Tag Archive | Nate Philbrick

Review: Strange Waters Anthology (Phoenix Fiction Writers)

I’m excited to share with y’all a review for this anthology of sci-fi and fantasy stories from the Phoenix Fiction Writers!

Title: Strange Waters

Authors: the Phoenix Fiction Writers

(E.B. Dawson, C. Scott Frank, Janelle Garrett, Hannah Heath, Nate Philbrick, K.L. + Pierce, J.E. Purrazzi, Kyle Robert Shultz, Beth Wangler)

  • Date read: January 30, 2020
  • Rating: 5 stars
  • Genre: Sci-fi / Fantasy / Short Stories / Anthology
  • Year pub: 2019
  • Pages: 302
  • Source: The publisher
  • Notes: I received a free e-copy of this anthology from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions are my own.
  • Links: GoodreadsAmazonAuthor’s Website

(5 stars to the collection overall! The stories might have different ratings, but most of them are 4’s or 5’s, definitely!)

STRANGE WATERS features nine sci-fi and fantasy stories from nine different authors. These tales range from intense to all the feels to hilarious and they’re all original and well-written!

A couple of them were too scary for me personally, but kudos to all these authors for writing such captivating stories in such a short space, all incredibly different even though they all feature the image on the cover! I had a blast reading this!

Here are some brief thoughts on each story. 🙂


Backpack Boy – by Nate Philbrick

Wow, talk about good writing. O_O I haven’t read a story like this before but it was sooo interesting and well-written. I loved the backpack boy and how things weren’t as they seemed and the sheer imagination of it. There were definitely feels, and I love how everything slowly got revealed. So original and yet classic-seeming, and like a definition of childhood.


Finer Things – by C. Scott Frank

Whoa! I loved this one! It’s very sci-fi, and sci-fi has to work hard to make me like it, but I was intrigued the entire time, on the edge of my seat, and I really liked the characters and their lively banter! Soren is my fave. They’re adorable. I love it! Fabulous and one of my favorites. ^_^


Roanoke – by J.E. Purrazzi

This one is set on an icy planet and I felt sooo cold reading it, so I guess it succeeded. XD Intense and exciting and unique! I liked the time element, and I was on the edge of my seat the entire time, rooting for our heroine Ketera! I’ve found myself thinking of this one several times since I read it and sometimes feel like I watched a movie of it instead of reading a short story.


Kamynosa’s Labyrinth – by Beth Wangler

I absolutely loved the islands and nautical feel of this one! Princess Kamynosa was a fierce part of this competition. XD I especially loved Jadairos! He was my favorite. 🙂 It’s told like a history, which meant it took me a minute to get into it, since we feel a little removed from the story at first, but was also a really cool touch in another way. And everything was so vivid!


Barnaby Brown and the Glass Sea – by E.B. Dawson

THIS ONE! Oh my word. XD I’ve adored every E.B. Dawson short story I’ve read so far, and this one was so, so much fun! This unorthodox archaeology professor and his snark, though! I love Barnaby Brown so much. XD I kept wanting to quote the whole thing. Throw in unlucky Oliver and some shenanigans and problems and it’s just a riot. I love it so much! The idea of an archaeologist on another world/planet is so cool, by the way. And the ending was suuuper intriguing! Aaahh! Plus, fabulous banter. I love banter and humor and this one totally has a ton of both. 😀 One of my favorites!


Through the Lens – by K.L.+Pierce

This one was really fascinating, if a little scary, and I really liked the mind elements to it. It felt sort of quest-like and I was really curious to see what was going to happen, because I had no idea! I was confused a couple of times, but got straightened out, and a couple of the twists I did not see coming at all. o.o So yes, great suspense, and intriguing!


Ric Vayne and the Curse of Ghoul Nebula – by Kyle Robert Shultz

Disclaimer: I edited this one. But it’s absolutely hilarious and I love it so much. XD Ric Vayne, a space wizard, gets turned into a space ship, and shenanigans ensue. His dry narration, the humor, and the hilarious way that Ovo (the bird-like alien character) speaks totally made this story. I kept laughing. XD Another favorite!


