GeekMom Deal of the Day: Kindle Under Fifty

I’ve been keeping an eye on Amazon for special deals, particularly on cool but not-too-expensive gifts for the four minions and spotted this one today.

Amazon Kindle 6″ Glare-Free Touchscreen Display, Wi-Fi – Includes Special Offers.

Not bad. For that price, I could get a couple for the younger minions and keep the iPad we’ve been fighting over to myself.

Can the Amazon Dash Button Change Your Household Forever?

Earlier this month, I had the chance to pick up a couple of those Amazon Dash buttons that the shopping website had first announced around April Fool’s Day (which definitely confused a lot of us!). At first, I was snickering at this concept, but admittedly, it might work out pretty well in our house. Continue reading Can the Amazon Dash Button Change Your Household Forever?

Kids Won’t Shy Away From Geometry in ‘Land of Venn’ App

Image: Land of Venn Geometric Defense, used with permission.

I fall short in the math area of STEM. I hated geometry in school. I can’t repeat on this site the words that come to mind when the term trigonometry is used. When my daughter comes home with requests to work on her math facts, I go to the computer and look for an app that will help her. At this point, it isn’t because I’m afraid of the math, it is because I am afraid that my dislike of the 4-letter word will rub off on her, or worse, I will teach her something incorrectly and ingrain a bad example that will serve as the seed for so many math lessons to come.

This said, the newest app in my anti-math mom arsenal is called Land of Venn Geometric Defense. The characters have such interesting and unique names, I would not do it justice in explaining the purpose of the game, but their video pretty much tells you everything:

There is a lot visually happening in this app. Some of the platform bits move, but are not interactive which makes it challenging to tap and drag the correct thing at times. Sometimes there are so many things to tap and drag that a tablet is a preferred surface to make geometric shapes on. Especially if you are an adult playing this game, it’ a good idea to drag out the tablet unless you want the added challenge of a small screen and adult fingers. On a phone, another obstacle is potions (when you get them) that take up room in the bottom of the screen and cover up bad guys, taking precious time away from making your geometric shapes of villain destruction. In later levels, quadrilaterals are requested for ultimate destructive power against the juice-stealing varmints. Again, adult fingers on a phone screen aren’t the best combination for achieving a 3-star rating on a level.

straight line
They call it a straight line, I call it a line segment. What do you call it? Image: Land of Venn, used with permission.

My only observation about the geometric facts the game presents is a technicality, the shortest distance between two points is a line segment—but for kids, this is not a necessary point (pun intended).

The video above features most of the intro video to the app. It took me several times through the video on a tablet and phone to understand the thick accent in the opening scene. Once I heard it on the computer, I understood. Thankfully, I didn’t need to understand the video to play the game. It is mainly for flavor.

Minor complaints aside, this app is much easier for kids to handle with their tiny fingers, and they hear things better on average than us deaf old fogies. My kids couldn’t wait for me to finish my testing of the app so that they could give it a try.

The Adventure Time-like art is amazing. The game features crisp lines which aids in making the game playable. The areas shown in the game are beautiful. It, like other cartoons of the same style, is a little gory. Some of the attacks used on the invaders send knives out of the ground into the offending parties. It is a little graphic, but I don’t have a problem with my 5- and 9-year-old kids playing the app.

1st world levels
After the ten areas are completed, the arch at the top becomes a mini game to test the players retention of the shapes they made in the game. Image: Land of Venn, used with permission

The game has three areas to complete with ten levels in each. Each area ends with a gate that unlocks after each type of geometric shape is correctly identified. I really like this part of the game. It adds a different way of learning and adds repetition into the game without the player really noticing. The test was a nice break from the mad tapping. After unlocking all three gates, I was looking for more.

Originally, the game was only available in the App store for $4.99. It has expanded to the Amazon store and is available for $0.99. An Android version will be available after a few bugs are worked out in Beta testing (I ran through beta testing on my Samsung. After an initial download issue, the game played beautifully on the device, so I am hopeful the game will be available to the public soon). The development team is very involved with fixing any issues and has listened to feedback to produce a superior app for kids learning.

GeekMom received this item for review purposes.

Chuck Wendig’s Atlanta Burns Raises Some Eyebrows

Image: Skyscape/Amazon Publishing

Chuck Wendig‘s latest young adult novel, Atlanta Burns, is causing a bit of a stir around the interwebs, and most of it is well deserved. I received a review copy of this book from Netgalley—and WOW! It certainly packs a punch.

Normally, I’d cover this book as part of GeekMom’s “Between the Bookends” feature, but I’ve been fielding quite a few questions about it, so I thought I’d give it its own article. See, Atlanta Burns is published by Skyscape, Amazon’s YA imprint. The heroine of the novel, Atlanta Burns, is a teenager. Yet, the book has a warning in its description on Amazon: “This book is intended for mature audiences due to strong language and violence.”

