Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Microreview [book]: War Stories eds. Jaym Gates and Andrew Liptak

War is hell, but this collection is worth the heat.

The Meat:

I think I should start all of my reviews of themed short story collections with the sentence "Theme collections of speculative fiction can be tricky things." It was true when I said it about the last collection I reviewed and it is true now and it will be true regardless of how many theme collections I read. But the great thing about War Stories is that it knows what it wants to do and goes out and does exactly that. The focus is narrow while not being limiting. These are science fiction war stories. Specific, but at the same time opening up to an impressive variety of stories that cover the science fiction spectrum, from near-future Earthbound battles to far-future off-world wars that ravage entire interstellar civilizations. In short, it takes its premise and runs with it.

And the path runs in a mostly logical direction. I loved that it was internally divided into sections, not just because it further narrowed what I, as a reader, was expecting, but because it also gave some nice breaking points so that the collection can be looked at as a whole, as a series of four parts, and finally as twenty-three separate stories. I was slightly less convinced on the section focuses, or at least one of them. Wartime Systems made sense, as did Combat and Aftermath. They looked at aspects of war and were guiding but not stifling. I wasn't quite as sold on Armored Force, though, as it was the smallest of the sections and the one that I struggled to find justification for getting its own space. To me, the stories could either have fit into the existing three other sections or a different focus could have been chosen so that each section had at least five stories.

But I should get to the actual stories, which were consistently of high quality. The collection starts out strong with "Graves," by Joe Haldeman, grounding the collection with a bit of history as a vet looks back on a strange incident during his service in Vietnam. Haunting, the bar for the collection is set high, and it does not disappoint. Ken Liu's "In the Loop" picks up next and by that point the hits really just kept coming. This is not a collection that holds back. From Vietnam to a programmer's computer, the realities of war are explored, and brought home to be unpacked like a suitcase filled with mementos from far-off battlegrounds.

The collection has an abundance of powerful stories. "One Million Lira" by Thoraiya Dyer captures the brief showdown between two snipers, teacher and student, each a representative of two sides of a conflict that has split a once-unified nation. Separated by class, by technology, but ultimately united by their grief and deadly talent, the story surprised me with its direction, and managed to both make me laugh and make me cry. It wasn't the only story to manage that feat, either. My favorite story in the collection, "Enemy State" by Karin Lowachee, doesn't even feature battle, at least not anything happening on the front lines. Instead a man, a civilian, has to wait while his boyfriend, his love, goes off to war among the stars. Powerful and deeply tragic, the story dug deep into the feeling of being left behind, of waiting for news, of having a loved one worlds away in danger, and also the plight of the soldier struggling to exist without the war.

There really were too many good stories to mention them all. If there was a weak point I'd have to point to the Armored Force section again, which I felt weren't quite as strong as the rest of the collection. Perhaps if they hadn't all been lumped together I wouldn't have minded, but as it was that section seemed the hardest for me to get through. Fans of armored suits might find their mileage varying, but I thought the most interesting story featuring armor wasn't even in that section, but stuck just before it, in Linda Nagata's "Light and Shadow." Filled with questions about the kinds of armor soldiers can use, both the dead sister exoskeletons that they wear to augment their abilities and the skullcaps they wear to armor their emotions. Tense and offering no easy answers, I thought it handled the idea of armor masterfully, and it was a little strange to me that it wasn't included with the other armor suit stories.

The collection as a whole offers up a very satisfying look at war in science fiction. There's definitely enough content to make it weighty, and enough powerful stories to delve into many different aspects of war and conflict. It manages to be an enjoyable read, not light and not easy but fun and funny at times and heartbreaking at others. It respects war, and most definitely soldiers, while at the same time questioning and pushing and showing the ugly truths that are often swept under the rug. In short, it's one hell of a ride, and one worth taking, though it hits a few bumps along the way.