The Underground – by Janelle Garrett

This one was SUPER INTENSE and I’m pretty sure I didn’t breathe the entire time I was reading it! *nervous laughter* It was terrifying, dystopian-ish story, with a good blend of fantasy and sci-fi feel. Oh, and I really liked Kef! It was just a bit too creepy for me, personally (I don’t do well with scariness or dystopian feels!), but certainly super well-written, and I never knew where it was going to go next. I’m sure many readers will enjoy it. ^_^


This Pain Inside – by Hannah Heath

This one was super fascinating and intriguing! I had similar problems with it as with the previous one, because, again, I’m just not a dystopian/post-apocalyptic person — sorry! It was really intense and scary and full of feels. But the writing was awesome, and the message, and the ending, and everything was very vivid. The under-the-sea stuff was intriguing, and I loved the mermaid tails. So, too scary for me, but that’s just me. XD But I definitely couldn’t put it down! Wow. Oh, and I liked how music was a part of it!


Overall, my favorites were Barnaby Brown and the Glass Sea and Ric Vayne and the Mystery of Ghoul Nebula, because I love funny stories, and they were both just so much fun. XD But all of the others were super good too (even the scary ones!) and I really enjoyed the collection as a whole! Definitely check this one out! 🙂


A Few Favorite Quotes

“You don’t think they’ll come looking for us down here? They never come down here. They’ve never had a good enough reason.”

Soren smiles mischievously. “I’m afraid I may have given them one.”

— Finer Things (C. Scott Frank)


“But you haven’t told me much about this expedition,” Oliver said. “Maybe we could talk about that. What’s this exciting find?”

“Well, you remember when Folger discovered the ancient city of Telia Cross?”

Oliver’s face brightened a shade. “Yes.”

“Well, it won’t be like that,” Barnaby muttered.

Oliver’s face fell. “Probably just as well. I’m allergic to dust.”

“We’re investigating the origin of a strange marking on a two-inch piece of potsherd,” Barnaby said.

“That sounds a little more likely.”

***

“I had no idea archaeology was so dangerous,” Oliver said.

— Barnaby Brown and the Glass Sea (E.B. Dawson)


Everything was worse in the middle of the night, including sarcasm.

— The Underground (Janelle Garrett)


I also want to quote the entire Ric Vayne story (it’s by Kyle Robert Shultz; of course it’s quotable and hilarious), and more Barnaby Brown, but I will leave readers to discover them instead. XD


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Thanks for reading! 🙂

Strange Waters: New Phoenix Fiction Anthology!

Just a quick announcement to share that the new short story collection from the delightful Phoenix Fiction Writers is releasing TODAY! *applause and confetti*

I’m so excited to read Strange Waters (you’ll hear from me again with a review once I do) and you can read on for more about these sci-fi or fantasy stories from a group of talented authors! 😀

(I did read the one by Kyle Robert Shultz, which I edited — it’s hilarious and space fantasy and yes you need it in your life. I can’t wait to read the others!

Links

THE STORIES

Here’s more about each individual story that’s collected under the gorgeous cover above!

Backpack Boy by Nate Philbrick (www.natephilbrick.com)

Pirates have kidnapped Mum and taken her to the cave across the island.

The boy with the red backpack has everything he needs to rescue Mum: a map, a wooden sword, a book about pirate adventures, and a ham sandwich. Most importantly of all, he has his elephant.

But wooden swords and ham sandwiches might not be enough for the boy with the red backpack to face the truth he’s afraid of the most.

And the island starts to crumble…

Finer Things by C. Scott Frank (www.scottfrank.com)

Soren Tallweather and Tabitha Courtney are madly in love with each other and furiously in hate with the society that says they can never be together. They could escape, if only they had the means to buy anonymity. If they can get their hands on the right merchandise, that can certainly be arranged.

It was supposed to be in and out, but no job ever goes according to plan. Now it’s a race against the clock to get to safety with an all-too-familiar enemy on their tails. But justice, it seems, picks the most inopportune times to show up.

Everything they thought they had is at stake as Tabitha must settle the war within herself: what’s more important? Her own freedom or those less fortunate than her?

Roanoke by J.E. Purrazzi (www.jillanepurrazzi.com)

How far would you go to save your enemies?

The invention of trans-time communication has locked Ketera’s bloodline into a single destiny. A destiny that Ketera has been preparing her whole life to fulfill. While her friends mapped out their hopes and dreams, she mapped her voyage across the stars–a voyage to a lost colony on a dangerous water-covered planet that will one day declare war on Earth.