Now, I’ve read my fair share of YA novels, both as a teen and as an adult. Having read this book, I can honestly say, sure, there are bad words, and bad things happen in it. But has anyone read Hunger Games? Or any one of a plethora of YA books out there that not only have bad words or violence, but feature far worse things—like on-the-page sexual assault, etc? I don’t see most of these books with a trigger warning on their Amazon pages.

I’m the parent of a 12-year-old. I know that not all kids are alike. Some are ready for some things long before others, some are more sensitive than others, and so forth. My advice to parents when they ask me if this would be a good book for their kids (about any book) is invariably this: Only you know your kid. Read the description. Heck, read some of the book, then you’ll know. Labeling a book as not appropriate does no one any favors. Let the book speak for itself, and let reviewers do their job of word of mouth recommendations. Books are not one-size-fits-all.

So for those curious, here is my review of Chuck Wendig’s Atlanta Burns:

Author Chuck Wendig has never exactly been known for holding back. If you have ever read his blog or his books (including The Blue Blazes, the Miriam Black series, and his young adult Heartland Trilogy), you’ve seen his NSFW MO. If you expected anything else from his newest book, Atlanta Burns, you will be either overjoyed or sorely disappointed. This is Chuck Wendig at his truest and finest form.

Atlanta Burns hold no punches. Atlanta, the main character, is a teenage girl who has been through a lot. But, unlike many of the angst-ridden teens we read about in YA fiction, she doesn’t take this crap lying down. No way. Atlanta takes matters into her own hands and exacts her own brand of justice. She’s a teenage superhero, only without the protection of a mask or cape. She’s a teenager with a shotgun, and she’s done letting people pray on the weak.

Wendig has accomplished something pretty cool with this novel. Not only does he deal with topics like suicide, homosexuality, bullying, dog fighting/animal rights, absentee parenting, sexual abuse, and drugs—he deals with them all in one book in a realistic way that doesn’t feel heavy-handed. We don’t get that syndrome I see so often in teen books, where so many things happen to one person that it’s unbelievable.

Most importantly, however, he captures the helpless, powerless feeling of being a teen so well, and in a way adults can understand, which is possibly the most interesting thing. Atlanta’s problems are not petty, and they are far-reaching. I never felt the eye-rolling exasperation I get when I read some YA “issues” books, I never felt like the main character had to get over herself, because she wasn’t in it for herself. She puts her life on the line for her friends, and while yes, life would have been easier had she just lain low and let things happen… Well, this is Atlanta Burns we’re talking about here.

Every time I asked myself, “How can this get any worse?” they did. Things got to the point where I had to say, “This can’t possibly end well,” yet the book did end in a satisfying way. No one is unscathed, but life does go on.

Is this a good book for teens? Would it be appropriate for your teen? Well, as with anything, you know your kids best. I thought this was a great book, and Atlanta is a kick-ass heroine that adults and mature teens can love. Very sensitive teens might want to wait a while on it though, as there are some animal cruelty issues as well as some drug usage.

Kudos to Chuck Wendig for another no-holds-barred winner!

About Atlanta Burns:

You don’t mess with Atlanta Burns.

Everyone knows that. And that’s kinda how she likes it—until the day Atlanta is drawn into a battle against two groups of bullies and saves a pair of new, unexpected friends. But actions have consequences, and when another teen turns up dead—by an apparent suicide—Atlanta knows foul-play is involved. And worse: she knows it’s her fault. You go poking rattlesnakes, maybe you get bit.

Afraid of stirring up the snakes further by investigating, Atlanta turns her focus to the killing of a neighborhood dog. All paths lead to a rural dogfighting ring, and once more Atlanta finds herself face-to-face with bullies of the worst sort. Atlanta cannot abide letting bad men do awful things to those who don’t deserve it. So she sets out to unleash her own brand of teenage justice.

Will Atlanta triumph? Or is fighting back just asking for a face full of bad news?

Atlanta Burns can purchased from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or your favorite independent book store, $9.99 paperback, $3.99 Kindle Edition.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Amazon Makes a Geek Girl the Focus of Annedroids

Annedroids will be available for streaming on Amazon Prime Instant Video starting Friday, July 25, 2014. Photo: Amazon Studios.

In an effort to keep up with the networks and the Netflixes, Amazon Studios has been cranking out a lot of original programming for Prime users. The media company’s latest is the children’s program, Annedroids.

I have to admit: When I first saw the promotional art for Annedroids, I had flashbacks to the late-’80s TV show, Small Wonder—and that isn’t a good thing. However, we should all know not to judge a book (or even a TV show) by its cover.

The pilot for Annedroids, which is now streaming, introduces us to Nick (Jadiel Dowlin), a new kid in town who seems to be clinging (through online gaming) to his old friend Zack. Not to worry, though; he quickly meets Shania (Adrianna Di Liello) and Anne (Addison Hollet from Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood), and the three become fast friends.