The Math

Baseline Assessment: 7/10

Bonuses: +1 for a helpful organization within the collection

Negatives: -1 for the Armored Force section

Nerd Coefficient: 7/10 "an enjoyable experience, but not without its flaws"

POSTED BY: Charlesavid reader, reviewer, and sometimes writer of speculative fiction. Contributor to Nerds of a Feather since 2014.

Reference: eds. Gates, Jaym and Liptak, Andrew. War Stories [Apex Publications, 2014]

Friday, December 26, 2014

2014 Games of the Year

It's the end of the year, which means time to look back on what our favorite games this year have been. Here at Nerds of a Feather, we are doing things a bit different. Recognizing that coming to a consensus is painful and often unnecessary, instead of a canonical top 10, we've each provided our top three. This way, we can highlight what we found to be the best games we played this year without creating some Frankenstein's monster that represents the tastes of none of us entirely. Also, recognizing that we're adults who don't get around to every game each year, we've expanded the scope to include games that were not necessarily released in 2014. After all, a good game is good no matter what year it came out. With that said, here are our individual 2014 Games of the Year!


Mario Kart 8 - Nintendo has the best exclusives of any console hands down.  Mario Kart 8 is an amazing update to this classic franchise.  The courses are a throwback to the classic tracks I used to race in college.  I haven't played online much, but this was a feature that was sorely needed and done well.  Nintendo knows fun better than anyone else and this is the most fun I've had on the Wii U.

Skylanders Trap Team - I will admit to being underwhelmed with the upgrades to this game since it originally dropped.  Giants was fun, Swap Force was kind of neat, but the ability to trap and use villains opens up another level of gameplay that refreshed this series.  All of the games have been good, but none have felt as magical as this one.  From the video of the character getting beamed into the trap to the noises that are emitted from the speaker in the portal, this game makes me feel like a kid.  

MLB The Show - I have been pleased with my PS4 and feel it has provided a decent graphics upgrade from the PS3.  I thought it was only decent until I popped this title in.  On multiple occasions I have had people watch me play for over five minutes before realizing that it is a video game.  MLB The Show is pure eye candy and it remains as the premier baseball video game on any system.


1. Destiny - I know the story sucked, but I just can't stop playing this. It's the first time I've enjoyed grinding!

2. Forza Horizon 2 - Easily the most fun I've had playing a racing game, and the simulation is still top notch despite the move to an open-world style.
3. Valiant Hearts: The Great War - Gameplay was serviceable and story was phenomenal. Actually made me cry once. Seriously.

Honorable Mention: Contrast - Although a bit too short, it's completely unique gameplay and intimations about multiple universes made the whole thing like watching one of those movies that, once finished, you realize you are going to have to see it again in order to understand what just happened.

The G

For fun's sake, or just to be different, I'm ranking my top 3 games according to Olympic medal-granting conventions.

Gold - Out There (iOS/Android)

It feels strange to pick a touch/tablet game, rather than console or PC, as my Game of the Year—but Out There was far and away the best thing I played in 2014. It’s a roguelike with roots in 4x titles like Master of Orion. It has an elegant design, a compelling story, boatloads of atmosphere, addictive gameplay and—notably—does not rely on violence to move the narrative forward.

Silver - Shadowrun Returns (PC/Mac/iOS/Android)

Disclaimer: this game is from 2013 not 2014, but if we look past the superlative Out There, this was the next best game I played in 2014. A kickstarter-funded reboot of the video game franchise/return to the cyberpunk+fantasy universe originally popularized in tabletop gaming, Shadowrun Returns neatly captures all the fun and retro style of 1990s RPGs.  

Bronze – Destiny (Xbox One/PS4)

Nothing on consoles really knocked it out of the park for me, so I guess Destiny wins bronze by default. The game looks gorgeous and plays like Halo updated for the new generation, and that’s a good thing. Plus I appreciate that Bungie are trying to do something different with how they’ve structured the game and narrative. Unfortunately, the gameplay is too repetitive and the narrative feels half-baked, so in the end I didn’t like it as much as Brad did.


