Deal Alert: Angry Robot SF and Fantasy Humble Bundle

Humble Bundle is offering a selection of books from Angry Robot, featuring a variety of science fiction and fantasy titles. Personally, I’m not familiar with any of the stories of the authors, although I have at least seen The Lives of Tao (included in this bundle) around. Regardless of my familiarity, these titles appear to be different enough to be interesting, if only for the sake of variety and novelty, and thus may be worth checking out. Several of them appear to be paranormal or steampunk mysteries of one sort or another, which could be quite enjoyable.

If you’re interested, you can find this bundle at https://www.humblebundle.com/books/sf-fantasy-angry-robot-books?hmb_source=receipt_page&hmb_medium=product_tile&hmb_campaign=mosaic_section_1_layout_index_2_layout_type_threes_tile_index_2.

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Giant Days, vol. 1 (Graphic Novel)

Author: John Allison/Illustrator: Lissa Treiman/Colorist: Whitney Cogar

My rating: 5 of 5

Susan, Daisy, and Esther became fast friends when they began their university studies together. Yes, they all have their individual quirks–you could even say that they’re very different from each other. But perhaps it’s those very differences that make them good for each other, that help them through the complications of studies, relationships, illness, and drama that plague them along the way. Certainly, those quirks keep things interesting, as long as they can survive living in Esther’s drama zone, dealing with Susan’s mysterious past, and helping Daisy handle the big, scary world despite her (shocking) innocence.

I think I’m in love! Giant Days is everything I ask for in a graphic novel. The art is charming–a contemporary style similar to, say, Nimona or Seconds or even Kibuishi’s work, but with its own unique flair–and the coloring is just perfect–vibrant but not overdone. And the tone of the story is spot on, giving us a current, relatable slice of life story that touches on deep issues but never goes so far that we lose sight of the lighter side of things. And there’s plenty of the lighter side to be found here; this graphic novel is brimming with humor in abundance. There’s just enough quirkiness to the characters and the situations they find themselves in to appeal to the nerdier audiences, but the story is such a solid, timely slice-of-life story that I think a lot of YA/NA readers will find themselves charmed by this work as well. The characters are strong and interesting, and their depiction is vivid and captivating. I’m excited to see what Giant Days will bring in future volumes.

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Familiar Strangers (InuYasha Fanfic)

Author: DwaejiTokki

FanFiction ID: 10746579

Status: Complete (oneshot)

My rating: 3.5 of 5

Sango and Miroku wake up in the forest with no memory of their past, their friends, of anything really besides their own names. Together, they begin to piece things together and attempt to get to some kind of civilization–only to encounter first a scary giant boar-demon that they somehow know how to fight and then a gruff half-demon who seems to know them. He’s certainly irritated enough with them right now. Turns out, he’s part of the party they were traveling with, and not only have they lost their memories, they’ve somehow lost two of their party members as well! Not in the mood, the half-demon InuYasha dumps Sango and Miroku with Kaede to sort themselves out and attempt to regain their memories while he retrieves Kagome from the future and searches for Shippo and Kirara.

Familiar Strangers is an endearing and amusing oneshot InuYasha fanfic focusing primarily on Sango and Miroku. The plotline’s pretty crackish–going so far as to break the fourth wall and point out the unnatural convenience of a demon attack at one point. But crack or not, it also manages to be in-character, which is particularly challenging when dealing with an amnesia plot. It was fun (and funny) to see Miroku and Sango dealing with the memory loss–and to see how they viewed each other when they had no history to go on. The rapid switch when they got their memories back was also pretty fantastic. Most of this author’s fanfic has a tendency to be pretty dark, so Familiar Strangers was a fun change from that, while still using the solid writing style that makes his work both enjoyable and easy to read. Recommended for basically all InuYasha fans, especially those who enjoy the quirky relationship between these two (and really, who doesn’t love them?).

Note: You can find Familiar Strangers at https://www.fanfiction.net/s/10746579/1/Familiar-Strangers.

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When You Reach Me

Author: Rebecca Stead

My rating: 5 of 5

Growing up, Miranda’s life has been pretty normal. Her childish yet bright single mother falling in love, wavering over whether to give Richard (Mr. Perfect) a key to their New York apartment, getting all excited over entering a TV game show, making plans for what to do with the winnings before she ever gets on the show. Her best friend Sal who has always been there for her, growing up together, like two sides of the same coin. But her sixth grade year, Miranda’s life begins to fall apart. Sal stops talking to her for no obvious reason, and suddenly nothing seems certain anymore. And then she starts getting these messages, small notes giving her instructions, telling her things about the future that no one should have known, claiming that the writer has come back in time to prevent something awful–and that her following these instructions is vital to this happening.

When You Reach Me is one of those unexpected, brilliant finds that just go to show that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. Although the whole Newbery Award should have probably been a good indicator of that. It’s like this fabulous mashup of the things I love best of the writings of Madeleine L’Engle (no surprise, since she’s clearly an influencer of Stead’s writing), E. L. Konigsburg, and Frank Cottrell Boyce. The writing itself is just really good, for one, with layers of depth in the characters and little observations of the everyday thrown into the mix and with a lot of character development and growth and self-realization over the course of the story. That in itself would make for a great story, but then you throw in all the time-travel stuff and the mystery surrounding that, and the book goes to a whole new level in my mind. I liked that attention was given to the effects of time travel, but essentially zero mention was made of the actual mechanics; it wouldn’t work in every situation, but for this story, it was the best possible way to handle the topic. The inclusion of all the references to A Wrinkle in Time really helped to set the stage and explain the time travel better, so that was nicely done as well. Oh, and this is an actual instance of first-person, present-tense that actually works; it feels like reading a letter for the most part, maybe that letter Miranda was supposed to write. Recommended particularly for middle-grade readers, but this is one of those stories that surpasses its recommended grade range, so if you like the above authors’ works and are interested in time travel-related stories, When You Reach Me may be worth trying.