Although all three get plenty of screen time, the focus is really on Anne, a genius girl who loves to build robots. Sorry, I mean androids, but, well, yes! She’s a genius, she’s a girl, she loves robots, and she’s on a TV show. She describes herself as, “a scientist who likes studying the world.” I describe her as “awesome.”

The opening episode introduces the characters, which includes Hand, Eyes, and PAL, Anne’s three main androids. Additional episodes show the trio building a lawn-mowing robot, experimenting with chemical reactions, discussing the effects of gasses on your voice, and even talking up a lunar eclipse. There are some mishaps, but there’s also a lot of tweaking, testing, and fun.

Anne (Adrianna Di Liello) describes herself as “‘a scientist who likes studying the world” in Amazon’s Annedroids. Photo: Amazon Studios.

I’m going to have to categorize this one under “don’t try this at home.” Some of the science in Annedroids is a bit far-fetched. That said, it’s awesome that Amazon has embraced science and problem-solving with its original children’s programming. (See also: Maker Shack Agency and, to some extent, Creative Galaxy.) Not that I really mind the occasional mindless TV show, but this one is something that any GeekMom could embrace—and encourage. It also helps that it’s from J.J. Johnson, the creator of Dino Dan, which just happens to be a huge favorite in our house. I could see this becoming another. It has the same tone, the same flow, and has the same amount of interesting little factoids sprinkled throughout.

Annedroids also has very similar production values, which is a mixed bag. I’m not going to lie: PAL creeped me out a bit. He/she/it reminded me a little of the robots from I, Robot. It doesn’t really matter though, because I’m not the target audience, and to say that my 8-year-old was riveted is an understatement. At one point, I thought I was going to have to check for breathing. He absolutely loved Annedroids and was asking for more. Thankfully, seven episodes are now available for streaming through Amazon Prime Instant Video.

GeekMom received this item for review purposes.

Father’s Day Gift Guide 2014!

Happy Fathers Day! \ Images by  Dakster Sullivan
Happy Fathers Day! \ Images by Dakster Sullivan

Welcome to this year’s Father’s Day Gift Guide! With the big day just around the corner on June 15th, we’ve come up with a list of items we know any dad would love. Whether your dad is into books, clothes, electronics, or toys, we have them covered!


Astonishing SpiderMan & Wolverine \ Image: Amazon
Astonishing SpiderMan & Wolverine \ Image: Amazon

Astonishing Spider-Man & Wolverine
What could be better than seeing heroes that are polar opposites having to work together to survive an out-of-control journey through time? I can’t think of anything. Watching the witty and intelligent Spider-Man being forced into a team-up with a guy like Wolverine, someone not known for his patience with the webcrawler, is pure fun from start to finish.

Cost: $15.00 on Amazon

Birdmen: The Wright Brothers, Glenn Curtiss, and the Battle to Control the Skies by Lawrence Goldstone
Birdmen is a true story about the feud between the great air pioneers and the dangers they faced in air and on the ground to achieve their dream. This is a great book for the history-loving dads!

Cost: $20.97 on Amazon

Tic Tac Tome
For the dad who likes a challenge, Tic Tac Tome is for him. At first, I wasn’t 100% sure about this one, but after playing it myself, I’ve found it be a nice way to take a break at my desk. Essentially what you’re doing is playing against a book in the game of tic tac toe. What makes this challenging though is there is only one way to beat the book. It’s a fun book that anyone can play with (or get frustrated with).

Cost: $9.00 on Amazon

Cool Tools: A Catalog of Possibilities
Cool Tools: A Catalog of Possibilities is a highly curated selection of the most awesome tools available. The term “tools” includes maps, software, DIY books, gizmos, pretty much anything highly useful. Tools include hand tools, maps, how-to books, vehicles, software, specialized devices, gizmos, websites, and much more. This huge book reviews 1,500 items. It’s impossible to open it without digging in.

Cost: $29.97 on Amazon

Make: Ultimate Guide to 3D Printing
Make: Ultimate Guide to 3D Printing \ Image: Amazon

Make: Ultimate Guide to 3D Printing 2014
Make: Ultimate Guide to 3D Printing 2014 is the go-to resource for the latest in 3D printing technology, feature and model comparisons, plus 3D printing tutorials.

Cost: e-book $7.99, paperback $9.49

Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers: The Secrets of Ancient Fermentation by Stephen Harrod Buhner
There are plenty of books on home brewing. You won’t find another volume like Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers: The Secrets of Ancient Fermentation. The author writes about ancient beer that was made for ceremonial use, healing, and daily use. Certain plants were included to give the brew stimulating, aphrodisiacal, euphoria-producing, even psychotropic properties. Hops weren’t commonly used, since hopped ale was known to dull the senses and diminish desire. That all changed when authorities instituted regulations that standardized hopped beer. Yes, the author provides recipes for authentic ancient ale made from those magical plants.

Cost: $31.00 paperback

A Playful Path
The newest book by fun guru Bernie DeKoven, A Playful Path, is made up of tools and ideas to inspire the possibility-building, wide-open glory of playfulness in work and family life. It’s really an essential guide for How to Be Human.

