Well, it IS a Hugo Award Winner: Girl Genius Webcomic

Girl Genius Webcomic - Jump to Site“Adventure, Romance, MAD SCIENCE” ~ Girl Genius tagline

Agatha Clay is more than your average girl. She’s only the last remaining heir to the Heterodyne name. It’s a legacy of power, prestige… and scary mad brilliance.

Agatha finds her life upended upon learning her true identity. Suddenly, everyone wants to get their hands on her–especially two rival princes.

Set on an alternate Earth, this is Steampunk at its graphical finest. “Sparks”–people with the extraordinary skill for building mechanical devices and bioengineering. Mad science, indeed!

Girl Genius has won the Hugo Award for Best Graphic Story three times, as well as numerous other awards. It’s no wonder: GG has the complete package. While the core idea of the hidden heir is not new, Phil and Kaja Foglio have freshened it up with their brilliant take. Their characters are complex, each with a viable arc. They keep the readers guessing as to who are the real villains and heroes, not to mention who might truly be mad. After all, what is madness, really?

The art is fantastic, with great drawings and wonderful coloring. Cheyenne Wright has a deft touch at bringing this rich world to life. There is nothing flat to this work.

This is a tri-weekly comic that has been online since 2002. New readers (this was me three days ago) can start from the beginning and catch up, thanks to a nifty “Start” button above the comic page. In addition, there is a drop-down list of “chapters” below the panels for when a reader wants to return to the story–as if there was anything else better to do! Granted, this takes some time, but it’s worth it. WARNING: The Girl Genius webcomic can lead to obsessive reading, forgetting to sleep, laughter, skipped meals, enjoyment, neglected chores, and instant fandom.

5-Books

“Science!”

“Meow!”

“Promises to Keep” by Jane Green

Promises to Keep book cover

"Promises to Keep" book cover

Sisters Callie and Steffi live completely different lives. Callie is the happily married mom and breast cancer survivor. Steffi is the wild child who lives it up in the city. Their parents, Walter and Honor, haven’t spoken in the decades since their divorce. Then there’s their friend Lila, a 40-something career woman who wonders if she’ll ever find Mr. Right.  Life rolls right along for all concerned until one year changed everything.

Steffi finds more to a move to the country than she imagines, and Lila gets a glimpse of what it means to be loved. All while handling a terrifying diagnosis which is handed to Callie.

This is novel begins as a light-hearted, almost chick-lit style, look at the contrast between suburban and serious versus urban and carefree lifestyles, and the role played by affluence. Then it grows into a story of how crushing circumstances affect a family whose members have been flung all over New England. Much of the story was inspired by a similar situation in the author’s life, when one of her close friends succumbed to cancer. Knowing this before opening to the first page can predispose a reader to loving it, and many readers will. However, issues with the writing style make it harder to love in the opening chapters. The author uses third-person, present tense for most of the novel, then she enters flashbacks with little warning at times.  This smooths out about halfway through, making it much more readable.

Callie, Steffi, and Lila are endearing characters. Although there’s a certain amount of predictability, Green moves the story along to a respectable payoff. There are a few tear-jerker moments toward the end, which can soften even a hardened heart.


Rating: 3.5-Books
Publisher:
 Plume, a Penguin Imprint
Author Website:
www.janegreen.com

ISBN-13: 978-0-452-29717-3

The reviewer received a copy of Promise to Keep from the publisher. This has no impact on the quality or consideration of the review.

Find Adventure in EVERLOST by Neal Shusterman

Cover art for "Everlost"When Allie and Nick are killed in a head-on collision, they bump into each other on their way to the light that is literally at the end of the tunnel. They wake in a strange reality, a land dubbed Everlost. There are no adults, just kids who got sidetracked on the way to that light.

Existence in Everlost requires a crash course in survival. Although they can’t die again, they can suffer, and if they don’t avoid sinking into the ground or running into the wrong people, suffer they will. Together, with a wild child they call Lief, Allie and Nick go in search of answers to questions they could never have imagined when they were alive.