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Ransoming Emrys (Merlin Fanfic)

Author: Emachinescat

FanFiction ID: 6735319

Status: Complete (25 Chapters)

My rating: 4.5 of 5

Warning: Rated T, mostly for whump

They were only out there hunting that impossibly hot summer day because Prince Arthur wanted to annoy his manservant Merlin–something he would later kick himself for, repeatedly. Because as unreasonable as it was to be out doing anything in that heat, the two young men were not alone in the forest. Set upon by a band of renegade druids, Arthur finds himself magically incapacitated and incapable of doing anything to help Merlin, the object of the druid’s attack–clearly a case of mistaken identity, since they keep calling Merlin “Emrys” and claim he has powerful magic that people will be interested in paying lots of money for. Arthur ought, by rights, to be insulted about being left behind (a prince!) while his manservant is taken to be sold to the highest bidder . . . but the truth is, he’s mostly worried. About where Merlin is and what’s happening to him. About what the druids will do when they find out the mistake they’ve made, kidnapping the wrong person. Or worse, about what could happen if they’re right and Merlin actually is this Emrys person.

Emachinescat consistently crafts some of the best fanfiction out there, and Ransoming Emrys is no exception. The writing is excellent throughout, and moreover, it manages to capture the feels that make me love Merlin and these boys so much. The author manages to get in their heads, to show us not just what is going on at any one time, but also why. And there’s definitely a lot going on in this story. It manages to be a big plot sort of story while also giving us all the worried tension and emotional strain of a good whump story. And yes, there’s definitely whump here, but it’s the kind that brings out the BAMFery in Merlin, which is always fabulous. And we get a solid reveal here, with just the right amount of tension and bromance surrounding that and a nice open-ended conclusion so there’s some things left to the reader’s imagination. I loved the way Gwaine, Lancelot, and Percival get drawn in to the story, even when they’re not knights at Camelot yet at this point. The coincidence of Lancelot and Percival happening to show up on the scene would, in another author’s hands, have been just too convenient, but here it fit. And using Morgana and Morgause to move the story along was brilliantly done. It was also interesting to see the druid’s opinions on Emrys and his loyalty to Camelot and Arthur developed more, to see the disillusionment of some people in him. All in all, Ransoming Emrys is an exciting and feels-rich fanfic that I would highly recommend to Merlin fans.

Note: You can find Ransoming Emrys at https://www.fanfiction.net/s/6735319/1/Ransoming-Emrys.

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Deal Alert: Geek Gals Humble Bundle

Strong female protagonists? Check. Geekiness in abundance? Check. Humble Bundle’s newest offering features the best of this powerhouse combination, with a good selection of geeky graphic novels with some great female leads. More of a starter set than a library builder, this bundle includes the first volumes of a number of series rather than multiple volumes of any one series–which gives a great chance to try a number of different stories to see what’s interesting. In addition, this bundle includes some non-fiction including some random volumes on wearable tech, a book of geeky lifehacks, and (possibly the most exciting to me) the anthology The Secret Loves of Geek Girls. All in all, it looks like a fun mix and well worth trying.

You can find this bundle at https://www.humblebundle.com/books/geek-gals-books.

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(White) Collar Optional (Psych/White Collar Crossover Fanfic)

Author: DTS

FanFiction ID: 10367570

Sequel to Psychic in the City

Status: Complete (18 Chapters)

My rating: 4 of 5

Shawn and Gus’s friendly visit to New York has gone dangerously off the tracks, and Gus finds himself teaming up with FBI agent Peter Burke in an attempt to find Shawn who has disappeared along with Peter’s CI, Neal Caffrey. Meanwhile, Neal and Shawn find themselves kidnapped, waking in a strange place and searching for a way of escape. And back in Santa Barbara, the gang are also placed on alert as they find their resident psychic has been kidnapped and is currently missing. . . . And is this even really just a kidnapping, or is it part of some grander scheme?

I really enjoyed DTS’s story Psychic in the City, but as I mentioned in my review of that, it leaves us on this major cliffie. (White) Collar Optional brings us in right where that story cuts off–you might even consider them two pieces of one story, only this second part leaves New York pretty quickly. The things I loved about Psychic in the City are here in spades–the fabulous crossover, the great writing, the interesting and fun combination of character interactions and bigger plotlines. But this story feels more mature, more developed. It actually handles the things I had minor issues with in the previous story, drawing out the characters’ individual quirks more and also discussing more how Shawn and Neal’s relationship actually works. And I have to say, their hijinks here are pretty amusing. It’s also fun to see the SBPD group get in on the action here. The one area I got tripped up on in this story (and this may totally just be my being stupid and slow) but the whole big plot of showing up Shawn as a fake got kind of convoluted and weird in my mind. . . . But I enjoyed the story as it occurred anyway, and I found the individual characterizations and their interactions to be more than enough to make up for any plot confusion I felt. I would definitely recommend (White) Collar Optional, although please read Psychic in the City first; this is one of those stories where the sequel really needs to be a sequel and is not a standalone story.

Note: You can find (White) Collar Optional at https://www.fanfiction.net/s/10367570/1/White-Collar-Optional.

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