Cost: ebook free, paperback $21.95


Image: JunoJumper
Image: JunoJumper

JunoJUMPR is a portable battery that let’s anyone jump their car without having to flag down a second car to handle the jumping part. In addition to jumping your car, you can also use it to charge your USB devices. For the dad who wants the stats, this little guy packs an impressive punch with a 6,000mAh lithium polymer battery and can produce a 12 Volt output at a peak of 300 amps. The best part is that it only weighs 7 ounces and is the size of an average cell phone, so you can carry it anywhere. 

Cost: $89.99 on JunoJUMPR’s website

Phiaton: Chord MS 530 Wireless, Noise-Cancelling Headphones
The Phiaton: Chord MS 530 Wireless, Noise-Cancelling Headphones will give dad the gift of quiet so he can listen to whatever his heart desires. The noise-cancelling on these headphones is so good, my brother uses them at work to tune out his co-workers on days he really needs to focus. The downside is they work so well, you might have to poke your dad with a stick to get his attention, because he won’t be able to hear you after he puts them on.

Cost: $290.98 on Amazon

These classic sleep headphones will allow dad to snooze off to his favorite nap time tunes without any discomfort from bulky headbands. You can also go to SleepPhones website and download free music for dad to fall asleep to.

Cost: $29.39 on Amazon

Neptor \ Image Amazon
Neptor \ Image: Amazon

Neptor: NP056K Dual Port Portable Battery Charger
Make sure dad is never without his electronics with a portable battery charger. This one is lightweight and could fit in dad’s pocket. Don’t let the slim design fool you, because this little guy can charge two devices at once (one phone and one tablet). 

Cost: $49.99 on Amazon

Roku with AirCastLive
AirCastLive allows dad to use his iPhone or Android mobile device to capture, save, and share the special moments he captures on his phone and then send it to a smart TV or Roku device.

Cost: $5 for the app on Roku and 1GB of free storage space, with options for up to 40GB for $39. The app will be free from June 9th thru June 16th

Griffin Power Dock
Griffin PowerDock 5 is a great electronic organizing tool. It can hold and charge up to 5 devices at a time. All you need to do is plug your USB cable into the dock, wrap it around the bottom of the base to hide the wires and you are all set. It’s recommended for iOS devices, but has been tested successfully with Kindle and Android devices, though charging times will vary.

Cost: $75.00 on Amazon.

Justice League Collection by Griffin Technology

The Justice League collection by Griffin Technology has some fun accessories for dad’s iPad including headphones, case, and stylus. I love my Superman case for the iPad and the matching stylus that goes with it.

Cost: Starting at $14.99 and up

Logitech Harmony \ Image: Amazon
Logitech Harmony \ Image: Amazon

Logitech Harmony Ultimate
This all-in-one remote will help Dad streamline control of the TV, consoles, Roku, TiVo…anything with a clicker can be consolidated. And this universal remote can be aimed at anything in the room and still work; no more honing in on tiny sensors from across the living room. The touch screen is intuitive, and the Harmony Ultimate also lets you control all of your devices with an app on your phone.

Cost: $349.00 on Amazon

Clothing and Accessories

Booq Boa Courier 10
This is a great looking messenger bag for the dad on the go. The stabilizer strap helps make sure it stays secure on dad when he’s riding and the padded interior will keep his iPad and other belongings safe. For added safety, the bag has a reflective trim that lets dad be seen even in low light conditions.

Cost: $81 on Amazon and $95 on Booq website

Ogio Newt 15 \ Image: Ogio
Ogio Newt 15 \ Image: Ogio

Ogio Newt 15 Laptop Bag
Ultimate backpack for a stylish and organized dad. The front pocket has slots for pens, and notepads. The smaller top pocket is designed to hold smaller peripheral devices such as an mp3 player, phone, and their charging accessories. The main compartment is fleece-lined for dad’s iPad or tablet devices and the larger main compartment is fleece-lined for dad’s laptop or other must haves.

Cost: $99 on Amazon

Cosplay Apron by Simply Superheroes
For the dad that likes to cook, check out the character aprons over at Simply Superheroes. If you live in the U.S, use the money you save with free shipping to pick dad up something extra. If you find something that is perfect for dad, but it’s out of stock, you can sign up for email alerts to learn when it will be back in.

Cost: $19.99 on Simply Superheroes website

Dollar Shave Club
Give dad the gift of a clean shave with the Dollar Shave Club. For as little as $4 a month, you can have dad’s razors delivered to his doorstep. The best part is that the Dollar Shave Club is a lot cheaper on the wallet than picking razors up at the grocery store.

Cost: $4 and up per month

Image Credit:

Men’s office wear from Ministry of Supply
Office wear with high tech cred. Think dress shirts made from NASA thermoregulatory material, socks infused with odor-absorbing carbonized coffee, and moisture-wicking chinos with four-way stretch. Worth every penny. Our picks include the Apollo dress shirt ($98), Aviator chinos ($118), and Atlas dress socks ($18) .

