Fantasy Book Review: Mechanica

Mechanica by Betsy Cornwell

Synopsis:
Nicolette’s awful stepsisters call her “Mechanica” to demean her, but the nickname fits: she learned to be an inventor at her mother’s knee. Her mom is gone now, though, and the Steps have pushed her into a life of dreary servitude. When she discovers a secret workshop in the cellar on her sixteenth birthday—and befriends Jules, a tiny magical metal horse—Nicolette starts to imagine a new life for herself. And the timing may be perfect: There’s a technological exposition and a royal ball on the horizon. Determined to invent her own happily-ever-after, Mechanica seeks to wow the prince and eager entrepreneurs alike.

Review:
Nicolette (or Mechanica) is a brilliant mechanic like her mother was. But after her parents died, Nicolette is forced to be a servant for her stepmother and stepsisters. However, she still has her little machines – and dreams of the future.

Mechanica is a fun and intriguing twist on the Cinderella story. Nicolette does fall for a young man, but this isn’t a Disney fairy tale. She has a good head on her shoulders and thinks with her head more than her heart. Full of fantastic inventions, magic, and suspense – this story is captivating. YA fantasy meets steampunk in this inspired tale with plenty of heart.

Box Review: Marvel Collector Corps – August 2015

image6

This is the 3rd box from Collector Corps, and this month set a new bar. The Marvel Collector Corps offers these boxes starting at $25 plus s/h.

The theme this month was Secret Wars. And, as the box hinted, we are treated to the female (Jane) Thor.

image4

As you can see, it’s Jane-Thor heavy with the Secret Wars theme.

image1

Secret Wars Tshirt (Retail $10?) – This is a cutesy Funko Pop! style that’s newly released to Hot Topic. It’s not my style, but the little ones in my life will enjoy it. I’m also over so many geek tshirts in black. I need more color.

image2

Secret Wars #1 Variant (Retail $4.99 – though Variants are usually worth more) – I love that the variants we receive have all been #1’s so far. Great for collectors, like me.

image7

Collector Corps Pin and Patch – I love getting these each month. I’ll have to figure out something fun to do with them, other than just store them in my collection.

image3

Thor (Secret Wars) Funko Pop! (Retail N/A as this is an exclusive. They are running about $33 on Amazon right now.) – I love, love this Jane Thor. I had heard rumors since the box cover featured her, so I was glad it was true. I was so happy to have more female Marvel Pops to add to my collection.

Spider-Man (Miles Morales) Funko Pop! (Retail N/A as this is an exclusive. Amazon has it listed as $36.94) – As a big Spidey fan, I was doubly excited to receive not 1, but 2 Funko Pops this month! And the designs on both of these are just fantastic!

Summary: Two exclusive, awesome Funko Pop!’s that cost as much (each) as the entire box… Collector Corps outdid themselves this month. How will they come close next time? I guess we’ll have to reserve judgment until we hear what the new theme will be. Is it too much to hope for a Star Wars theme later this year???

What do you think of August’s box… and have you signed up yet?

Exclusive Author Guest Post: Katherine Harbour


VINTAGE ‘80S FANTASY: FEMALE WRITERS
by Katherine Harbour

The 1980s, for me, was the perfect decade for fantasy, and not just because that’s when I discovered it as a teen (fantasy, not the ‘80s). I’d already read Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, the Oz books, and Peter Pan. When I was nine, I’d picked up The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe from a library shelf and opened it to the illustration of the White Witch about to sacrifice Aslan, and hastily set it back on the shelf because it looked too scary.

The first fantasy book I bought was Riddle of the Wren by Charles de Lint. The Secret Country by Pamela Dean followed, then Barbara Hambly’s Time of the Dark.

I was hooked.

Glancing at my bookshelves, I am surprised to see that most of the books are by female writers. Many of them are books I bought in the ‘80s. I didn’t seek out women writers—it just happened. Here are some of my favorites:

C.J. Cherryh is known mostly for her SF, but it was her fantasy books—The Tree of Swords and Jewels, Rusalka, The Books of Morgaine, and the swashbuckling Angel With the Sword that I loved. All of them had strong female characters.

Tanith Lee wrote some strange dark fantasies, otherworldly or contemporary. Her characters were archetypes made human and I found her writing language lyrical and dazzling. The Silver Metal Lover was the first SF book I ever read. Her Secret Books of Paradise were disturbing. The Flat Earth series was mesmerizing. And her retellings of classical tales—Sung in Shadow (Romeo and Juliet) and Red as Blood (fairy tales) made me want more.