Wolfenstein: The New Order - I am a big fan of the Wolfenstein series, but I didn't have high expectations for The New Order. I mean, certainly I have a lot of fond memories of Wolfenstein 3D, but Return to Castle Wolfenstein and Wolfenstein were good games, but not great games. Wolfenstein: The New Order is a great game.  It's probably one of the best first-person shooters of all time. The story, the pacing, the gameplay, the graphics, the sounds, and the whole package is top-notch. It flew under a lot of people's radars, but it should be played by every first-person shooter fan.

Alien: Isolation - In another big victory for first-person games in 2014, Alien: Isolation does this movie series justice. You can read my review here, but the long and the short of it is that it's a well-made game that accurately emulates the atmosphere of the first Alien movie. 

Transistor - Supergiant Games really nailed it with Bastion, and they did it again with Transistor. It has a unique setting, interesting story and characters, and a deep gameplay loop. It's not as straightforward as Bastion, but it's amazing nonetheless.


POSTED BY: brian, sci-fi/fantasy/video game dork and contributor since 2014

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

2014 Holiday Gift Guide: Jemmy and Zhaoyun

Jemmy's Weird Wide World of Wonderment

1. For Those Who See President Obama as a True Superhero...

Yes, we can. We can see our president in saving the world without even breaking a sweat. We can see our president battling evil ninja, wielding samurai swords or even lightsabers, and fighting his old nemesis, Darth Vader. We can see our president whip out a gun, or even an ooze, as he takes down the latest drug lord. We can see him combating all the nation's, nay, the world's ills, and witness the rise to greatness of toydom everywhere. Yes we can.

In all honesty, this might be a tough one to get. This was made by Japanese company Gamu Toys in 2009, and as far as I can tell, they have never assigned a price to it. For more details (for those of you interested in learning Japanese), check out Gamu-Toys Super Obama.  

**Incidentally, Zhaoyun just informed me that this action figure was in his 2013 gift guide. Great minds think alike!

2. For Those Who Love Hodor a Bit Too Much... 

Yes, Hodor has always been my favorite character in GRRM's masterpiece. After all, what character in modern fantasy can possibly match the wit and panache of Westeros's most poignantly lovable giant? The man has a comeback for everything, and has a knack for explaining very difficult concepts using one brilliant word: Hodor. Brevity, as they say, is the sole of wit. And Hodor has brevity in spades...
 Hodor is even known for making truly meaningful haikus. My favorite? Of course, it's this one:

Hodor Hodor Ho-
   dor Hodor Hodor Hodor
Hodor Hodor Ho. 

No Westeros collection is complete without a T-shirt to remind us of the best character in the series...

3. For Those Who Want to Send a Bit of a Surprise...
Okay, now this is not really a gift I recommend getting for... er... well... anyone. But if somebody has irritated you enough, then why not let them spend their holiday season knowing full well how you think of them... all for the low price of US$16.95? Feel free to make use of Shitexpress, a company that specializes in sending its namesake: a piece of shit in a box. Heck, they will even include the animal excrement of your choice! Remember, there's nothing that will ever say "Surprise!" like a steaming pile of shit, straight from China.    

Incidentally, they accept bitcoin, which makes this the first service that will actually sell you shit for bitcoin. Checkout a review of shitexpress at Motherboard.

Holiday Gift Guide — Zhaoyun

In search of that truly quirky masterpiece of a holiday gift? Want something that is both funny and bitingly sardonic? Look no further than this year's Fantabulous Holiday Gift Guide!

1) Toilet Shots

Is your life going down the crapper? Are all your hopes and dreams slowly circling the drain? Then it's time to drink, and not from just any shot-glass. How about a glass that perfectly symbolizes your current existential crisis? (Alternatively, you could give this set of two to a set of two friends of yours whose lowest-common-denominator existence you wish to mock!)


Buy it here!

