Lost Kitties Collector's Guide Lost on Non-Collectors

I grew up in an era where baseball cards were things to chase, where sealed packs kept you from knowing what you were going to get. The cards smelled like bubblegum and the bubblegum tasted like cardboard.

So the "mystery package" concept isn't new to me as a collector. But the "mystery toy" package is something of a more recent development (said mystery toys found in cereal and Cracker Jack boxes notwithstanding). Hot Wheels has their mystery car concept, and Zerboz delivered mystery plastic superheroes for a while.

The most recent development in this collectible craze is Lost Kitties, from Hasbro. I know this because I have the LOST KITTIES COLLECTOR'S GUIDE, written by Maggie Fisher with design work by Hasbro. That is, from this book's title, I know there are these things called Lost Kitties and that they can be collected. As to how well I am guided in that effort, well, that's another matter.


Macri and Zanotti's The Wall Well-Intended, But Problematic

The Wall A Timeless Tale

In a colorful kingdom, the king takes a walk with his advisor, and discovers there are many people in the land who do not look like him. Wishing not to see them, he orders them banished, and when that is not enough, he calls for a wall to be built.

But he has already sent away the wall builders. Finding he needs them, he has them called back to do the work.

And that is the first flaw in Giancarlo Macri and Carolina Zanotti's children's book, THE WALL: A TIMELESS TALE, illustrated by Mauro Sacco and elisa Vallarino.

The story sets out with the noblest of intentions--to instill in children the lesson that people who look different are still people, and that they have talents and skills to be appreciated. Teaching children not to exclude based on looks is something all decent human beings want for the next generation.


Steampunk Terrorism Clear and Present Danger in Latest Newbury and Hobbes Adventure from Titan

Newbury & Hobbes: The Undying

Sir Maurice Newbury and Veronica Hobbes are special agents to the Queen who specialize in the outre. Their world may seem to be another steampunk genre adventure, but it is much, much more than that. It's as though the best Victorian-era Doctor Who episodes were used as the backdrop for the forerunners of Jonathan Steed and Emma Peel.

Our saga opens with Sir Maurice and Miss Hobbes in a street brawl, battling masked cultists. But these are no mere anarchists, for behind their masks lies a gruesome discover -- they are a mesh of man and machine, operated on by some mad genius who has advanced science and stunted ethics.


Cirsova Publishing Announces Fully Illustrated 70th Anniversary Edition of Leigh Brackett’s Stark Trilogy

Cirsova Stark Anniversary

Little Rock, AR, 4/1/2019— Cirsova Publishing has teamed up with StarTwo to create an all-new, fully illustrated 70th Anniversary Edition of Leigh Brackett’s original Eric John Stark Trilogy. Cirsova Publishing aims to bring the action, adventure and romance of Leigh Brackett to a new generation of readers.

First published in the Summer of 1949, Queen of the Martian Catacombs introduced the world to Eric John Stark, the black mercenary swordsman. Stark’s adventures continued on Venus in 1949’s The Enchantress of Venus, and the swordsman returned to the Red Planet in 1951’s Black Amazon of Mars. While Brackett would revisit the character in 1970s with the Skaith trilogy, the original novellas are significant as one of the last iconic Sword & Planet cycles of the pulp era.


We Wonder if He Saw This Coming? Charles Soule's The Oracle Year Nabs Best Book of 2018

The Oracle Year by Charles Soule

Our apologies, dear readers, for the glacial pacing of our announcements for the 2018 Best Of awards. Our focus has been on our relocation efforts, and sadly some of our other duties have suffered in the wake of that. But the show, as they say, must go on, and so we find ourselves announcing the Best novel of 2018.

The year saw some really good books come out, and it was very difficult to narrow down even a list of nominees, let alone select a very best of the selection -- especially with titles like CLOD MAKES A FRIEND by David Pedersen, WRATH OF THE DRAGON KING by Brandon Mull, and THE FANDOM by Anna Day. 

However, by a splinter of the vote, the award goes to Charles Soule for his first novel, THE ORACLE YEAR, about a young man who wakes up one morning with the ability to predict the future with 100% accuracy.


Stain by A. G. Howard

Stain by AG Howard

Stain’s real name is Princess Lyra.  She is the only daughter of King Kiran and Queen Arael; however, Queen Arael dies during child-birth.  King Kiran adores his daughter and is willing to do anything for her.  King Kiran has a despicable sister named Lady Griselda who has three daughters.


Silver Dolphin Books Teach Rock and Rap History to Toddlers

Story of Rap Story of Rock

The Story of Rock begins with blues music then goes on to discuss rock and roll. This book illustrates Elvis and the Beatles. It goes on to discuss Woodstock and later mentions the ever-so-timely Queen, before moving on to bands of the 80s. Many, many musicians and groups are depicted. The final statement is, “rock and roll will never, ever die!”