Two ships have been sent: one negotiating for peace, the other prepared for war. If Ketera’s mission as ambassador fails, the warship following in her wake will take whatever measures are necessary in order to protect the future.

But the road ahead of Ketera is dangerous, and her mission will take her away from everything familiar, across a planet of violent extremes, and into the frozen, sunless expanse. And all to save her enemies.

Kamynosa’s Labyrinth by Beth Wangler (www.bethwangler.com)

Princess Kamynosa doesn’t need anyone’s help. Anyone could see she will be quite capable of being the Archipelago’s Archon on her own.

But her parents haven’t noticed that. No, they have called for a Labyrinth.

Disgruntled and eager to prove she can do it alone, Kamynosa commandeers a boat and joins the Labyrinth to win herself. She has every confidence that she will soar past the other competitors on the sparkling seas.

Yet Captain’s Heir Jadairos obnoxiously stays close in her wake.  Even worse—he has a hero complex.

Proving that Kamynosa doesn’t need anyone just got a bit more challenging.

Barnaby Brown and the Glass Sea by E.B. Dawson (www.ebdawsonwriting.com)

An unorthodox professor of archaeology sets off to find his own answers about an unusual archaeological find, accompanied by an accident-prone student in need of extra credit.

The Archaeological Society of Catalan has pieced together a long and rich history for the planet of Illiana, based on a revolutionary dating system. But Dr. Barnaby Brown has his doubts about the accuracy of the procedure, which tends to give out false readings. His private findings seem to suggest that nothing on the planet is more than 500 years old–a hypothesis which, if proven true, would shake the very core of society.

When a set of incongruous new artifacts turn up, Barnaby learns they are inextricably linked to an old legend surrounding the Glass Sea. With an accident-prone student in tow, he sets out to find answers for himself and embarks on an adventure he never bargained for.

Through the Lens by K.L.+Pierce (www.klpiercebooks.com)

Viatem is here…and Dion does not have a gift for his younger sister.

Thankfully, he has a backup plan: a telescope that can see into the next galaxy.

But when completing the telescope means breaking into an enemy military installation, Dion will have to look within himself, and decide whether cutting through the shadows of his sister’s world is worth the price.

Ric Vayne and the Curse of Ghoul Nebula by Kyle Robert Shultz (www.kylerobertshultz.com)

Any wizard can fly a spaceship. Hotshot pilot Ric Vayne can fly one better than most. But just as he’s about to land a job that could finally pay off his bar bill, he finds himself pressed into service by a deranged captain.

That wouldn’t be so bad…except that Ric isn’t expected to fly the ship. When he wakes up after getting kidnapped, he discovers that he is the ship.

Which is a bad thing for many reasons–including, but not limited to, the fact that Ric no longer has fingers to hold his spellblaster. If Ric is ever going to get his soul out of a computer core and back into his body, he’ll have to be very clever about it.

But he’ll also have to work fast…because he’s headed for Ghoul Nebula, a place of pure chaos magic. And no pilot–or  ship–gets out of there alive.

The Underground by Janelle Garrett (www.janellegarrettwriter.com)

What if everything you believed was actually true?

His whole life, Kef has been told he is too idealistic. His older sister, Hiya, insists the Deep is a lost memory. It disappeared from the Raized Domains centuries ago.  Kef wants to believe the Domains haven’t been abandoned, but everything points to the contrary. Their parents mysteriously vanished. People keep turning up dead or missing.

And then, Hiya is taken by the feared Dragons.

Kef will stop at nothing to rescue her, including traversing to the Underground itself to take on the Dragons. What he finds there will change the whole sphere: but will he be too late to rescue Hiya?

This Pain Inside by Hannah Heath (www.hannahheathwriter.com)

The Poison that destroyed the surface has come to claim the deep. It is severing electricity lines, imploding underwater houses, and destroying the solar power rafts humanity uses as its energy source. The Neons, people who act as hosts for a magical force, are fighting an ever-losing battle to keep the Poison at bay.

But that isn’t any of Charlie’s business. All Charlie can think about is finding a cure for her chronic pain. After all, she is too tired and too weak to help fight the Poison. If she can just make the pain go away, maybe then she’ll be worth something. Maybe then she’ll become useful enough and strong enough to join the fight.

But when the Poison begins to threaten what little family she has left, Charlie may just have to rethink her views on pain, worth, and what makes a person strong.