Cost: various by product

EcoSphere Closed Aquatic Ecosystem
The Original EcoSphere is the world’s first totally enclosed ecosystem—a complete, self-contained, and self-sustaining miniature world encased in glass. This work of art is a perfect balance of active micro-organisms, small shrimp, algae, and bacteria, each existing in filtered sea water. Because the living organisms within the EcoSphere utilize their resources without overpopulating or contaminating their environment, the EcoSphere requires virtually no maintenance and lasts for years.

Cost: $55.99 on Amazon

Toys / Games

Risk: Doctor Who \ Image: Amazon
Risk: Doctor Who \ Image: Amazon

Doctor Who Risk: The Dalek Invasion of Earth
I thought it was unfathomable that anyone would spend upwards of forty or fifty bucks for Risk game….until I found it was a Doctor Who version. The Doctor Who Risk: The Dalek Invasion of Earth is an “absolutely fantastic” spin on the popular Risk game, puts the player in control of five Dalek armies, both classic and paradigm. In addition to players trying to defeat each other, there will be plenty of conflict with 11 regenerations of The Doctor. Even if you own other versions of Risk (and we already have three variations in our home), the urge to “exterminate” your opponents may be too much to pass up.

Cost: $49.99 on Think Geek and $40.27 Amazon

Star Wars Black Series Figures
The Black Series figures are a big hit among collectors. The detailed design and attractive packaging make these a must for any Star Wars action figure collector. I know many a 501st Legion member who hunt these down for sport, so if you see one, grab it up for dad’s collection.

Cost: Starting at $17.99 at Target

Zombie Survival \ Image: Amazon
Zombie Survival \ Image: Amazon

Zombie Defense Solutions 3-Day Survival Kit by VooDoo Tactical
Both my husband and I love zombie stories and camping, and this 3-day survival kit is right up his alley. Packaged in a Zombie Apocalypse preparation box, it has a five-year shelf life and contains food, water, lighting, basic first aid items, tools and a mylar emergency blanket to accommodate one adult easily for three days in an emergency situation.

This is a practical gift for outdoors loving geek, as it can be carried easily in the trunk of a vehicle for road trips or camping. It’s also a fun way to use the zombie scenario to educate your own kids about the importance of being prepared for more real disasters such as extreme weather or being stranded in wilderness areas.

Zombies or no zombies, dad will be prepared.

Cost: $27.95 on Amazon and Barre Army Navy

Sphero 2.0
Sphero is a ball of challenging fun for everyone, even pets. At first I thought it was going to be easy to get the ball to go where I wanted it to go, until I realized it has a mind of it’s own. My husband and son had a blast teasing the dog with it. She knew it was a ball, but she couldn’t understand why it was chasing her. Needless to say we had fun watching her reactions to it. You can add to the fun by downloading free games in iTunes.

Cost: $99.00 on Amazon

Gallium \ Image: Amazon
Gallium \ Image: Amazon

Gallium is the metal that melts in your hand. Keep it in a bottle and submerge bottle in warm water to liquify. Caution: Gallium causes metals to corrode and will stain glass, so be careful.

Cost: $15.99 on Amazon

Halo Headband
The Halo Headband is the answer when engaging in any sweat-producing activity such as cycling, running, even roof repair. It’s thin, adjustable, fits under a helmet or hat, and rinses clean.

Cost: $10.48 on Amazon
Disclaimer: Some of the GeekMoms who submitted to this post may have received review samples of their suggestions. 

Amazon Invites Kids to Visit the World of Tumble Leaf

Amazon’s new children’s program, Tumble Leaf, is quite sweet. Photo: Amazon Studios.

A lot of people are cutting the cord to pay TV in favor of streaming options. Amazon just gave you another reason to sign up for Prime, by debuting Tumble Leaf, the service’s first children’s series.

Tumble Leaf follows the adventures of Fig the fox and his cutesy friends, including Maple (who also seems to be a fox), a bunch of chickens, and Stick the caterpillar.

Aimed at preschoolers, Tumble Leaf has stories and animation that are pretty much on par with anything PBS is putting out right now. However, it’s a stop-motion adventure, which reminds me a lot of old Gumby episodes. Just know that Tumble Leaf has way better production values. It’s super bright and perky, with a real texture to the imagery. You almost feel like you can reach out and touch the fur on the various characters.

Also, the action flows a lot better than your typical Gumby (thank goodness). In the first episode, “Fig Finds a Shadow,” our main character finds a bunch of coins and opts to use them for the wishing well. Don’t worry about the coin sack’s rightful owner; these goodies were specifically left behind for Fig in “the Finding Place.”

In every episode, the Finding Place is populated with one new item, courtesy of a funny little crab. When he tosses the item up into the Finding Place from the beach down below, Fig hears twinkly bells, alerting him to a new item. From there, Fig and his friends use the item for problem-solving and all sorts of adventures.

