Awesome America Review (Kid’s Nonfiction)

Welcome to Awesome America!

With 319 million people and nearly 3.8 million square miles of land, there’s a lot to know about the United States. How can one person learn it all? Lucky for you, Awesome America is the perfect introduction. Packed with photos, stats, and fun facts on every page, this book has everything you need to know about what makes American awesome!

-Discover how American has changed through the centuries.
-Learn about the documents that are the basis for American democracy.
-Revisit the great moments that changed America, from the first airplane flight to the first lunar landing.
-Dive into culture with introductions to great Americans. – Goodreads

Awesome America Review

Awesome America wasn’t a book that I particularly felt like reviewing recently. However, I’m glad I did. It reminded me of the fact that there are many things about our country that are worth knowing. Katy Steinmetz did a great job of compiling information about our country in a way that made sense and is accessible to younger readers.

There was one listed fact that cracked me up. It appeared early on, and it probably set the tone for my favorable view of the book. On the life timeline for Benjamin Franklin, it lists:

1722: Became a vegetarian (partly so he could spend more money on books).

Mr. Franklin had his priorities in order! But that wasn’t the only thing that made me at least smile while reading the book. One other thing that stood out in Awesome America was a section where they listed common items, and what the states called them. I’m from Ohio, and I have never heard any other Ohioan refer to the items they mentioned in the way the book says that we do. (Could just be the part of Ohio that I’m from, but it amused me nevertheless.)

On a more serious note, I liked how simply the author broke down the Amendments language. I also appreciated the clear-cut, easy to understand graphics that peppered the book. There are many books out there that talk a lot about the various states, their flowers, animals, etc. I liked that in Awesome America, it’s kept fairly short and sweet.  Though it does have a cool map that shows the various wild animals that make each state their home.

With a name like Awesome America, you can expect (and rightly so) that there’s a fair bit of “rose-tinted glasses” going on in the view that the book paints of our country. That and the fact that it’s aimed at younger readers, of course. Nevertheless, it still manages to give readers some interesting information about our country, and explain things clearly and concisely. Also, while Awesome America does look fondly back, it doesn’t sidestep the bad stuff completely. Whilst our welcoming of people from foreign countries is talked about, so is our issues with segregation. While our innovation in so many things is mentioned so is the fact that we did most of the American Indians living in the USA very, very bad.

Overall, while I’m not awed by the book, I do have to admit that Katy Steinmetz did a good job. She skillfully leads readers through the founding of America through to modern day events.  The accompanying curriculum guide is also well done. I intend on keeping it around and using with my child when she gets to the point where she’s interested in reading something like Awesome America.

4 Star Rated Awesome America Review

Title: Awesome America: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About the HIstory, People, and Culture | Author: Katy Steinmetz | Publisher: Time for Kids (site) | Pub. Date: 2016-5-31 | Pages: 208 | Genre: Children’s Educational | Language: English | Rating: 4 out of 5 | Source: Received a copy free from the publisher.



What’s Up in Sci-Fi: Inside Rama, Passengers

Welcome back to What’s Up in Sci-Fi. This eighth issue is a  sampling of science fiction news across the mediums. From movies to books, to real life, and any bits in between that I can think of to list. I have no doubt the format will change as I figure out what works and what doesn’t. This is by no means a comprehensive list of what’s happening, but it should whet your appetite!

Movie Tidbits

Coming Soon:

Passengers, starring Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt, is due to be released on December 21st. The movie is getting a fair amount of hype. It’s even going to be sent to the ISS so people can watch it in space. (Apparently this is a big deal. I do not see why.)

It looks interesting enough, and Lawrence and Pratt have delivered fantastically in the past, so I’m definitely curious to see this.

Watch the Passengers trailer here.




Trailers to Check Out:

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. It’s based on a comic book, looks fairly typical, and is due out in July of 2017. I highly recommend watching the trailer with your sound off, as the ‘music’ they’ve overlaid it with is mindbogglingly annoying.

Life. Starring Ryan Reynolds and Jake Gyllenhal, Life looks to be yet another example of humanity seeking to find a way to make itself out to be the hero, not the villain. Because, oooh, scary aliens. Maybe I’m just cynical, though.

Featured Vimeo Science Fiction Short

True Skin

This 6-minute video from H1 called “True Skin” is visually engaging, interesting, and overall very well done. Go check it out.