The Story of Rap begins in 1973 when rap began in New York City. It discusses what rap is. It mentions that rap was the first of its kind, and depicts the rappers who made it famous. It states truthfully that rap is just like all music: “For the people … and a work of heart.” 


New In-Canon Tarzan Story Debuts Today: Young Tarzan and the Mysterious She

Tarzan Mysterious She Burroughs Tierney

How often have you wished you could get just one more story out of a favorite author who has passed on to that great bookbinding plant in the sky? One more Ray Bradbury thriller, one more Agatha Christie whodunnit.

One more Edgar Rice Burroughs adventure with Tarzan.

If you nodded wistfully to that last statement, you're in luck, because today marks the debut of a new Tarzan story by Burroughs -- with an assist by Michael Tierney. YOUNG TARZAN AND THE MYSTERIOUS SHE is the product of an unfinished Burroughs tale that made its way to light through Tierney's relationship with the Burroughs estate. Initially thought to be contradictory with current Tarzan canon -- Jane Porter being the first blonde woman Tarzan meets, per Burroughs orthodoxy -- the story posed a perlplexing problem, one that Tierney took on and resolved, using established Tarzan lore so that nothing contradicts anything else -- making this tale legitimate canon in the Tarzan universe.


Voting Open for Best of 2018 Awards

2018 Award Voting

Another year has come and gone. 2018 is officially in the rear-view mirror, and we've gone hurtling into 2019 like the Sweet Meteor o' Death.

But before we get too deep into the New Year, we've reached that point where we reflect on all that happened in the previous year that was good and notable, and cast our votes as to what was the best of the best ("of the best, sir!")

So here we go again! It's time to pick the Critical Blast Best of the Year for Movies, Television, Actors, Books, and Comics -- and, of course, to pick our CRITICAL BLAST BOMBSHELL OF THE YEAR! So use the handy form below to pick from this year's nominees -- or suggest one that you think is deserving that we missed (so long as the work happened during 2018). Voting is open through the end of January, and on February 1 we'll start tabulating the results and announcing the winners!

So long, 2018! You gave us some great entertainment!


Exclusive Reveal! The Title of the Next ANGST Novel by David J. Pedersen is...

Angst Audiobook Cover

Fans of David J. Pedersen's ANGST series are in for a couple of treats, not the least of which is the newest installment of the epic "Midlife Crisis in Medieval Times."

The ANGST books have followed a pattern, beginning with the second book, of giving readers clues to the magical elements involved in each adventure, with titles like BURIED IN ANGST (Earth), BURNING WITH ANGST (Fire), and DROWNING IN ANGST (Water).

So what is the fateful title of ANGST 5? That's part of our exclusive interview. Watch here...

(Rather just listen? Plug in and take a listen to the CRITICAL PODBLAST podcast!)


Dragon Rider: The Griffin's Feather by Cornelia Funke

Dragon Rider - The Griffin's Feather

Ben Greenbloom lives on the island of Mimameidr with his adoptive family, which includes Barnabas his father, Vita his mother, and Guinevere his sister.  On the island, the Greenblooms protect all fabulous creatures like dragons, trolls, rats, a homunculus, centaurs, ravens, geese, swans and many more.  Ben is a dragon rider for Firedrake, the dragon, and during their adventures together; they have become the best of friends.

This story takes off when a Pegasus and his three unborn foals arrive on the island.  The inhabitants of Mimameidr must aid the Pegasus and his offspring. In their travels, they encounter griffins, gibbons, krakens, crabs, lorises, jackal scorpions, and proboscis monkeys.


The Nutcracker and the Four Realms: A Center Stage Pop-Up Book

Nutcracker Pop Up

The Nutcracker is a well-known and beloved Christmas story performed yearly by ballerinas all across the country. This book, and the recently released movie, puts a new and different twist on Clara’s life. Clara’s mother has passed, and Clara discovers Four Realms or “otherworlds” of which her mother had been the queen. At a pageant held for Clara, a beautiful ballerina dances gracefully and elegantly, bringing the story to life. Not all the “otherworlds” are happy ones, and Clara’s goal is to make all the worlds peaceful once again. 


Where Dragonwoofs Sleep and the Fading Creeps

Where Dragonwoofs Sleep

When thirteen-year-old Ben wakes up in a fantasy land called Meridia, he encounters evil faeries, transparent elves, and others like him called 'weeds.'  The world he has entered is disappearing, or 'fading.'  All things are vanishing.  ”What once was, never was.”  Fortunately, Ben is wearing a watch, albeit broken, that can stop the Fading.  He befriends brother elves, Tamerlane and Charlemagne, as well as other weeds Queen Regent Avery and Marcus.  They are attacked, and barely escape one of the Sovereign’s generals in the queen’s crystal castle.  Together they set out on an adventure to find The Creator to stop the Fading.  During the journey, they acquire three dragonwoofs, creatures Ben describes as, “You really are just a dog, aren’t you?”  The dragonwoofs used to be able to fly and breathe fire; but no longer, and they are almost extinct in Meridia.


