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The Boxcar Children (book) Review

You know the story about me: I find out about a movie that’s based off a book that I may find interesting, read it and post a review here. The Boxcar Children by Gertrude C. Warner is yet another one of those.

Four children become orphans after both of their parents and they refuse to live with their uncle who they view as a cruel man. They find an abandoned boxcar where they make a permanent resident and we see into their daily lives.

It starts off interesting, but the overall story is pretty bland. These kids not only do everyday stuff that’s not that interesting, but they show ZERO signs of mourning for their parents and have to live in a boxcar. They all come off as way too happy and saccharine. Really, there’s NO tension or sadness in their dialogue. It all comes off as if this whole thing is just one big picnic. What makes it worse is that none of these children act like, well, children. They are WAY too nice to each other and other people and they speak way too formally.

One thing that stands out is that this is supposed to be a mystery. There is one that does come close to being one, who made noise outside the boxcar one night? We do find out, but it’s a huge letdown, is settled too quickly and the kids don’t really talk about until the end when it’s “solved.”

Yes, I understand that this book came out in the 1920s so things were different at the time, but do you know what else came out decades before that? Alice in Wonderland, a children’s book about a girl who goes to a world where nothing makes sense. I guess I’m not a child from the 20s so it wasn’t for me.

Sorry if this review isn’t all that positive, but you guys know I have a soft spot for YA and children’s fiction, but this is one I couldn’t get behind. There’s no conflict, the kids don’t act like real kids and the mystery is lame.



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Parasyte (Manga and Anime) Review

While I am an anime/manga fan, I admit I’m more of a casual fan than anything else. I will find series that are not mainstream from time to time and like them. One of these is Parasyte by Hitoshi Iwaaki which I only found out through Anime America (who are awesome by the way. Check them out.) The only reason I decided to look for this series is that the idea of an alien parasite taking control of humans interests me. So I bought the first volume and then the last seven volumes and now I have a few things to say.

The story is a group of alien parasites come to Earth and take control of humans by crawling into their noses to their brains. One of them tries to do that to our lead, Shinichi Izumi, fails and ends up in his right hand. This causes the parasite to, basically, befriend Shinichi and now Shinichi must live a “normal” life and protect himself from other parasites. This does, however, have a huge impact on his personal life, especially with his girlfriend, Satomi Murano.

While this does sound like Invasion of the Body Snatchers, it doesn’t escalate into the level. Of course, this series does bring up some tough questions about humans and animals. The main one is Shinichi is constantly calling the parasites monsters, but Migi (the parasite in his right hand)  tells him that they only kill to survive and humans do the same thing. Migi even brings up how humans kill animals for food and humans are OK with that while parasites killing humans for food which makes them monsters. It’s the same thing. Also, murder is brought up a lot and, again, Migi uses the whole (we do that to defend ourselves) thing.

Now, some people will read that and think it’s trying to sound more important than it actually is, but that’s really up to all in who reads it. Also, the manga doesn’t get preachy about it which is one of its strengths. Another strong suit is the writing. These are excellent characters that are well developed, even Satomi. Hell, Satomi’s reason for being in the story is to basically bring into question Shinichi’s personality. He becomes less human over time to the point where he no longer shows emotion over the deaths of people close to him (on top of having superhuman strength, speed and agility.)  Hell, near the end of the series you cry for a character you thought you wouldn’t.

The art may be 80s (this came out in 1988 and ended 1990,) but it’s so well done that it doesn’t look generic. Hell, even normal, everyday occurrences are drawn so well. This has to be one of the better-looking series to come out of that decade.

Then there’s the anime. While it does follow the manga 95% of the time, it is different. SOme characters were taken out, scenes shortened (the scene where Reiko Tamura is running around with part of her head missing is done a LOT better in the manga.) Also, there’s the whole updated thing. The art style and even year have had a major update. There are cell phones and tablets, for crying out loud. While it is understandable as to why they did this (probably to get more people to watch,) it’s not 100% as good as the manga. The artwork just doesn’t work.  The manga has this scary, gritty look to it that made it scarier. The anime is just too colorful. Plus, it’s not as gory as the manga.

While I still say the manga is better, the anime is still worth a watch because of how awesome the series is and for everyone to see how it looks as an anime. I do recommend both but, just be warned that the manga has an edge over the anime.