Featured Science Fiction Art: Inside Rama

Made by: James A. Ciomperlik. © Public Domain

This is a 3D rendering of the inside of the famous Rama spaceship in Rendezvous with Rama. I have to say, I think he nailed it. What about you?

Science Fiction Books

Interesting Looking New Releases:

Metro 2035: World War Three wiped out the humankind. The planet is empty now. Huge cities became dust and ashes. Railroads are being eaten by rust. Abandoned satellites hang lonely on the orbit. Radio is mute on all the frequencies.

The only survivors of the last war were those who made it into the gates of the Metro, the subway system of Moscow city. It’s there, hundreds of feet below the ground, in the vaults of what was constructed as the world’s largest air-raids shelter that people try to outlive the end of the days. It’s there that they created a new world for themselves.

The stations of Metro became city-states, and its citizens, torn apart by religions and ideologies are fighting for the now scarce commodities: air, water, and space. This tiny underground world can only remind humans of an immense world they once were the masters of.

It’s been twenty years past Doomsday, and yet the survivors refuse to give up. The most stubborn of them keep cherishing a dream: when the radiation level from nuclear bombings subsides, they will be able to return to the surface and have the life their parents once had.

But the most stubborn of the stubborn continues to search for other survivors in this huge emptiness that once was called Earth. His name is Artyom. He would give anything to lead his own people from the underground onto the surface.

And he will. | Buy on Amazon.

Culdesac – The war with no name rages on, setting the world on fire. Humanity faces extinction at the hands of the Colony, a race of intelligent ants seeking to overthrow the humans and establish a new order. To achieve this, the ants use their strange technology to transform the surface animals into highly evolved killing machines who rise up and murder their oppressors.
The bobcat Culdesac is among the fiercest warriors that the Colony’s experiment has produced. Driven by revenge, and notorious for his ability to hunt humans in the wild, Culdesac is the perfect leader of the Red Sphinx, an elite unit of feline assassins. With the humans in retreat, the Red Sphinx seizes control of the remote village of Milton. But holding the town soon becomes a bitter struggle of wills. While the humans threaten a massive counterattack, the townsfolk protect a dark secret that could tip the balance of the war. For the sadistic Culdesac, violence is the answer to everything. But this time, he’ll need more than his claws and his guns, for what he discovers in Milton will upend everything he believes, everything he fought for, and everything he left behind.
Buy on Amazon.



Ocean of Storms In the near future, political tensions between the United States and China are at an all-time high. Then a catastrophic explosion on the moon cleaves a vast gash in the lunar surface, and the massive electromagnetic pulse it unleashes obliterates Earth’s electrical infrastructure. To plumb the depths of the newly created lunar fissure and excavate the source of the power surge, the feuding nations are forced to cooperate on a high-risk mission to return mankind to the moon.
Now, a diverse, highly skilled ensemble of astronauts—and a pair of maverick archaeologists plucked from the Peruvian jungle—will brave conspiracy on Earth and disaster in space to make a shocking discovery. Buy on Amazon.

New-to-You (and with a 3.75+ rating on Goodreads)

Nick Cole
Goodreads: 3.86

HMH Books
Goodreads: 3.89

Henry Holt
Goodreads: 3.98


  • John Glenn, the first man to orbit the moon, died on December 8th, 2016. His orbiting of the earth was yet one more step in science fiction becoming real life.
  • Ursula Le Guin is getting the recognition she deserves in 2016, and in 2018 hopefully we’ll get to see the hour-long documentary “The Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin
  • Cards Against Humanity has partnered with science fiction writers to release a new Sci-Fi Card Pack. All proceeds go to Worldbuilders.
  • In a disturbing case of Sci-Fi to Real Life, it looks like China is implementing a social credit score. Dystopia! Dystopias everywhere!
  • Ozy has an interesting piece on the Father of Science Fiction (not Jules Verne or H.G. Wells), and how his quest for anonymity screwed his legacy over.
  • LA Review of Books makes some interesting claims about science fiction, including indicating that  “There are innumerable definitions, all of which flatly contradict each other”, but it’s article This is Science Fiction is well worth the read.
  • Have you seen any of these German science fiction films?
  • Hey, look, a science fiction writer from way back that wasn’t white! Jagadish Chandra Bose is someone you need to know about.
  • Tyson, the meat giant, is putting its money where it’s mouth is and seeking out new ways of getting protein into people via meatless meats. Definitely a step from sci-fi to real life?