There you are! I hope you’re looking forward to it like I am! Happy birthday to Strange Waters! *throws confetti*

Do you like anthology collections? I’m often hit or miss on short stories but I’m definitely looking forward to these!

Where the Woods Grow Wild by Nate Philbrick

Title: Where the Woods Grow Wild
Author: Nate Philbrick

  • Date read: June 1, 2017
  • Rating: 5 stars
  • Genre: Fantasy
  • Age: YA
  • Year pub: 2016
  • Pages: 375 (Kindle)
  • Series: I’ve heard rumors of a sequel…! *excited bounce* *NEED*
  • Fave character: Martin… and all of them! ❤
  • Source: The author
  • Notes: I received a free e-copy of this book from the author for review purposes (many thanks! :)). I was not required to write a positive review; these opinions are my own.
  • Links: AmazonGoodreads • Author’s Blog

First thing’s first: I LOVED THIS BOOK SO MUCH! *hugs it* (Warning: Fangirling zone ahead.)

Where the Woods Grow Wild (don’t you love that title?) is SO much fun, as well as extremely well-written and completely gripping. It’s original fantasy, yet at the same time has this classic feel, so that I almost feel like I’ve known it forever, even though I just read it this month. It’s NEW and fresh and surprising, yet feels like an old friend, reminding me somehow of the “feel” of Prydain or Narnia, and I love it. 😀

It’s utterly surprising, with so many twists, and I had NO idea where it was heading, which made for an extremely fun yet suspenseful ride. I absolutely loved how separate but connected Martin’s and Elodie’s storylines were as they searched for each other. Like… it’s hard to explain, but I’ve never seen anything done like that and it was brilliant and well done.

THIS BOOK IS HILARIOUS, in this sometimes subtle, totally fun way. You know you love a book when you want to quote every other line aloud. XD I love love LOVE humorous stories, and I kept giggling and reading quotes out loud and using my handy Kindle highlighter feature to highlight my favorites (which was… most of the book). (I don’t highlight in real books. That’s a huge no. So, amazingly, ebooks do occasionally have advantages…)

I also loved the characters and I feel like I know each and every one of them SO well. ❤

  • There’s our hero, Martin, who’s great and relatable. Perfect hero material. He’s one of my faves. 🙂
  • Next is Elodie, who is AWESOME—she’s one of those fabulous heroines that you just love their spunk and heart! 🙂
  • There’s also Illo, who I can’t really say much about, but let me tell you, this girl is one of the most original characters I’ve met, somehow, and so very sparky. XD She’s so much fun to read; especially her bantering with the others.
  • Then there’s Bramble! Oh my goodness. I, again, can’t say much, but Bramble is one of the most hilarious and cute but also… erm… hard to decide about characters ever. I LOVED READING ABOUT BRAMBLE! He’s a fuzzy little creature who talks in very strange, funny ways in third-person and just—AWK, SO CUTE AND SUCH A MESS BUT SO CUUUUUTE!! *flails around* (His name for Elodie, “the sun-drop girl” was my favorite!) Seriously, so much hilarious dialog! Bramble was one of the most fun things about the book. XD

Other characters include Fella (awesome), Podgin (mushrooms! He is food-obsessed, which was so fun), Aquilax (eep, but yes please), General Tum (dryad), and of course, the mysterious Nayadu (so much spoilers, awk), but you’ll have to meet them yourself because I don’t want to rob you of the delightful chance of discovering this story on your own. Meeting each of them is so fascinating, and we never know which of them are good, bad, on our side, or out for their own purposes (and sometimes these things change throughout the book, which kept me on my toes!). Every character is SO unique and individual, and written so well. They’re definitely a high point of the story!

Twists. TWISTS, PEOPLE. There are so many twists! *collapses* It actually felt partway like a mystery, which I absolutely LOVED. So many questions and mysteries and twists galore. I kept trying to predict what would happen, and figure out what was going on, and I got a couple of things part-way, but WOW, I was super impressed at how complicated and twisty this story was, while seeming kind of simple on the surface. I kept guessing and second-guessing what was going on, and that made it so incredibly fun to read. 😀

This world, with the village and the wild woods, had such a great “feel” to it—I can’t even explain, but I was absolutely captivated by it. I loved how some of it felt kind of familiar (yes, there’s a village; yes, there’s a dwarf, and dryads) but at the same time made everything totally different and surprising (the dryads are NOT what you’d expect, there are lots of strange and original fantasy creatures about with great names like bog boars and trunders, and I will say no more lest I spoil the surprises).

