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Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Volumes 1-3


 Oh my gosh, where to begin?  I snagged these three volumes from the library a little while ago and finally sat down to read them today (I was going to start them on the weekend but that didn't happen).

The story starts basically where "Green with Evil" ends.  Tommy is free of Rita Repulsa's mind control and has joined the Power Rangers.  But he is dealing with the aftermath (kind of PTSD) of having been controlled by her.  He's seeing her everywhere and she keeps telling him that he's nothing without him, making him seriously second guess himself (and also freeze up in battle).  At the same time, the other Rangers are having a hard time adjusting to him being on the team as well.  They worked well together just the five of them, so now the dynamic has changed.  Plus they don't all know if they can trust him, since he was hand-picked by Rita to be her second in command.

Meanwhile Rita has a new trick up her sleeve.  She's tasked Scorpina with powering up a mysterious crystal with green chaos energy.  Once fully powered, it will open a gateway and let the mysterious black dragon through.


Volume 2 is the Rangers' battle against the Black Dragon.  Whoever this mysterious person is, he can disrupt most of the Rangers' connection to the Morphin Grid - only Tommy still has access to his powers because he accesses it a little differently from the others.  With the Command Centre destroyed, and both Zordon and Alpha 5 unresponsive, the Rangers flee, but the Black Dragon manages to get Billy before he can teleport away, and uses his Power Coin to take control of the Zords.  Rita sets herself up in the remains of the Command Centre and tells the nations of Earth they have 24 hours to bow down to her or she will destroy them.  


And Volume 3 has the aftermath: Tommy and Billy are missing.  They were brought to the Black Dragon's world when he was defeated.  I was super excited by this because the opening shot of the world showed me exactly who the Black Dragon is (later confirmed in the story).  Billy and Tommy awaken Saba, just as the Dragon finds them to welcome them to his world.  Saba activates a few Zords to help them flee and they make their way to the camp of the Rebels who are fighting the Dragon.

Unfortunately that's where the story left off.  Each volume has been directly continuing into the next one, so I'll have to wait to see what happens next! :(

Oh, each volume also has a hilarious little side story at the end with the adventures of Bulk and Skull.  Bulk is determined that the two of them can be better heroes than the Power Rangers, and that's led them into some hilarious antics. 

All in all, these have been fantastic reads.  I really can't wait to get my hands on volume 4!

Sunday, April 4, 2021

To Touch a Wild Dolphin: A Journey of Discovery with the Sea's Most Intelligent Creatures

 


I don't remember why I bought Rachel Smolker's To Touch a Wild Dolphin: A Journey of Discovery with the Sea's Most Intelligent Creatures, but I remember buying it a long time ago.  I recently discovered it hidden in a cupboard in my basement, and decided that now is the perfect time to finally give it a read.  

To Touch a Wild Dolphin is all about Smolker's days researching wild dolphins at Monkey Mia, a remote place in Australia where wild dolphins were interacting with people.  Over the course of about fifteen years, Smolker and her fellow researchers were able to get to know the resident dolphins and learn so much about them as a species.  

I really enjoyed when Smolker was talking about the dolphins and the things they discovered, particularly about their social lives.  Very interesting stuff.  I had a much harder time getting through the chapters that weren't focused on the dolphins though.  I was okay with the first few, which detailed Smolker getting to Australia.  But there was a later one that centered around a camping trip she took with a few other women that I really wish I had skipped.  Sure, that chapter had some anecdotes that talked a bit about what the area was like outside of dolphin research.  But it really didn't add anything to the story about the dolphins that I was here for.  

But overall, this is a very interesting and fairly quick read (I finished it in a day).  It's also really accessible for a general reading audience (not at all scientific/technical).

Friday, March 19, 2021

Dungeon Born


 A friend of mine really wanted me to try Dakota Krout's Dungeon Born, the first book in the Divine Dungeon series.  It tells the tale of a soul that gets sucked into a soul gem and becomes a brand new dungeon.  The dungeon, names Cal by Dani, his wisp servant/friend, needs to grow and evolve, attracting adventurers to attempt the dungeon (and hopefully die along the way, feeding Cal energy and new toys to play with like weapons and runes).