Favorite Quotes #6: Philip K. Dick

Quote from Philip K. Dick



Pretty relevant today, wouldn’t you say?

How many times have we seen people put a spin on something? Whether for better or worse, they are able to ‘shape’ things in the way that they wish. Just look at what the fake news sites managed to do with just a few words here and there. Was there even a granule of truth in the lies they were spreading? We’ve also seen news sites that used to actually (at least seem to) report things accurately move towards reporting things in such a fashion that it’s absolutely ridiculous to even try to listen to it anymore.

It’s not even the fake news sites, either! The ones that blatantly make crap up. We’ve also seen news sites that used to actually (at least seem to) report things accurately move towards reporting things in such a fashion that it’s absolutely ridiculous to even try to listen to it anymore.

I absolutely do not hold with Truthers, in any way, but I can see how people would become so obsessed with the fact that everything around them seems to be lying that they could easily lose themselves in delusions.

I think the most intelligent people are able to look at the way the world is going right now and realize exactly how scarily accurate the works of Orwell, Dick, and others are turning out to be. They might not have gotten all the detail right, but just the broad strokes are enough to be terrifying.

Why did I choose this quote? Because I’m bloody terrified of this world we’re living in right now.  The last few months have turned into something surreal. I keep expecting to wake up, and be so relieved I turn religious!

Philip K. Dick was a prolific science fiction writer that lived from 1928 to 1982. He’s most well-known at the moment for his “The Man in the High Castle” due to the fairly recent television adaptation of his work. You may also know his works from the movie “A Scanner Darkly”.  You can find out more about him here:




Shadow People on the Street?

Shadow People

Okay, so naturally I go to make an appointment with my doctor last week, and due to everyone getting in their end of year stuff… I can’t get in to see him for a month. Naturally. Well, whatever. Like I said previously, I’ve been hearing this stuff for a couple of weeks, and nothing has happened to me yet. That part really hasn’t changed. Just these random conversations. They’re fairly quiet most of the time, but I swear sometimes it feels like they’re talking right in my ears!

I guess no one really wants to admit that they’re hearing voices,  you know? Uh-oh, skitzo freak. But I seriously doubt I’m that crazy. I mean, it’s not like I have voices in my head telling me to kill someone or whatever. It’s just these random people (pretty sure they’re all guys) chitter-chattering constantly. Well, not constantly. Thank God. Circe. Gaia. pick a deity, any deity fully.

I was super paranoid after that night. Part of me wanted to look obsessively in every single window to see if I saw something again. I would say it was hard to resist, but it wasn’t. Even though I like horror movies and books, I’m a complete wimp. So it was easier to just keep my head down when I walked and try not to look in windows at all.

I feel like a little bit of an idiot, though. Maybe it is all the horror movies, but I… started googling. I know, I know you shouldn’t google crap because it will have you convinced that a nosebleed is really a brain tumor. But, seriously, how many of us don’t google stuff we probably shouldn’t or things we’re embarrassed to ask someone else? Heck, just last week I was googling proper insertion of a Diva cup. (Side note: Ladies, if you’re considering it, all I can say is so far so good! It’s a bit odd getting that intimate in a public restroom with your ladybits, but… no TSS to worry about. No mini diapers to wear. And you can’t feel it!) ….I got off track. Sorry.

I ended up -after a couple failed efforts – googling “shadow people”. Apparently, lots of people have seen these ‘shadow people. There’s even a website devoted to the topic: . And I found this explanation somewhere else:

Whereas ghost apparitions are almost always a misty white, vapor-like or have a decidedly human form and appearance (very often with discernible “clothing”), shadow beings are much darker and more shadow-like.” – Wagner, Stephen. “What You Should Really Know About Shadow People”. Entertainment. N.p., 2016. Web. 2 Dec. 2016.

I know Wikipedia isn’t exactly the best site, but it had an interesting section on them too (and I checked out the reference books this stuff came from):

“a person experiencing heightened emotion, such as while walking alone on a dark night, may incorrectly perceive a patch of shadow as an attacker.” (“Rapid Psychiatry”. Google Books. N.p., 2016. Web. 2 Dec. 2016.)

Which I can almost buy. Except for the part where it wasn’t trying to attack me!