Nancy Springer’s Books of the Isles blended elves and an almost Arthurian romance mythology with brutality and grim reality. (Also, one of the characters on the cover of The Silver Sun resembled Matt Dillon, whom I had a raging crush on at the time.)

Judith Tarr. Once again, elves! Only the elves in The Hound and the Falcon existed in history, incorporated into the chaotic time of the Crusades. They were dangerous and beautiful and more human than some of the humans they dealt with. She also wrote a series called Avaryan Rising, about empires, young kings, and magic.

Jennifer Roberson’s unique Chronicles of the Cheysuli books were about a tribe of shapechangers inspired by Celtic and Native American culture.

Sheri S. Tepper’s whimsical and darkly original world of The True Game was the setting for her tales of young Peter the shapeshifter and Jinian Footseer.

P.C. Hodgell wrote one of the best trickster anti-heroines I’ve ever read in her Godstalk series, set in a fantastical, Dickensian land of dark magic, old gods, and warring clans.

Ellen Kushner’s Swordspoint series was romantic and also very Dickensian, combining intrigue, swordfighting, and sexy, damaged characters.

Jane Yolen’s fairy-tale fantasies, like Briar Rose, some modern and some traditional, were classical and elegant.

Anne McCaffrey. Dragons! Bonding with dragons! Dragonriders! Sex! (Not with dragons.) But my favorite books were the YA DragonSong, DragonSinger, and DragonDrums.

Katherine Kurtz’s Deryni Chronicles novels were set in a world similar to England’s era of The War of the Roses, where magic is considered illegal and a magical race called Deryni must tread carefully. There were betrayals at every turn and a young man seeking to be a good king.

Barbara Hambly’s books about another world, beginning with The Time of the Dark and continuing with The Ladies of Mandrigyn and Dragonsbane, were medieval and amazingly detailed, filled with dangerous magic (I loved her scholarly outlaw wizards), horrifying creatures, and some awesome dragons. There was the added bonus of two people from our world being dragged into that fantastical realm.

Terri Windling’s classical fantasies. She also co-edited the Bordertown series about the Elflands returning to the modern world. It was brilliant, and is still being carried on nowadays. Faery and Elfland in our world was a popular theme in the ‘80’s, with Emma Bull’s War for the Oaks and Diana Wynne Jones’ Fire and Hemlock.

There was also Andre Norton, Louise Cooper, Patricia McKillip, Janny Wurtz, Joan D. Vinge and I’ve probably left out others.

I do wish more of these writers could be found in libraries and bookstores. They were the writers I spent my teen years with, lost in a variation of extraordinary worlds, with fascinating characters. They’ve been read again, and consulted, and skimmed through. They were the stories that made me want to create other worlds and the people who inhabited them. And they’ll always have a place on my bookshelf.


Katherine Harbour (author of Thorn Jack and Briar Queen)
www.katherineharbour.com

SciFi Book Review: Devil’s Pocket

Devil’s Pocket by John Dixon

Synopsis:
With a chip in his head and hundreds more throughout his body, sixteen-year-old Carl Freeman was turned from an orphan with impulse control issues into a super-soldier. Forced into the mercenary Phoenix Force group, he begins to fear he’ll never escape. Sent to a volcanic island to fight for them, he’ll compete in a combat tournament that awards teens with survival for merciless brutality. But just when all looks lost, he spies a friendly face…and possibly a way out.

Review:
Carl and a team from Phoenix Island is sent to a compete in a brutal contest – where many die. But there is more going on behind the scenes that Carl will have to face if he wants to get out alive.

Devil’s Pocket is the sequel to Phoenix Island. This science fiction thriller is fast-paced and full of intrigue and suspense. The characters are well-developed and engaging – even the unlikeable ones. I thoroughly enjoyed the story and only wish we had gotten to see more of Carl’s enhanced abilities outside of the fighting ring. The television show based on the first novel was cancelled. But the novels are much better than the show, as to be expected.