Just in Time for Christmas -- DC Comics Super Heroines: 100 Greatest Moments

100 Greatest DC Superheroine Moments

Following up on his chronicling of the Justice League's 100 Greatest Moments, comics historian and science fiction veteran Robert Greenberger manages to top himself with DC Comics Super Heroines: 100 Greatest Moments. And while I wasn't particularly fond of the artwork selected for the packaging, finding it not particularly attractive, there's an adage about "books and covers" that comes into play.

This beautiful hardcover book isn't one that you rush through. You linger over each page and, if you're like me, you find yourself in one of two places: you're either recalling happily the first time you saw this event happen, perhaps when it was new to everyone, or you find yourself discovering something you've never known happened and now have something to seek out and add to your collection.


Star Wars: Millennium Falcon Book and Mega Model -- A Lesson in Frustration

Millenium Falcon Book and Model

If you have high blood pressure or low stress thresholds, be warned. This book is probably not for you.

No, that's not a knock on the last STAR WARS film, SOLO, which doesn't even come into play in the historical timeline presented in this book. I haven't even seen that film to comment on it. (It does include milestones from THE FORCE AWAKENS, which I have seen, but I'm not going to hold that against the book either.)

No, the triggering factors of this book are not what you read out of it, but what you punch out of it.

You see, while this is a rather thick book, the reading portion is not that many pages. The rest of the book is cardboard pages with perforated sections that, when following the instructions in order, ostensibly can be assembled into a 3D replica of the Millennium Falcon itself.

Provided, of course, you have patience, skill, patience, and probably a half a tube of super glue. Also, patience.


Star Wars Writer Goes to the Dark Side, Ousted by The Force of Marvel

Shadow of Vader

"Fear is the path to the Dark Side.

Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering."

If Master Yoda hadn't lived a long time ago, and in a galaxy far, far away, he might have said that it also leads to termination. That's what Star Wars writer Chuck Wendig discovered when he took to Twitter in the aftermath of the confirmation of Brett Kavenaugh to the Supreme Court.

The Kavenaugh hearings were a hotly contested subject of conversation in social media, with both sides absolutely convinced the other side was sheer evil, and had to be defeated. So it should come as no surprise that there were many less-than-civil discussions to be had.

But one would think that someone who was as versed in Star Wars lore and Chuck Wendig should be would have recognized the roadsigns, and heeded them rather than plowed over them. Here's how it played out.


Rex Royd Revels in Radical Restructuring of Reality

Imagine if Lex Luthor was about a million times smarter, and his avowed enemy wasn't Superman, but the reality that created Superman in the first place.

That's (maybe) the plot of REX ROYD, a disjointed collection of mind-f*cks from the mind of Frankie Boyle and Jim Muir. 

Rex is a businessman, CEO of Rexcorp. What the company does is hard to say, There's an indestructible superbeing who helps him, an unnamed British agent with a license to kill, and Eve -- the biblical Eve

The ostensible target is Proteoman -- the book's analog for Superman. Thing is, seems he dies a couple of different times in the book. And as for truth and justice, he seems to just fight because he exists.


Whatever After: Abby in Wonderland

Whatever Ever - Abby in Wonderland

Abby is eleven years old and lives in Smithville with her mother, father, Jonah her younger brother, and their dog named Prince.  Abby and Jonah have a secret fairy friend named Maryrose who is trapped in a mirror in their basement.  Abby, Jonah, and even Prince typically go on fairy tale adventures when Maryrose helps them enter through the mirror.


The Pros of Cons (Alison Cherry, Lindsay Ribar, Michelle Schusterman)

The Pros of Cons

Callie is an only child of a world-renowned taxidermist.  She helps her father in his shop as his assistant.  Callie’s mother and father are divorced and, since the divorce, this is about the only time she spends with her dad. 



The House with Chicken Legs by Sophie Anderson

House with Chicken Legs

Marinka is twelve-years-old and lives with her Baba, or grandmother, and her pet bird, a jackdaw named Jack.  Marinka’s grandmother is a Yaga, a Guardian who guides dead people through “The Gate” so they can return to the stars and complete the cycle.  Marinka never meets people who are alive, as they must keep their distance from the living, but she yearns for a real friend and a normal life with the living.

The most unusual and amazing thing about Marinka’s life is her house.  Her house is the home to The Gate; it cares for, comforts, and protects Marinka; and moves on chicken legs at will.


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