So, I was telling myself it was just a one-time thing – or that some people really are just more open to seeing things. That seeing a shadow really meant nothing. Once is happenstance, right?  If it happens again, then I’ll get concerned.

In the meantime, I’m just going to fidget like crazy and hope that either these people go away (preferably) or start speaking English, for feck’s sake!

12/8/16 – Going Crazy Part 2

Writer’s Retweet Review

writers-retweetHorrifying illusions. Classified government operations.
Heavily guarded secrets.
Cryptic rumors. Dangerous prisoners.
Irresistible passion. Demonic magic.

Piers Anthony weaves this and more into Writer’s Retweet, a collection of five short stories abounding in the adventure, magic, and naughtiness that fans have come to know and love from this author.

In “Experiment,” “Discovery,” and “Mission,” painfully average Bigelow Bilge and Paula Plaintiff are thrust unwillingly into a world fraught with terrifying, victim-specific illusions. Who—or what—is the source of these horrifying encounters? Why have Bigelow and Paula been targeted?

A newspaper reporter in “Dull Street Incident” gets wind of a delicious scandal rumored to have punctuated a stale suburban street. Menacing prisoners, conniving teenage girls, and one well-kept secret leads this reporter to the story of a lifetime. But who will believe it?

In “Forbidden Fruit,” dowdy, middle-aged Edith happens upon a mysterious fruit that completely alters her life—and the life of Kent, an attractive, young neighbor. Seduced by her newfound magical abilities and rediscovered sex appeal, Edith plunges into a world filled with demons, pleasure, and unthinkable risk. – Goodreads


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Damocles Review (Sci-Fi First Contact)


In Damocles: When Earth is rocked by evidence that extraterrestrials may have seeded human DNA throughout the universe, a one-way expedition into deep space is mounted to uncover the truth. What linguist Meg Dupris and her crewmates aboard the Earth ship Damocles discover on Didet—a planet bathed in the near-eternal daylight of seven suns—is a humanoid race with a different language, a different look, and a surprisingly similar society.

But here, it’s the “Earthers” who are the extraterrestrial invaders, and it’s up to Meg—a woman haunted by tragedy and obsessed with the power of communication—to find the key to establishing trust between the natives and the newcomers. In Loul Pell, a young Dideto male thrust into the forefront of the historic event, Meg finds an unexpected kindred spirit and undertakes an extraordinary journey of discovery, friendship, and life-altering knowledge.

Told from both sides of a monumental encounter, Damocles is a compelling novel about man’s first contact with an extraterrestrial race.- Goodreads

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New Sci-Fi & Horror Authors Discovered in 2016

TTTBanner - New Sci-Fi & Horror Authors Discovered in 2016

This Top Ten Tuesday officially begins the ‘best of lists’ that wrap up the year. We’re starting off with Sci-Fi & Horror Authors Discovered in 2016. There’s a tiny bit of cross-over with this list and lists later in the month, but this is not a guarantee. Top Ten Tuesday is brought to you courtesy of Broke and Bookish.

In order to qualify for this list, the author also had to be one I have (or will) pick up another book from. Authors that I’m at least semi-confident will deliver an entertaining, engrossing read when I don’t want to think.

New Sci-Fi & Horror Authors Discovered in 2016

The Archived New Sci-Fi & Horror Authors Discovered in 2016Victoria Schwab – I love her settings, the dialogue, the sheer imagination that goes into her books that I’ve read. I loved that it was a book for younger readers, but made no attempt at being light and fluffy. So, yes, I didn’t hesitate to pick her up again. Her website is:

The Book: The Archived

I didn’t review this book, but I did do two posts on the experience of Reading Darker Books with a Younger Child.

just-one New Sci-Fi & Horror Authors Discovered in 2016Jodi Taylor has the ability to write characters that make you crack up laughing, and then make you grieve for them the next minute. There’s so very little to pick at in her books that I still haven’t managed to post a review on this site because I can’t do anything other than go fan-girl gushy. Her website is:

The Book: Just One Damned Thing After Another


The Suffering Review New Sci-Fi & Horror Authors Discovered in 2016Rin Chupeco comes with an addendum. While I’d gladly pick up anything horror from her, I have no interest in picking up her Bone Witch book.  I read the 2nd book in her Girl From the Well series first, and don’t regret reading them out-of-order. I think I actually read the better book first in this case.  Her website is:

The Book: The Suffering

My review.

arkwright New Sci-Fi & Horror Authors Discovered in 2016Allen Steele is an author that I just read within the past few weeks. Apparently, Arkwright is supposed to be right in his normal style. If that’s the case? Sign me up. I want more, please. Full of hope, wonder, and imagination, Arkwright really is a love letter to science fiction and a reminder of how awesome dreaming is, and what our future may hold. His website is:

The Book: Arkwright

My review for this is not due to go live for a few weeks yet.