2) Combination sunglasses/safety glasses that shut out all the light of the world

Reviews claim you can still see with these on, despite the impressive matte black finish, but with these glasses, it's not about what you can see, it's about what everyone else can't—your eyes, two lifeless puppies sunk deep in the lethargy of despair after being kicked by the world one too many times. Plus, they double as safety glasses to handle all your slicing and chopping needs! I'm definitely buying a pair this holiday season...and in all seriousness, they look pretty cool, not to mention the glorious feeling of total anonymity. I could be napping for all you know, suckahs!

Lifeless puppy-dog eyes not included.

Buy them here.

3) Bacon Band-aids

What could possibly go together better than America's favorite fat-tastic breakfast food and boo-boos? Though sadly not made of actual bacon, this simulated experience of laying greasy slabs of pig on your open wounds is sure to please just about anybody! For the perfect trifecta, get your bacon-loving lover/relative bacon balm and, for the best balance between taste and dental care around, the bacon-flavored toothpaste! And you can put all these gifts in the ultimate gift bag! But hold on, naysayers. I realize some of us are vegetarians and/or find pigs distasteful (literally—bam!), which is why, as a special courtesy in honor of the holiday season, tree-hugging vegan hippies like you can enjoy the mac and cheese band-aids instead! What's that? Think mac and cheese is a no-no for vegans? Think again, Bah Humbuggers—what about the "cheese" in mac and cheese possibly convinced you it was made from milk (or indeed, anything other than the sort of chemicals that gave the Joker his poker-face)?

And that, friends, is the true meaning of Christmas!

No, I didn't forget about gifts for kids—as proof, here's the best-tasting formula imaginable!

Buy the bacon band-aids here, or if you're a Jainist, the mac and cheese ones!

Monday, December 22, 2014

2014 Holiday Gift Guide: The G

Hard to top all the excellent gift ideas my fellow nerds of a feather have already suggested, but in case you need some last-minute ideas, here goes...

-The G 

1. Kindle Voyage/Paperwhite or Kobo Aura

At $99, the Paperwhite is an incredible value. The Voyage, meanwhile, is arguably just a dressed up Paperwhite at twice the price. However, the higher resolution and better backlighting do make a difference to those who, like me, suffer from chronic headaches/migraines. I mean, that’s why I bought a dedicated e-reader in the first place—to be easier on the eyes—so if that’s a priority, and you plan to use the thing a lot, it makes sense to spend a little more to get the one that best fits your needs. For those wary of getting sucked into the Amazon ecosystem, the Kobo Aura also has a great reputation. 

2. True Detective: Season One Blu-Ray

The Best Show Ever, says two random guys you should definitely listen to. And at under $20, the DVD edition is practically a steal (you'll spend a bit more for the blu-ray). Sit back, relax and mainline the secret truth of the universe.

Buy: True Detective: Season One Blu-ray or DVD.

3. LEGO Bricks & More Creative Bucket (607 pieces)

Have kids? Don’t have kids but wish you could recapture the creative wonder of childhood? Well, look no further than this big ol’ bucket of Legos! Note these are just the colored blocks—no themes, no branding, just your imagination and 607 pieces to build whatever you can think of.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Holiday Gift Guide - Dean and Charles

Dean's Holiday Gift List

In a surprise to exactly zero people, holidays are not my thing. I hate anyone feeling like they're obligated to get me anything, but here's what you should get other people.

Funko Pop FiguresI love these little buggers. Like, way too much. There are enough to suit any even vaguely geeky interest and will only set you back between $10-20.

LEGO: Seriously, can't go wrong here. Or if you can, you really shouldn't be friends with the person who doesn't like Legos. You can go as large or as small as you want here, so price can go either way. If you're buying for me, the UCS Slave I comes out in January.