Box Review: Geek Fuel – August 2015

GeekFuel July 2015

Geek Fuel is a monthly subscription box “filled with t-shirts, toys, digital games, limited edition collectibles, and all things epic.” The box can be purchased on a monthly renewal at $23.90 per month, or discounts for purchasing several months or more upfront.

image1

The box comes with a monthly, mini magazine that’s really well done. I look forward to reading this.

image3

Deadpool T-shirt (Retail $10?) – It’s a different design – but a shirt I’ll probably only wear to the movie when it releases.

image5

The World According to Wolverine (Retail $24.95) – This is a really fun collectible book with inserts and a comicbook feel.
Subscribers could have received Wolverine or Spider-Man. I would have preferred Spidey, but I still enjoyed this one.

image4

Aaru’s Awakening Game ($15 value) – Downloadable game code for PC or Mac.
Adventure Time Pocket Pop! Keychain (Retail $7.50?) – Not a fan. So, this will go in a bin for the nieces or nephew.
TMNT Lollipop (Retail?) – My candy-crazed nieces will probably snag this.
Post Apocalyptic Currency Magnet (Retail?) – Just a little, bottlecap magnet. Guess I can always use another magnet on the fridge.

Summary: I enjoyed this box much more than last month. I signed up for a 3-month sub, so we’ll see what next month’s delivers before I decide whether or not to renew.

What do you think of August’s Geek Fuel Box?

Book Giveaway: Voyagers

Courtesy of Random House Books for Young Readers, I have a copy of Voyagers: Project Alpha by D. J. MacHale for one (1) lucky winner!

Contest is open to US residents only. No PO Boxes please. To enter, just fill out the form below. Contest ends September 25. I’ll draw a name on September 26, and notify winner via email.

ENTER DAILY TO INCREASE YOUR CHANCE OF WINNING!

Good luck!

Continue reading Book Giveaway: Voyagers

Fantasy Book Review: The Nightmare Charade

The Nightmare Charade by Mindee Arnett

Synopsis:
16-year-old Dusty Everhart breaks into houses late at night, but not because she’s a criminal. No, she’s a Nightmare. Literally. Dusty is a magical being who feeds on human dreams.

Being the only Nightmare at Arkwell Academy, a boarding school for magickind, and living in the shadow of her mother’s infamy is hard enough, not to mention the crazy events of the past year. Dusty may have saved the day, but there are many days left in the year, and with an old foe back to seek revenge, she’ll need all her strength to defeat him and save her friends.

Review:
Dusty and her friends have a new mystery to solve – keeping her mother from being convicted of murder by finding the real killer. To complicate matters, Paul shows up again but claims he can help. Meanwhile, Dusty and her boyfriend are still trying to be with each other despite being told they’ll be cursed for their decision.

The Nightmare Charade is the third and final installment in the Arkwell Academy series. While each book has it’s own mystery, the overlying arc is finally tied up – and doesn’t disappoint. This story is well-paced and full of suspense, intrigue, strong characters, and fun twists. Don’t miss this unique YA fantasy trilogy. I only wish the series would continue, as I’ll miss these characters and fantastic worldbuilding.

Box Review: Nerd Block Classic – August 2015

image1

Nerd Block Classic “contains licensed merchandise, hand-picked by our team of uber-nerds representing all genres from movies, television, video games, internet, and more!” The price is $19.99 plus shipping per month.

image2

The theme of this box was Summer Mix Tape.

image5
image6

The box comes with a nice card that give an overview of the items in the box.

image4

Exclusive Ghostbusters T-shirt (Retail $10-20?) – I LOVE this shirt. The made the whole box for me. The artwork is fantastic, and I really dig the comic-book feel. Ladies, the shirts are very fitted. So order a size or two larger than normal.

image9

Ghostbusters Lunch Box (Retail $10-15?) – This ghost trap look is really clever, and opening it to find this Slimer was really fun.
Ghostbusters Stuffed Slimer (Retail $10-15?) – This exclusive Slimer plush looks more like a character from a musical kids show that haunts me. And unfortunately, it doesn’t stand on its own. But I do love Slimer, so Lois Lane may get another stuffed chew toy.

image8

Awkward Family Postcards (Retail $9.95) – Yes, I’ve seen most of these from the popular website. But they’re hysterical. I’ll be sharing these with friends.
Rubik’s Cube Stress Ball (Retail $5-10?) – This inspired little item is already sitting on my desk at work.
A Coaster of Kings (Retail $1-2?) – These are cardboard, dragon art coasters that fantasy fans will appreciate. I have too many coasters as it is, so I’ll be passing these along to someone else.

Summary: This was a fantastic first box for me! I’ll definitely be continuing with this subscription. The shirt and uniqueness of the curated items were a big hit. The value is hard to determine on most items, since most were exclusive items to Nerd Block. But the value definitely exceeded the box.

image7

Finally, I’m super excited for the next box! Don’t miss this one!

News, Reviews, Interviews, and Giveaways