Dungeon Born is also the tale of Dale, one of the sheepherders who discovered the dungeon (and the only one to live to tell the tale).  Dale ended up selling all his belongings to buy the entire mountain the new dungeon is on, knowing that all the people who will be interested in the dungeon will make him rich once word gets out.  This leads him into the Adventurers' Guild and training to become an adventurer.  It also leads him into politics as all the people who want to use the dungeon don't realize that he owns the entire mountain.

I'm not going to lie, the beginning of this gets a bit rough.  Krout's world is very much like an RPG system, complete with leveling of the characters, and for awhile Dani's explanations to Cal about everything really made me feel like I was reading an RPG rule set rather than a fictional story.  But once you get past that, the story gets super fun!  I'm quite excited to see where things go in Dungeon Madness, the second book in the series!

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Outer Order, Inner Calm


 I saw Gretchen Rubin's Outer Order, Inner Calm at the library and thought it looked like it might be an interesting little read.  It's a super fast little read full of Rubin's helpful decluttering tips.  It's based on the premise that our inner feelings reflect our outer environment, which I agree with: there have been so many times when I was feeling overwhelmed, and simply cleaning up can really help!

There's nothing really new or earth-shattering in this book, but I found it a helpful refresher.  I actually started looking at my books last night when I was in the middle of reading this and removed a few from my bookshelf, either that I've read and have no intention of rereading, or ones that I honestly don't intend to read. So while it wasn't exactly pack full of new tips, I found it helpful! :)

Saturday, March 13, 2021

Life of Pi


I've had quite the history with Yann Martel's Life of Pi.  Every time I was thinking of reading it over the last several years, I'd end up talking to someone who ended up spoiling the ending for me.  So I'd wait for some time to pass, and just when I was ready to read it, that would happen again!

But finally, back a few months ago my brother mentioned rereading it, and I decided that I was going to finally read it once and for all.  I started it in early February, got through the first part (about 100 pages), and just sort of stopped reading.  It was very similar to another book I started this year, The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern; in that one I also read about 100 pages, then stopped for a few weeks because I just wasn't interested in it at all.  I found Life of Pi was holding my interest a bit better than The Starless Sea did, but it still wasn't great.  So after a few weeks of it sitting and me having no interest in it anymore, I told first my mom, then my brother that I was giving up on it.  I hung up the phone with my brother, then like immediately grabbed it and started reading it again.  This time I made it to the end (although at times it admittedly was a struggle).

Life of Pi tells the story of Pi Patel.  Born in India, his family owned a zoo, where Pi spent many happy days whiling away the time.  But as he got older, his family decided they wanted to move to Canada.  They sold their animals and were on a cargo ship with them travelling across the Pacific Ocean when the ship sinks.  Pi is the lone human survivor, who finds himself on a lifeboat with a hyena, a zebra, an orangutan, and a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker.  Over the course of their first few weeks, the other animals are killed until it is just Pi and Richard Parker left.  Pi determines that he must tame the tiger in order to save them both.  

Life of Pi reminded me of The Martian (although Life of Pi was written first, so I guess The Martian drew inspiration from Life of Pi?) in that it is a castaway story of extraordinary circumstances (although I felt like less went wrong for Pi than it did for Mark Watney, while also Pi got incredibly lucky at eventually finding land where Mark Watney just had to survive for his crew to return).  But while I don't remember The Martian very well, I think I enjoyed it a lot more than I did Life of Pi.  Not only did I have a hard time getting through this book as already mentioned, but I found some of the descriptions of what happened far too graphic for my liking.  The book itself was also very slow going; there were multiple points through part 2 (the actual being stranded part) where I kept flipping ahead wondering how much more of this is there? (And then wondering how there could possibly still be so much of the lifeboat adventure to go???)  My brother also mentioned to me that I missed the cultural moment when everyone else was reading it, so I don't even really have that happening in its favour either.  But I am glad to finally be finished it (and that I actually DID finish it); now I can move onto something else - hopefully something more light-hearted!