The Spirit Chaser New Sci-Fi & Horror Authors Discovered in 2016Kat Mayor wrote a book that did very bad things to my emotions. She got me right in the feels. Especially at the end of the book I was reading. She could have – and I expected her to – went any number of typical directions with her ending. Instead, she went off in her own direction, and gave an ending to a book that elevated it from good to ‘freakin’ fantastic’. Her website is:

The Book: The Spirit Chaser

My review.

Patient Zero New Sci-Fi & Horror Authors Discovered in 2016Jonathan Maberry is an author I ended up reading a lot of very quickly. I swiftly discovered that although I do like his writing, it’s definitely not an across the board thing. Still, his Joe Ledger series kept me coming back until I burnt out on it. I have the rest of the series waiting for when I get ready to read him again. His website is:

The Book: Patient Zero

My review.


Flex Review New Sci-Fi& Horror Authors Discovered in 2016Ferrett Steinmetz gave such an interesting and original read in Flex that I can’t imagine not picking up the second book in the series at some point. His premise is unique, his execution nearly flawless, and his main characters showed that there can be friendship without romance between two members of the opposite sex. His website is:

The Book: Flex

My review.

Ellie Jordan New Sci-Fi & Horror Authors Discovered in 2016J.L. Bryan has some serious writing talent. At least when it comes to spinning easy to read yarns that don’t require you to think too hard. (And to be honest, don’t we all need that occasionally?” I read his book right after I read Hell House by Richard Matheson, and I can honestly say it was definitely the more enjoyable read.  His website is:

The Book: Ellie Jordan: Ghost Trapper #1

My review.

Transcendental New Sci-Fi & Horror Authors Discovered in 2016James Gunn is considered to be a master of Sci-Fi. I’d never read anything from him before, so I picked up one of his novels out of sheer curiosity. I loved it, because it was one of those rare novels that manages to encompass the true possibilities of alien life forms out there. I will definitely be picking more up from him in the future! (Though I’ve heard Transcendental is not in his usual style.) His website is:

The book: Transcendental

My review.

I Robot New Sci-Fi & Horror Authors Discovered in 2016Isaac Asimov was one of those sci-fi authors I was scared to read. I’d not heard great things about his writing. It was dry, it was not exactly friendly towards women, etc. But we chose to do one of our Dare to Discuss sessions on I, Robot, so I took the plunge. Let’s just say that even though I’m still a bit wary of Asimov, I fully intend on reading more from him next year.  His website:

The book: I, Robot

My review.

What do you think? Are any of these authors on your list?

Who was your favorite author(s) of 2016?

Floating Staircase Review (Horror / Mystery)


Floating Staircase: Soon after Travis and his wife move into their new house by the lake, he becomes convinced the house is haunted. Is it the ghost of a child who was murdered there years before – or is there a deeper mystery? – Goodreads

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Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Review

Fantastic Beats and Where to Find Them Poster

Synopsis: The adventures of writer Newt Scamander in New York’s secret community of witches and wizards seventy years before Harry Potter reads his book in school.

Tagline: From J.K. Rowling’s wizarding world

Release Date: 2016-11-18 | MPAA Rating: PG-13 | Coolthulhus Earned: 5

Starring: Eddy Redmayne, Dan Fogler, Katherine Waterston, Collin Farrell

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Official Trailer

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Putting the Environment in a Fantasy Novel

I’ve loved D.G. Driver’s works for two reasons, but the one I asked her to write about was how she wrote environmental concerns into her fiction. I wanted to know all sorts of things, like what her aim was, and how much research she needed to do. I’m very pleased (and honestly surprised!) with the information in her guest post.  So, we present: Putting the Environment in a Fantasy Novel by D.G. Driver

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  • I love Audible. Tons of books, fantastic narrators, good prices.