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Let’s Talk About The Baby-sitters Club

Yes, you read that right. I’m a guy who was curious about the Baby-sitters Club books. Yes, I’m comfortable with my sexuality. I did it out of purely academic interest. I mean, they’re there to be read, right?

Anyway, I only read the first book Kristy’sGreat Idea. That was more than enough for me to give an honest view.

Basically, the first book is about four friends who create a club for babysitters (thus the title) and they babysit a whole bunch. That’s really it.

Yes, I’m aware there have been a lot more books written n the series (my sister had a whole bunch when she was a teenager but gave all the books away.) I’m a guy and know that 1. This series was not meant for me and 2. I can see the appeal of these books.

You see, every form of media has that one (or 100) series that really talks to people. For teenage girls, this is one of them because, even today, many girls make money babysitting. Based on this first book the babysitting stories are similar to what happened to the reader when they babysit. One thing of note is that, though a bit outdated, kids really are like this. There are good kids and then there are holy terrors. Babysitters have babysat all of these. Thus, female readers see themselves in these four girls’ shoes.

As mentioned above, the first book is a bit outdated. Since this was written in the 80s some things (like the old fashioned corded phone) will be alien to girls from this generation on. Girls will still read them because, besides the things mentioned above, the writing has not aged. There is no slang, regional sayings or even mentions of items from that time. This is another strength this series has and why some girls still read it.

Of course, these books aren’t masterpieces and aren’t as popular as they were in the 80s and 90s, but they can still be enjoyed. Think of it like this: boys have Goosebumps and girls and The Baby-sitters club. Though I am against this whole gender appropriate crap (I like Sailor Moon. Don’t say anything) this is one of those times where boys will not like what they’re reading.

Even though I’m, not the right audience, I can still see how and why this series got so popular and still read today. Though the popularity died down, girls can still read these books, enjoy them and identify with them. Just don’t expect anything too profound, though.

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And Now for Something Completely Scary

Hello. ghosts and goblins. It’s Halloween week and you know what means: Scary everything. Yup, scary movies, costumes, decorations. Everything.

Why do we love scary stuff? Well, you see, we as a species…







…rush we get. Kinda like a roller coaster. It’s scary and there’s a chance we might die. But…






What the hell’s going on? Why so many dots?


Lovely, I’ve a demon on my hands. *Picks up phone* Hello, Janine? I need the Ghostbusters right now. I’ve got a demon completely destroying my blog. What do you mean they’re busy taking care of a giant Ed Koch? Fine, I’ll deal with it myself.

Now, where’s my unlicensed nuclear accelerator?


Really? Then why it can do this?

*Obliterates demon*

There, that takes care of that. Anyway, have an awesome Halloween, all. This is the only time of year where it’s OK to dress like an elf, scare the crap out of people and eat candy until your stomach explodes like Mr Creosote. Next time, I promise some actual content.

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Why Arcana Evolved is Awesome

I’m doing a little something different here. I joined a project where we were supposed to write why we like a certain table top RPG. I decided to write about Monte Cook’s Arcana Evolved. Here’s that post:

In the decades since Gary Gygax brought Dungeons and Dragons into this world, there have been a ton of fans and other companies coming up with their own games. Of course, the most popular one being Dungeons and Dragons thanks in part to the Satanic scare of the 1980s. There have been people trying to add some new ideas to this system and for me one system that does it best is Monte Cook’s Arcana Evolved.

First, a little history lesson. I first came across Arcana Evolved back in 2005 in Free RPG Day. One of the pamphlets there had the Ritual Warrior from the book. I took it home, looked at the class and fell in love with it. It took a long while before I actually bought the book. When I got it, it has a ton of things that made me squeal like a Japanese schoolgirl.

Now, let’s look at the races. The first that needs to be mentioned is the giant. Monte Cook has made a giant class that is not just a really tall human and does not need a racial level. Also, unlike normal giants in the Monster Manual, these giants are civil. Hell, in my mind they’re kinda like the Ancient Romans/Greeks. When you give a traditionally violent race a +2 to Diplomacy, Sense Motive and all Craft checks you can say goodbye to fee-fi-fo-fum. Of course, you can make them like that with a feat called Chi-Julud (basically, a type of rage that can last as long as you want. However, you DO suffer from wisdom and charisma damage if it lasts longer than ten minutes.)