Sunday, March 7, 2021

Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits and Break Bad Ones


Atomic Habits
by James Clear was recommended to me....somewhere.  I don't honestly remember where I heard about it, but I heard it was a really good read so I got it from the library to give it a try.

Clear breaks down a habit into four parts: cue, craving, response, and reward (which he adapted from Charles Duhigg's book The Power of Habit).  He uses these parts to look at designing good habits (making the habit obvious, attractive, easy, and satisfying) or to break a bad habit (you do the reverse: make it invisible, unattractive, difficult, and unsatisfying). The bulk of the book looks at all of these parts in greater detail.  Clear's writing is really accessible, and he makes all of this sound straightforward and easy (but of course, reading the book is only the prep work - you still need to put in the harder worker of actually using everything you learn!)

While I enjoyed the majority of the book, I will admit that Clear lost me at the very end (in the final "Advanced Tactics" section).  I thought it was me, that I pushed myself a little too hard to finish the book today (I had been reading a section a night, but then today pushed through a few sections to finish); I was also fairly tired today, which didn't help.  But it looks like other people have taken issue with the end section too, so perhaps it wasn't just my tired brain?

Either way, the bulk of this book is solid.  Clear beautifully demonstrates how always seeking to improve by just 1% can compound over time and deliver great results to your life.  And his framework is the perfect way to help you build the healthy habits that will aid you in achieving your goals.

___

As a side note, I'd also like to mention that the end of Clear's book made me think of the tag line from Popstar: "Never Stop Never Stopping."  Never stop learning and striving to improve your life! :)


 

Friday, March 5, 2021

Starcraft: Survivors


 The reason I (re)read Starcraft earlier today was I mistakenly thought it was volume 1 to a newer graphic novel that I saw at the library, Starcraft Survivors.  But no, these two are totally different storylines!

Unfortunately the library doesn't have volumes 1 and 2 in this series, so I had to just jump into volume 3 and hope I could figure it out.

Starcraft: Survivors starts directly after a Dark Templar woman has killed all but one member of a Terran ship.  She spares Caleb's life as long as he is useful in her search for great power.  One of his crewmates' thoughts provides a clue: an Umojan Lab; this leads the two of them to a planet under the Umojan Protectorate.  Caleb is sent to fit in with the locals and find this power.  But he's hindered by the impatience of the unnamed Dark Templar. She kills someone as a warning to Caleb to hurry up, and threatens to kill more within five days if he cannot find the lab.

While it took a bit to get into the story (again, volume 3 in the series), Starcraft Survivors was really good.  The ticking clock from the murderous Dark Templar set the stakes high as Caleb is trying to blend in and keep his head down, all while the other workers in his factory try to befriend him (and he gets drawn into their friendship despite attempts not to).  Gabriel Guzman's art is the perfect compliment to Houser's text.  And just look at that cover image by Guzman - it's creepy, and perfectly encompasses the story!

I really liked the characters (and would love to know more, especially about the mysterious Dark Templar woman - what was she trying to do?  Why did she need great power, and who was she trying to get revenge against? Unfortunately this story didn't shed light on it (I was hoping for some sort of afterword, but no such luck!)

I did spend a bit of time Googling Dark Templar though, because part way through this story I noticed the unnamed Dark Templar's face - and it looked like she had a hydralisk-style jaw!  That did not seem right to me, and I originally figured she might be some weird kind of Protoss-Zerg hybrid (which might also explain her wanting revenge...), but a Google search turned up other images of some Dark Templar with that style jaw bone.  So that's neat, I had no idea that was a thing! 

I also want to note, I love that they're doing these kinds of stories with Starcraft now!  None of these characters are part of the games, or interact with major characters from the games, which I liked because this story helps to expand the world of Starcraft, showing that it really is a universe with all kinds of people in it.  I hope they continue making these kinds of stories - while I do love many of the main characters, it's nice to see new ones added, too. :)