Fig the Fox shares his latest discovery with a bunch of his fuzzy friends in Tumble Leaf. Photo: Amazon Studios.

Now, if you’re expecting your preschooler to be able to apply some of this problem-solving to the real world, you may be disappointed. Sure, it’s interesting that the coins reflect light off of the moon or that a flashlight can deliver shadows. However, I’m guessing that most little ones won’t be able to use a Slinky toy to hang lanterns or have a kite suit on-hand for saving a caterpillar from a tree. At least, I hope they don’t!

Lack of realism aside, Tumble Leaf does show preschoolers the act of problem-solving in a sweet manner. Each 23-minute episode is split into two segments, which means that there’s two items and two discoveries per episode.

While it may be too slow for adults to enjoy, my 7-year-old was glued to Tumble Leaf, and gave a special shout-out to the crab as one of the highlights. He’s a bit beyond the show’s target audience, but was completely silent for each of the six episodes we watched—and if that isn’t an endorsement, I don’t know what is.

The first six episodes of Tumble Leaf will be available for streaming on Amazon Prime starting today. Amazon Studios also plans to release additional episodes later this summer.

GeekMom received this item for review purposes.

Comic Book Corner — Batgirl, Marvel’s Original Sin, and The X-Files

Original Sin #0 \ Image: Marvel
Original Sin #0. Image: Marvel.

Happy Comic Release Day! Welcome to another installment of GeekMom Comic Book Corner, where we recap our adventures in comics for the week. This week, Dak looks at the beginning of Marvel’s latest event, Original Sin, while Corrina dives into Batgirl and Batman Eternal, and Sophie shares another look into The X-Files. Also, in comic book news, Dak gives her two cents on the latest blunder by ComiXology.

Dakster Sullivan — Original Sin #0 written by Mark Waid and art by Jim Cheung

Original Sin #0 shows us just how important the silent character, known as the Watcher, really is. Unfortunately, we get to learn all about him just before Marvel kills him off and I can’t say I’m too happy with their decision (downright disappointed is more like it).

The Watcher is a character I know very little about, but appreciate every time he shows up. I’m only familiar with him for his brief and random appearances in Nova, but anytime I get to see him, is a good time. From the few times that Nova has interacted with the Watcher, I can tell he cares about what he sees, even though he is unable to interact with those he watches. He has interacted with Nova to a point by silently giving him insight into certain events and I can see that Nova considers him a friend.

This is the first time in my three years of comic book reading that I’ve been disappointed in a decision that Marvel has made (okay, the second time…if they keep rebooting everything to issue #1, I might have to start reconsidering my loyalties) and I’m not looking forward to seeing a character I’ve come to love get murdered. The only thing I’m curious to see in Original Sin #1—when it debuts in May—is how Nova is going to react to the Watcher’s death.

Curious to know what I’m pulling this week? Check out my pull list on Comixology.

Corrina — Batgirl Annual #4 written by Gail Simone and art by Robert Gill and Javier Garron

This is the kind of story that originally hooked me on superhero comics. It’s not just that there’s a brief Birds of Prey reunion written by Simone, it’s not just that guest-star Poison Ivy is written perfectly, and it’s not just that the dialogue features exchanges like this:

Batgirl Annual #1 \ Image: DC Comics
Batgirl Annual #1. Image: DC Comics.

Poison Ivy: I never understood your fetish for stealth. It’s a positive obsession with you people. 

Batgirl: Probably better not to talk about fetishes when our actual kiss is lethal, Ivy.

Poison Ivy: Not always. Sometimes. Okay, fair enough.

And it’s not just that the team-up of Barbara Gordon and Dinah Lance (Black Canary) in the opening pages felt like old times. (Babs: I just love her, all right?)

It’s that this is also a story of hope and renewal, symbolized by a neighborhood garden planted by Babs and her roommate, Alysia Yeoh. It felt good to close the story with a happy sigh for a change.

Batman Eternal #4 written by Tim Seeley, Ray Fawkes, John Layman, James T. Tynion IV, and Scott Snyder, and art by Dustin Nguyen

This weekly series keeps forward momentum by bringing in Barbara (Batgirl) Gordon in defense of her now-disgraced father, former police Commissioner Jim Gordon, who’s been charged with negligence in a subway disaster. Much of the issue goes over what we already know, that the new commissioner is corrupt, that Carmine Falcone is behind Gordon’s frame-up, and that Batgirl and the rest of the Bat-crew are determined to prove his innocence.

And then there’s the not-so-small matter of Stephanie Brown, not yet The Spoiler, trying to escape the clutches of her super-villain father. Calling Mom for help seems a good idea until it’s clear that this version of Stephanie’s mom isn’t nearly as benevolent as the previous version.