Going back to the Ancient Rome/Greece thing, these giants are more concerned with crafts, philosophy and art. That is something that’s pretty genius. Imagine if Socrates or Aristophanes was seven feet tall. There’s your giant.

There are also the dracha. Imagine a humanoid dragon with the typical dragon mentality minus the “I’m going to burn a city because I can mentality.” They even have a love of gold. Of course, the downside to playing them is that giants HATE the drahca because in this book dragons (called the dramojh) enslaved the people of this world and the giants came and destroyed them. This can make for some, well, interesting encounters.

Of course, none as instructing as playing a mojh (pronounced MOEZH.) These are former humans who have gone through a ritual to become dragon-like. This is despite the fact that the dramojh enslaved them. This can be used for a lot of interesting roleplaying and maybe even a few brawls between giant and mojh characters.

Although Monte Cook did not design them to be like this, there are two races that can lead to a ton of jokes. They are the litorian (kitty!) and sibeccai (doggy!) Even though the personality of each race is serious, there is a ton of room for a lot of cat/dog jokes. Hell, a giant can even call a sibeccai Rover and then toss him a bone. This is, of course, not the giant being mean; just playful.

Then there’s the faen. Three types of fae to choose from (loresong, quickling and spryte.) The only thing worth noting here is that why would anyone want to play a character that is a foot long and can only use tiny weapons? Well, they make great akashic and spell casters.

The closest to an elf is the verrik. Unlike normal elves, the verrik are more super curious and helpful, but they’re kinda like that one awkward kid in elementary school who does not quite understand how to talk to normal people (me.) One thing this race has is the ability to go blind or deaf (or both) at will. I knew a guy in college who said “wouldn’t be great to play verrik who has no idea he’s a verrik? I’M BLIND! OH GOD no wait, I’m fine.” If you have a player like that, give him extra XP just for coming up with that idea. Also, for those wondering how those abilities are useful? Easy: when fighting a medusa make the verrik go blind and make sure he has the blind fighting feat. Works wonders, I tell you.

Before I get to the classes I just have to say it right now: The warmain is the absolute worst class in the book. The only thing they have going for them is that they’re D12 and the armor specialization and weapon increase. They don’t get these until level 12, so by then the other fighter classes would already have them.

Now to the good stuff: The ritual warrior, the class that caught my eye years ago. What drew me to this class is that these are fighters who view everything as some type of ritual. In a world full of rituals, these guys are masters at it. One thing this class has, even though it is not unique to this class, is combat rites. Combat rites are kinda like spells for fighters. Every class has them, but when you look at each class the ritual warrior knows the most. Hell, they can cast an unlimited amount of them at level 25.

Yes, level 25. Every class in this book goes up to level 25. This may confuse some people, but the book explains it in a way that makes sense. You see, most campaigns only really go up level 15 and usually max out at 25. So the idea is 25 is the best class to cap off.

I’ll admit, I have yet to play a ritual warrior, but I have played an oathsworn and a mage blade. Oathsworns can best be described as monks on steroids. The artwork for it is of a giant breaking two columns. That was my oathsworn. Also, these guys pretty much become gods at level 25 (no need to eat, sleep, drink or breathe.) Of course, they can only continue to be like this as long as they swear an oath and must complete it within a year. Some may say this class is broken, but once you look at the other classes they even out. Hell, these guys are your tanks. A tank with no weapons or armor. Combine that with a giant and the Chi-Julud feat and you got a human tank that doubles as a missile.

Hmm, throwing a giant oathsworn will really mess up the enemies.

The mage blade is a lot of fun to play. Image a fighter that can cast spells out of their weapons (called athame.) Some people may look at this class and call it weak, but with a smart player this class can be unstoppable. Just choose the bets spells possible, choose a good weapon and here’s your backup fighter.

Two great things this system introduced are combat rites and tenth level spells. Combat rites are there to make the fighter classes do more than just swing their weapons. There are rites that add to saving throws, add to defense, skills like tumble and even deflect missile weapons. This makes combat a lot more strategic and can create unique fighters.