Board Games: If they are not already a big gamer, buy the Settlers of Catan and make them play it (if you don't, they'll assume it's a Monopoly clone and shelve it). If they already play a lot of games, you might have to get creative. A Catan or Arkham Horror expansion would probably be a welcome gift for someone who already has a couple hundred bucks sunk into those games. On the cheaper end, Forbidden Island is fantastic and under $20. If you have non-geekly friends who think Apples to Apples/Cards Against Humanity are good games (they are not), may I humbly submit Pit? It is way funner, and intellectually stimulating and you can yell at your family and get away with it.

Charles' Holiday Gift Guide

Salsa Nocturna by Daniel José Older

The reason for this pick has more to do with Half-Resurrection Blues not coming out until early January and so being ineligible for this list. As a fan of urban fantasy and Daniel José Older, it looks amazing. For those unfamiliar with his work, though, Salsa Nocturna is a great sampling of short fiction. Published by Crossed Genres, it's a great way to get a taste for a very talented writer, and a way to whet your appetite for the new novel.
Check it out HERE

Anything from The Signed Page
As a book lover there are few things as sublimely awesome as a book signed by the author. There's just something magical about it, something powerful about holding that in your hands. Enter The Signed Page, a site dedicated to bringing signed new books into your greedy little paws. Available for pre-order (so they can be personalized) or from stock, I love this site. And what's more. Because of moving, all in-stock signed stock is on sale. I'm talking as low as $10 for a signed book!
Go now, HERE.

Munchkin Adventure Time Game

And now for something completely different. Because Adventure Time is amazing. Like my favorite show. And now it's combined with one of my favorite infuriating, I mean fun card games. Probably much easier to just pick and play than the Adventure Time Card Wars (which is a little confusing), this game combines the characters and ridiculousness of Adventure Time with the random and wacky Munchkin system. Seems like a good match to me.
Available HERE.

The Inheritance Trilogy by N.K. Jemisin

Now in one volume. With extra content. Extra content! I really shouldn't have to say more about this. But I will. This is a tremendous deal. Three novels and the bonus content all for about $20. And out just in time for the holidays. I absolutely loved the Dreamblood books, and have thoroughly enjoyed Jemisin's short work as well. And with everything included in this omnibus, it's sure to please both die-hard fans and new readers. Seriously, this is a no-brainer. Go out and get this.
Maybe from HERE.

Through the Woods by Emily Carroll

Like horror? This is the best I have read in a long, long time. Like ever. The art is disturbing, beautiful yet twisted, and the stories are deeply chilling. Carroll's art bleeds from the page and right into our world, twisting images like the iconic Goodnight Moon room into something much, much darker. And nothing says Christmas like unbridled terror, right? 
Get it HERE.

Subscriptions! (I'm talking SFF zines, of course)
There are so many worthy places to throw your money at this holiday season. Or to give as a gift through something like Weightless Books. There are honestly too many magazines to really list them all, but anyone looking to narrow down the list can check out my suggestions in the last two Monthly Rounds. You really can't go wrong with subscriptions, and it supports,  you know, actually paying SFF writers for their craft. Most places release their stuff for free, but there are perks to subscribing and, if you can afford it, why not?

So there it is! I hope you're a little more prepared for this holiday season now!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Thursday Morning Superhero: Holiday Gift Guide Edition

My wife often complains that I am a hard man to shop for during the holiday season.  Partly because I already have too many comic books and board games, but nonetheless it can be quite tricky shopping for the comic loving person in your life.   In lieu of my weekly comic book round-up, I thought it might be helpful if I provided some handy comic related gift suggestions.

For the comic book fan who thinks he or she has everything:

With licenses like Hell Boy, Chew, Locke and Key, and Mouse Guard, there is a good chance that the Skeleton Crew Studio will have something unique.  I have a number of their products (some Locke and Key keys and a pink Chog) and their attention to detail is stunning.

For the old school comic book reader:

Somehow Boom! Studios acquired the rights to produce officially licensed Big Trouble in Little China tanks.  For the inner Jack Burton in all of us, these extremely limited shirt will without question be one of the biggest hits this holiday season.  It is going to take crackerjack timing as only 200 of these babies are being printed!

