all the things this book is getting across this book does make you think, and I mean in a way Twilight’s shallowness never did. 

So if you somehow don’t already know: It’s about two characters, an alien named Wanderer and a human named Melanie that come to inhabit the same body…well it’s more like Wanderer tries to take over Melanie’s body as the other aliens (or Souls) had been doing to the entire human race. Usually a take over from the aliens goes well, so well most humans cease to exist anymore, but very rarely the human host fights back. This is how Wanderer expected things to go, but much to her surprise Melanie fights back. This leads to an unexpected adventure, mystery, character growth, action, and of course some complicated romance (which was MUCH better done than in Twilight).  

I absolutely loved the differences in the characters. I loved Wanderer, she’s one of my favorite characters, and really liked Melanie and the other three male characters as well. Usually her kind of behaviour would irritate me to no end, but for some reason I like her even more for it.

You get a broader range of them than I had expected (as in characters with some actual depth and growth). I never found the story all that slow, even at the seemingly slow parts if that makes sense. I was too caught up in the two main character’s Wanderer and Melanie, the amount of imagination put into parts, and the alien vs. soul/human conflict, and wondering how in the heck it would end to be bored. I kept getting these insanely high amount of urges to flip ahead and figure out what would happen next. Which I never do, I hardly ever skip to the back of a book unless I’m trying to encourage myself to read/finish reading a book I’ve pretty much already given up on. It almost felt like my short bouts of insanity when waiting for a book release. Though the main reason for my anxiety was wondering if I could trust Meyer not to kill my characters (I say my because I almost always get insanely attached to most characters I read about, even if I don’t really like them or the book). I had felt much safer reading Twilight.

It’s actually a really good book. Not what I expected, definitely worth reading, even buying. It gets 8.5/10 Unicorn Horns from me and I’d say it deserves to stand apart from the Twilight Saga. I’d also welcome a sequel but it’s honestly not needed.

Side note: While of course the movie left things out and changed others, it is one of the better book-to-movie adaptions out there and worth checking out.