Tenth level spells are something else to behold. Unlike normal spells, these spells act more like a spellcaster’s calling card and must be approved by the DM before use. My favorites are invoked apocalypse which, to put it simply, can destroy an entire city and consume man which wipes out a target from existence. Then there’s magical fortress which, like its name says, creates a permanent castle or fortress to the caster’s specifications. Yes, you can just cast a spell to make your own wizard’s tower and be as messed up about what’s inside as you want.

Now for the world. One of the best things that can be said about this world is that there are no alignments. This is actually one the best things any system can do because usually a character is bound by that alignment. Also, the real world isn’t black and white. People are complex, they do things for various reasons and sometimes the justification is that this is what they think is right because they were brought up thinking that. No mustache twirling bad guys or high and mighty good guys here.

In fact, alignments hinder what you can do with a character. It becomes more like your character is bound by alignment and causes some very cliché archetypes. By getting rid of them, you can create a well-rounded character.

The world itself is basically most people are now living peacefully with the threat of the dragons gone and the giants have created a Rome like setting where everything just works. There are people who refuse to be ruled by the giants (mojh, dracha) but they’re not evil. In fact, since there is no alignment, most encounters will be against nonhumanoid beings.

Even though I have not played a proper Arcana Evolved game I still think it’s a great system. It has races and classes that are outside the norm, the combat rites are awesome and the world is well thought out.

Other Essays from this project:

Not Loving Friend Computer is Treason – A Paranoia Love Story – Marty Walser

Re: Why I Love Apocalypse World – Patrick Henry Downs

For the love of the D&D Rules Cyclopedia – Jens D.

Why I Love RPGS: C. J. Carella’s WitchCraft RPG – Timothy Brannan

Why I Love RPGS: Moldvay Basic – Timothy Brannan

My favorite Game System. (MEGS) Part of the My favorite game project. – Mark Van Vlack

Why I love Elthos RPG – Vb Wyrde

Why I Love HeroQuest 2 – Phil

Why I Love Fifth Edition Dungeons and Dragons | The Rambling Roleplayer


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Brave New World Review

So I finally got around to reading Brave New World. The only thing I knew about the book was that some people say Huxley was right in his prediction of what our society would be like and not Orwell and there’s an argument over whether this or 1984 is the better book. So after reading it my opinion is, well, the Nostalgia Critic put my opinion of the book nicely here.

Now for the long version:

Brave New World is about a futuristic society where everyone is a test tube baby and are sorted into five castes: Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta and Epsilon. In this world we meet Bernard Marx, an Alpha Plus who is starting to show signs of him not fitting into his cast. In time his boss send him on an assignment, along with another Alpha Lenina Crowne, to “the Savage Lands” in New Mexico. It’s here they meet and take back a savage who was born from one of the test tube babies.

That’s about as far as I got into the book. Here’s the thing: Huxley had some great ideas for this dystopian society. The idea that everyone is a test tube baby designed to fit perfectly into their caste, no religion, no families, promiscuity is accepted and there are no such things as families. Then there are those “savages” who live outside this society who do the opposite. It’s a great idea to show how these two different societies deal with each other and how they clash.

The major problem here is that the story is just so damn boring. I’m sorry, I really dd not like the book. The writing was dull, didn’t flow nicely and was drier than a bone in the Sahara. The characters themselves had zero personality. All they did was further Huxley’s view of what each of them would do in the situations given to them without any emotion or original thought to them. Bernard is nothing more than a walking zombie with no direction and and just nods at everything. Lenina is the typical whiny woman who just wants to have fun and almost faints when she saw the Savage Land.

As an FYI, in the edition I have ( Perennial Library, 1998) it took them 110 pages just to get to the Savage Lands. Seriously, NOTHING HAPPENS IN THE FIRST 100 PAGES OF THE BOOK! I understand establishing the setting and world building, but Terry Pratchett is able to do that perfectly in THIRTY pages.

For those who are saying this book is supposed to be a political satire of the 1920s/30s, great. I like political satires if done well. It was not done well in this book. The edition I have also says that many critics at the time bashed the book for being ” weak in plot and characterization, shallow, mechanical in structure and monotonous in tone.” I totally agree with those critics. These same critics were also bashed for “not getting” this book. Me, along with those critics, get what Huxley is trying to say; It’s just everything that makes a good book is absent.

If you want a good dystopian novel, read 1984, Animal Farm, The Running Man, Fahrenheit 451 or The Giver. They’re so much better than this book.



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