Federal Bureau of Physics: Vol 1: The Paradigm Shift written by Simon Oliver and art by Robbi Rodriguez

Suppose, under certain conditions, a physics impossibility becomes a reality? Such as gravity failing or wormholes appearing randomly? Who do you call for help? The FBP aka the Federal Bureau of Physics. That’s the premise of this imaginative and mind-bending series that focuses on Agent Adam Hardy of the FBP, who joined partially to discover more of the legacy of his late father, a scientist who died doing dangerous research that partially led to the creation of the FBP.

And it’s a great adventures, as Adam becomes trapped in a created “bubbleverse” where the regular rules of the universe don’t apply, up against an enemy from within and trying to rescue the people inside before everything collapses. After this mission, there’s a political backlash, leaving Adam, his new partner, and the remaining FBP agents to operate on a nearly non-existent budget. The artwork is as bendy and imaginative as the premise, as gravity goes wild, as people and objects literally crumble, and everything is stretched into impossible positions.

The FBP has been optioned for a film and the concept, characters, and visuals seem perfect for the big screen.

Sophie Brown — The X-Files Season 10 #11 written by Joe Harris and art by Francesco Francavilla

It’s been a few months since we had a long mythology arc on The X-Files Season 10. Much as the show itself used to split these long-winded and complex stories up between shorter tales, and so now the time is right for the next big advancement of the series’ overarching mythology to begin.

The X-Files Season 10 #11 \ Image: IDW Publishing
The X-Files Season 10 #11. Image: IDW Publishing.

Pilgrims does something new for The X-Files by taking the alien conspiracy outside of the USA and Russia.

Sure we’ve certainly known before now that the conspiracy extended beyond the metaphorical boundaries of the Cold War (who remembers corn crops in Tunisia, spacecraft wreckage in Africa, and meetings held at London’s Royal Albert Hall?), but this is the first time we’ve really laid eyes on it and seen Mulder and Scully out of their homeland and dealing with a foreign culture.

It’s a nice way of bringing the show up to date without ramming “look, Mulder is using modern technology, he has an iPhone now!” down our throats. Back when The X-Files was reaching its peak, the world was still reeling from the end of the Cold War and to many, Russia remained the definitive Big Bad. Of course, current politics have shown us that Russia is still a powerful game-changer (just ask NASA), but these days all eyes are on the Middle East, so moving the story out to Saudi Arabia is a nice touch. Of course, this raises certain cultural issues to be contended with, most of which are handled very well.

Scully spends the entire story wearing a hijab and she finds herself having to deal with local law enforcement who are not exactly happy about cooperating with the FBI, especially with an agent who is female. There are also risks associated with taking an agent like Mulder, known for being something of a loose cannon at the best of times, into a far stricter society like this. “Let’s try not to cause an international incident until after lunch okay?” Scully asks him and you feel it’s a genuine concern on her part.

There was one line I did feel was somewhat inappropriate, a throwaway comment from Mulder as he helps Scully fix her hijab and tells her,“You’d make a lovely child bride.” It’s a rather tasteless “compliment” at the best of times and in the middle of such a lighthearted and fun scene, it feels more than a little jarring.

As for the conspiracy itself, this issue is more about setting up the latest incident than really getting into the details. We know the Black Oil is back, there are mysterious men in suits and dark sunglasses lurking behind every corner, and someone is trying to cover up what really happened. It’s fairly standard X-Files stuff so far, but it’s comforting for that and it’s great to see the Lone Gunmen again.

One minor continuity nitpick is the fact that Scully has apparently forgotten that she speaks German. Admittedly, it was never established how fluent she was, but we do know she took it in college and given her standard in Season Four, she should have had no problem with what she hears here. Even I could translate it easily from remembered high-school German taken over a decade ago.

Finally, the issue’s big finale reveal was given away in previews several months ago, but that doesn’t make it any less welcome. I’m looking forward to seeing how this always uneasy relationship pans out in 2014.

Comic Book News — ComiXology is bought by Amazon and soon after releases new app

Did you hear that? It’s the screams of thousands of digital comic book fans up in arms over the new ComiXology app…and I’m one of them. Earlier this week, ComiXolgy made the announcement that they would be releasing a new app to replace their previous version. In that same email announcement, they gave some users a $5 credit to their account. At the time, I thought this was nice of them, but now I see it as a bribe.

Comixology LogoThe new app is great, with the exception of one major change—you can no longer purchase comics through the app on Apple devices! What? One of the biggest reasons I have the app on my iPhone is so I can purchase my books on my device.

According to reports, the change is due to Amazon, the new owners of Comixology, not wanting to pay fees to Apple associated with in-app purchases After some research, I learned that the fee is 30 percent on each order. So if a typical comic costs $3.99, then ComiXoloy was only making $2.79 off of that order. (Amazon also doesn’t allow in-app purchases in their Kindle app for iPads.)

There’s a good thing and a bad thing happening here.

The good is that this opens the door for digital book prices to drop because ComiXology is no longer paying the fees that Apple pushed on them.

The bad is that a lot of fans are up in arms about not being able to purchase their books directly from their device and will most likely spend less as a result.