Everlost is an imaginative rendering of the afterlife. Shusterman’s work is reminiscent of Lord of the Flies, perhaps deliberately so. This occurs on a far more grand scale, with no hope of outside rescue. Classic themes, such as bullies, opportunistic scheming, and the struggle between good and evil are strongly represented. Readers will sympathize with the characters’ dilemmas. Very little is straight forward, like in real life. Without adult guidance, kids are left to their own devices in this world. Shusterman handles this situation in a masterful stroke. No one character is perfect, and their actions have believable consequences.

I recommend this novel for teens and more mature preteens. Parents who like dark fantasy may enjoy this novel, too. Everlost is a novel that can be shared between parents and teens, leading to discussions about the world, the characters’ choices, and life and death in general.


4.5 Books
Everlost by Neal Shusterman
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
ISBN-13 978-1-4169-9749-8

HELLHOLE by Brian Herbert & Kevin J. Anderson

Cover of "Hellhole" from www.wordfire.com

Cover of "Hellhole" from http://www.wordfire.com

A Hell of a Good Read

A failed rebellion. A disgraced leader exiled to a brutal backwater world. An interstellar government with a stranglehold on its people. These are the elements that lead into the opening of Hellhole, the first novel in the new science fiction epic from Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson.

General Tiber Maximilian Adolphus blinked when his forces had victory within reach. That hesitation won the war for Diadem Michella Duchenet’s ruler of all known habitable worlds in the Constellation. Rather than hand the rebellion a martyr figure, Diadem Michella exiled Adolphus to the most inhospitable world in the Deep Zone, Hallholme.

Set up for failure, Adolphus carves out a community of misfits and criminals who have nowhere else to go. Hallholme, “Hellhole” to its inhabitants, is a world of many surprises, mostly bad. The colony faces heavy taxation while being shortchanged in government shipments of necessary goods. But Adolphus and his dedicated people don’t let the Diadem’s machinations destroy them. A decade after his exile, Adolphus is on the cusp of something big. Little does he know, his plans may be affected by an unimaginable discovery.

Hellhole is the first book in a new trilogy by acclaimed authors Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson. This is their first effort outside of their multiple works in the highly popular Dune series. They bring their mastery of characterization and world-building to this new vision of the distant future. Weaving plots within plots, they pull the reader through the many ambitions of opposing interests. They do so in a way that keeps the reader interested and avoids confusion.

This is a well-crafted tale that engages the senses and heart. Herbert and Anderson have a fresh take the old tale of corrupt government, adding a fantastic twist which puts their unique stamp on the new series.

Fans of Dune, Star Wars, and other space epics will find this an engaging ride into the future.

~Christina Wantz Fixemer


Rating: 5-Books
Publisher:
Tor
Author Websites:
Brian Herbert:
Kevin J. Anderson: http://www.wordfire.com/ & http://kjablog.com
ISBN-13: 978-1847374264

The reviewer received a copy of Hellhole from the publisher. This has no impact on the quality or consideration of the review.


“Darkness Becomes Her” by Kelly Keaton

 Darkness Becomes her cover art

"Darkness Becomes Her" cover art from the author's website

“Darkness Becomes Her” by Kelly Keaton

This Book Marches to Its Own Drummer: READ IT

Book Summary

Ari has always been different. Growing up in foster care can do that to a kid, but so can having hair so pale it looks white, and a mother who committed suicide when Ari was a tot. When she’s old enough to search for answers, she finds a note from her long-dead mother which begs her to “RUN!” Ari ends up in the city of her birth, New Orleans, only it is now a darker and wilder place called New 2. It has been remade in the wake of a disastrous hurricane. There, she finds a city of supernatural people and creatures.

Ari joins a group of young outsiders, each with their own secrets and talents. Little does Ari know that she has a secret yet to be discovered–a secret that could change the world.