For the comic book risk taker:

Do you know someone who isn't afraid to jump into a new series?  Someone who looks forward to the big events despite the repercussions (there usually aren't any real repercussions) that may occur?  If you don't mind taking a stab in the dark, the good folk at J and K Stuff offer custom mystery boxes.  They range from $10 to $100 and they even offer a mystery  Wolverine box.  The items are guaranteed to be new and the value is guaranteed value of the purchase price.  I have seen some posts of people's hauls on various forms of social media and these are a lot of fun.

For the person who actually wants a comic book:

Unless someone tells you, it is usually quite difficult to know what comic to actually purchase for someone.  What if they already have it?  If you are concerned about these things, but know what types of comics they are a fan of, you should consider getting him or her a limited edition trade.  One of my favorites is the Sixth Gun: Gunslinger edition (limited to 1,000 units), but if you want some more options you should really check out IDW Limited.   They offer a range of items from G.I. Joe to My Little Pony.  While you are there feel free to order me a shiny Locke and Key Black Label book.  I'm not picky and will accept any of them.

POSTED BY MIKE N. aka Victor Domashev -- comic guy, proudly raising nerdy kids, and Nerds of a Feather contributor since 2012.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

2014 Holiday Nerd Gift Guide - English Scribbler

This time next year the new Star Wars film will be out and, although my wife has resolutely never seen any of them and describes Chewbecca as "that stupid talking dog", we have a 4 month old son who has 12 months to do the following in no particular order of importance :

- learn to sit
- learn to crawl
- learn to eat solid food
- learn to stand
- learn to walk a bit
- learn some basic English phrasing like "Can we go see The Force Awakens in IMAX 3D please father?"

Within this time it is paramount that given his disinterest in reading or understanding advertising that I indoctrinate him fully in the Star Wars universe. Purely for his own benefit. With that in mind my gift guide this year is perhaps the most selfless (and therefore Christmassy) act since Oates walked out of that tent into the Antarctic night, for it is not for me, but for him. You're welcome, Jesus.

For Bedtime Reading:  'Darth Vader and Son' by Jeffrey Brown

An initially unpromising cash-in of an idea, Brown immediately counters this with warm yet edgy humour and a firm grasp of both Lucasland and parent/childhood. Also available is a Princess Leia version for those of you lucky to have a pink human version. This little beauty will probably end up with chewed corners and sick stains so I might just keep this on the bookshelf and read him Seuss's Mr Brown Can Moo. Can You? again. Amazon.

For Those First Steps: R2D2 Crocs

Check out these bad boys. Sure, soon he will only want ones featuring whatever Ja-Ja annoyance Abrams and co come up with , but for now these sleek retro steppers will be constantly falling off into dog poo and then shoved by him into his mouth and driving us crazy after the first few seconds of amusement. Amazon.

For Waking Him Up In The Morning When I'm Hungover and He is Staying Over After I Get Thrown Out For Going On About A Kids Film With Talking Dogs In All The Time: Boba Fett Lamp and Alarm Clock

You will definitely get up with this slightly rotund Boba blaring at you, and you will make your dad toast and coffee. 
For I am your father. 


I know that by around March next year I'll already be sick of the hype and guiding Benjamin towards something less mainstream but in the meantime this can haunt his dreams.



Posted By : English Scribbler, contributor and resident monarchist since 2013.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Holiday Gift Guide (for Girls?) - Tia and Vance

Here at Nerds of a Feather, we're big believers in women in the sciences and the science fictions. And since I have three daughters, the oldest of whom is actively building up her nerd cred more and more, I pitched co-contributor Tia the idea of doing a gift guide for girls that goes in a totally different direction than your mainstream pink-and-princesses type guides we all see everywhere this time of year. The gifts that follow, then, are not really gender-specific, but we hope that if you're shopping for a special kid with an interest in nerdy things, regardless of their chromosomes, these will give you some ideas.