Basically, everything about this book was fresh and original fantasy, but still felt so classic, and I absolutely loved that!

There are occasional dark bits and scariness, but overall it was much more lighthearted than a lot of fantasy, and I so appreciated that! A book that can have fun and not take itself too seriously, but still be epic and fun and very FANTASY-ish is a book that I can respect whole-heartedly. ❤ And yet there’s this great HEART to the story, that just draws you in and makes you fall in love with these characters and their sometimes fun, sometimes heartbreaking moments, with some unexpected depth and emotion behind the humor, and it’s just… all around so, so good. ^_^

Aside from the dangers, I feel like younger kids, as well as young adults and older, would really like this book. It’s kind of awesomely refreshing to read something that I feel would be fun for the entire family, you know? 🙂 As long as the creatures aren’t TOO scary for them. (I’m bad at suggesting ages, otherwise I would.) But basically it’s clean and fun and awesome and has the right kind of feel to appeal to younger readers as well as older ones. I positively adore it at my current age, but I feel like if I’d met it when I was ten it would have become a classic to me then as well.

Oh, and I loved the names! They were charming and quirky and perfect. When you have side characters named things like Percy Durbity, and a river named Minnowchuck, and Elodie and Tum and Aquilax, and trunders and puffernuts, you just know this is an awesome and imaginative fantasy book, and it just WORKS. (I especially love the puffernuts and their name. Just… don’t ask, but I love their presence in this book. XD It’s fun to say. Puffernuts! Puffernuts! Ahem. Anyway…)

It doesn’t need a sequel, specifically, (no cliffhangers, thank goodness!) but I would absolutely love to have more in this storyworld! I’m extremely fond of it, despite the dangers, and I just loved all these characters and humor. ^_^

I really have no complaints at all. It was just a solidly EXCELLENT book. ❤

OVERALL

(In case you needed to skip my longwinded fangirling. Ahem.)

Utterly original yet completely classic all at once, and FANTASY, and hilarious, and I know each and every character SO WELL, and just. *flails* I LOVED IT! 😀 Where the Woods Grow Wild is simply an extremely delightful fantasy novel, and I highly recommend it to absolutely anyone who loves fantasy! Come with me on a quest to find the sun-drop girl where the woods grow wild . . . Seriously, go check it out; you will NOT regret it. 😀 I enjoyed every second of it. ^_^ I’m looking forward to more from this super talented author!

Favorite Quotes

(A few, anyway; otherwise I’d be quoting the entire book…)

“You’re making stuffed mushrooms, aren’t you?”

“No I’m not, and you can’t have any.”

***

“Soup is just water and onions pretending to be food.”

***

Martin struggled to re-lace his shoes with his fingers and teeth, a task he had yet to master. The others returned while he was finishing the second shoe.

“Taste good?” Illo asked.

“You don’t want to know.”

***

“She can’t be awake already. If she were awake, she’d be screaming.”

“Yes, right. If she were awake, she would definitely be screaming.”

Elodie was fed up. “I am awake,” she said loudly. “And I’m not screaming.”

***

“Now, where’s the map?”

Podgin slouched in his seat. “I was worried about the humidity, so I tucked it neatly in the pages of that cumbersome book nobody ever reads, along with my favorite mushroom recipes. You know, valuables I can’t afford to misplace.”

“And the book is…?”

Podgin shrugged. “Haven’t seen it since March.”

***

“I refuse to give up on you, because underneath those claws and teeth there’s a stubborn, half-handed mess of a man, and I want him back.”

***

“Do you know what happens if you get too close to the green one?”

Martin shook his head.

“The roots snag your feet and lock you in place until they fancy letting you go, which could take days. I call them anklesnatchers. And the one with the violet leaves? What happens if you get too close to that one?”

“I get eaten?”

“No. Absolutely nothing happens. It’s just a tree.”

~ ~ ~

Does this book sound awesome, or does it sound AWESOME? XD What’s a fabulous fantasy book you’ve read lately that was super classic and amazing?

Thanks for reading! 🙂

Dream away in those pages . . .

~ The Page Dreamer