Review

This novel pulled me in from the first page. Ari is a character with more depth than some real-life people. She is intelligent and has street smarts. There’s a hard edge to an otherwise vulnerable girl, which leads to very human moments when she has to deal with indecision and fear. And guess what? She doesn’t always make the right choice. She wants to know the truth, but she also fears it. In some other reviews, I’ve seen people criticize this, but I feel it made me relate to her far more than if she was broadly confident. When faced with terrifying choices, real life people don’t automatically make the smartest choices. Throw this character into a setting with lush (and sometimes decaying) detail, and you will forget that you’re reading a book.

If I had to choose a key concept for this novel, it is this: Boldly step forward when you must. Missteps can be forgiven, but no steps leave you forgotten.

This is a fantastic read for teens, especially those who are different from the crowd. Everyone should be their own drummer.

~Christina Wantz


Rating: 5-Books
Publisher:
Simon & Schuster
Author Website: http://kellykeaton.net/
ISBN: 978-1442409248

The reviewer received a copy of Darkness Becomes Her from the publisher. This has no impact on the quality or consideration of the review.


I’m back… Sort of

I haven’t done book reviews in a long while. Somehow, I keep getting books in the mail, even though it’s been a little over two years since I’ve posted much of anything.

The main site, Wantz Upon a Time, is no longer going to see book reviews posted there, other than what appear on the blog feed. I’m still working on the details, and the new site isn’t even close to up yet. There’s a blanket of dust on it right now. Behind the scenes, I’m working on art (see the awesome dragon banner up above) and layouts and such. WUAT’s main home is going to be the creative side of my web and graphic design business. I have another site, Studio Fix Design, that has a more formal look to it. The two sites will have feature the same portfolio selections and have all the same information, but the presentations will be very different.

All that said, I just can’t stay away from the reviews, apparently. And I know other people who dearly love to review and would love to join my ranks, so the review service is about to be taken off of life support. I’ll post more details soon. Very soon. Thank you for your patience!

By the way, if anyone can tell me how to change this tacky blue header bar from blue to the color I want, PLEASE let me know! I couldn’t find an option, and I don’t feel inclined to pay $15 a year for the right to do so in the CSS settings. I guess that’s how it goes. It’s my hope that I’ll be able to successfully embed this blog on the WUAT domain name. I haven’t tried in a long while and know a lot more about web development now, so maybe it’ll go better this time. We shall see!

Front Lines… Edited by Denise Little

Click here to see this review on WUAT

4books

Front Lines

Edited by Denise Little

Published By: DAW Books, Inc.: A Member of Penguin Group (USA)


Good Pick for Fans of Speculative Fiction

Reviewed by Vicky Burkholder
on 12/21/2008

I said in an earlier review of a different anthology that reviewing an anthology of short stories has to be one of the hardest things a reviewer can do, especially if the stories are all written by different authors. My previous statement still holds true. Some of the authors in this anthology include Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Laura Resnick, Jody Lynn Nye, Jim Fiscus, J. Steven York.

In this book, we are given twenty-one different stories by different authors but with one theme uniting them all – in this case, being on the front lines in a war, whether against human, pixie, or “thing” and settings are all over the universe, from the intergalactic to a little boy’s backyard. According to the introduction, “this book isn’t about…what it means as a society to fight a war….it’s all about the life of the people on the front lines of battle.” What I find interesting about the book, is that more than half the writers are women. Surely a unique perspective in a hard science fiction book. The stories are thought provoking, funny, poignant, and sad. Everything an anthology should be.

Like all anthologies, there were some stories I liked, some I didn’t care much for, but not because of the writing. Each story is well crafted and well-written. Overall, the tales were very good.

If you don’t have a lot of time to invest in reading, anthologies are a good place to go. Each story is complete and is good for a quick read when you don’t have time for a novel. I recommend this one for anyone interested in speculative fiction from the perspective of someone on the “Front Lines”.

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