Gift Guide - Vance

I bestow upon you earned knowledge. Each of the gifts below has been kid-tested in my own home, so I've seen these things in action in grubby little kid paws, and pronounce them winners.

Board Games

The two most popular games in my house this year have been Labyrinth and King of Tokyo. Labyrinth is a board game made up of moving tiles that you can shift on your turn in order to create a path to the next piece of treasure you must collect. It's fun, and a wonderful exercise in spatial reasoning. In King of Tokyo, you are a monster battling other monsters for control of Tokyo. What's not to love?
Labyrinth from Amazon King of Tokyo at Amazon


I loved the 1960s Batman TV series when I was a kid, but in a new world that includes sprawling effects spectacles like The Avengers, I wasn't sure how the campy antics of Adam West and Burt Ward would go over. I needn't have worried. All three girls come from wherever they are in the house to dance when they hear the theme song begin, and all those "Pow"s "Biff"s and "Zowie"s have been tremendous fun for somebody who just learned to read. Now the complete series is available on disc for the first time, and even comes packaged with a snazzy die-cast Batmobile.

Monster Feet

My eldest daughter loves monsters and Godzilla. Somebody gave her some pink monster-feet house shoes, which are fine, but she and I both prefer the Godzilla feet slippers she has. Seeing a little kid walk around the house in these things is simply the best. It's the best.

Gift Guide - Tia

Dealing with Dragons: Book One of the Enchanted Forrest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede

This was my all time favorite book growing up. It’s about an improper princess named Cimorene, who doesn’t behave as a princess ought to. She tries to learn fencing and cleaning and magic and Latin…all subjects that are denied to princesses. But uncovering her parents’ plan to force her into an arranged marriage is the last straw and Cimorene skips town, eventually finding herself in the company of some dragons. She volunteers to be the dragons’ “captive,” a position she thoroughly enjoys, despite all the annoying rescue attempts by knights in shining armor.

I think I loved this book so much because it was different than all the other princess stories. I was condemned to Catholic school as I kid, so I could fully relate to being expected to act a certain way and not being able to learn anything cool. I can’t speak for the trilogy as a whole, because I never even knew there was more than one book until recently, but Dealing with Dragons is a story that will live in a little girl’s heart forever (well mine at least).

Harry Potter Gryffindor Jersey

This is the all time most awesome Harry Potter shirt EVER! When I finally made it to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter this summer, I was so overwhelmed with nerdiness I couldn’t handle it. Not to mention, the Diagon Alley expansion was finished but not open to the public yet, so I had to deal with that crushing blow at the same time. Talk about mixed feelings. I’m not going to lie, I did contemplate jumping the fence. There was only one guard on duty and I know I could have outrun him. But anyway, I saw so many little folks rocking this top around Orlando and it was fantastic. It’s not your typical flimsy T-Shirt, it has a little more substance to it and even some embroidery. I opted not to buy myself one while I was there and purchased a wand instead, a decision I regret. At a recent Harry Potter festival in Philadelphia I saw a mother-daughter duo sporting these matching HP jerseys and it was to die for. Universal Studios.

National Geographic Archaeology Kit: Pyramid Dig

Lets face it. Archaeology is cool, mythology is cool, and digging in the dirt is really, really cool. I worked as an archeologist for a time and was the only girl on the field crew (i.e., dirt diggers). All the other girls at the company worked in either administration or as researchers. If you ask me, we need more girls in the dirt digging department. This Ancient Egypt archaeology set looks like so much fun, and may be just the type of thing to get more of today’s youth interested in history and digging. It comes with a little chisel, brush, hammer, mummy, and sarcophagus. It even has directions on how to mummify an apple! Be aware though, this kit contains choking hazards, so make sure that the recipient of this gift isn’t one to eat non-food items.  Amazon.  

(Editor's note: Tia and I had overlapping gift recommendations, although mine involved digging up dinosaur bones, not ancient civilizations. Both are super cool. Here's the T-Rex skeleton dig we have here. - V)