I’m in the latter camp. I used to spend a lot of money in ComiXology because it was easy. It was hooked to my iTunes account and my iTunes gift cards. Now that I have to use my credit card to purchase my comics and I have to go to my computer to do it, I’m less likely to purchase comics online. I’m already starting to move more towards graphic novels and snail mail subscriptions; maybe this was the final push to get me to make the move entirely.

What do you think about the buy out? Is this a good thing or a bad thing for comic book fans? Let me know in the comments!

Looking for something else, readers? Check out this week’s listed books:

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Adventures Of Superman #12
Batgirl Annual #2 Geek Mom Recommended
Batman ’66 #10
Batman Beyond Universe #9
Batman Eternal #4
Batman Superman Vol. 1 Cross World HC
Batwoman Annual #1
Flash Annual #3
Flex Mentallo Man Of Muscle Mystery TP
Forever Evil Aftermath Batman Vs Bane #1 (One Shot)
Green Lantern New Guardians Annual #2
He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe #12
Injustice Gods Among Us Year Two #4
Scribblenauts Unmasked A Crisis Of Imagination #4
Suicide Squad Vol. 4 Discipline And Punish TP
Superman Batman Vol. 1 Public Enemies TP
Vertigo Quarterly Cyan #1 New Series
All-New X-Men #26
All-New X-Men Vol. 4 All-Different HC
Amazing Spider-Man #1 New Series
Avengers #28
Avengers A.I. #12
Avengers Undercover #1 New Series
Avengers World #5
Deadpool By Daniel Way The Complete Collection Vol. 3 TP
Disney Kingdoms Seekers Of The Weird #4 (Of 5)
Hulk #2 New Series
Iron Man Vol. 2 The Secret Origin Of Tony Stark Book 1 TP
Marvel Masterworks Captain America Vol. 3 TP
Marvel Previews #129 (May 2014 For Products On-Sale July 2014)
Marvel Zombies The Complete Collection Vol. 2 TP
New Avengers #17
Origin II #5 (Of 5)
Punisher #1 New Series
Silver Surfer #2 New Series
Uncanny Avengers Annual #1
What If Age Of Ultron #5 (Of 5) Final Issue
Wolverine #5
Wolverine And The X-Men By Jason Aaron Vol. 8 TP
X-Force #4
X-Men Vol. 2 Muertas TP
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Alice In Comicland HC
Dexter’s Laboratory #1 (Of 4) Kid Friendly
G.I. JOE #15
G.I. JOE The IDW Collection Vol. 4 HC
Ghostbusters #15
Jericho Season 4 TP
Judge Dredd Mega-City Two #4 (Of 5)
My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic #18 Kid Friendly
Skybreaker TP
T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents Classics Vol. 3 TP
Transformers More Than Meets The Eye #28
V-Wars #1 New Series
X-Files Season 10 #11
Alabaster Grimmer Tales HC
Atomic Legion HC
Blackout #2 (Of 4)
Captain Midnight #10
Furious #4 (Of 5)
King Conan The Conqueror #3 (Of 6)
King Conan Vol. 3 The Hour Of The Dragon TP
Mesmo Delivery HC
Pariah #3 (Of 8)
Serenity Leaves On The Wind #4 (Of 6)
Star Wars Dark Times Vol. 7 A Spark Remains TP
Star Wars Rebel Heist #1 (Of 4)
Vandroid #3 (Of 5)
X Vol. 2 The Dogs Of War TP

Acronym Key: VC = Variant Cover / HC = Hard Cover / TP = Trade Paperback

Maker Shack Agency is TV for Your Maker-in-Training

Gianna LePera, Kalama Epstein, and Gregory E. Freeman star in the Amazon original, Maker Shack Agency. Image: Amazon Studios/Electus Digital.

Looking for something new for the kids to watch? Maker Shack Agency can solve that problem!

Back in August, I mentioned that Amazon was planning to produce Maker Shack Agency, a children’s series that follows three teenagers who use gadgets to solve problems in their school and community. The pilot is now available for free, through Amazon Instant Video.

Now, it’s important that you not only watch this pilot, but vote on it. And you’re going to want to do that—at least if you have a maker-in-training at home. Amazon uses all of that customer feedback to decide whether or not to order additional episodes of its original programming.

For adult viewers, Maker Shack Agency may be a bit on the goofy side. However, to quote GeekMom Kelly, “12-year-old me would have loved it!”

That’s because Maker Shack Agency has Disney Channel production values, with a similar writing style and taste in jokes. Even though the pilot was directed by Alex Winter (Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, dude!), the show doesn’t really try to appeal to an older crowd. That’s OK, though; we don’t have to like everything that our kids like. After all, I wouldn’t expect my 7-year-old to sit through two minutes of something like Parks and Recreation. However, Maker Shack Agency is a show that I wouldn’t mind him watching, because of the science, invention, and gadgets highlighted in the pilot episode.

Despite being geared towards pre-teen and teen audiences, my son was pretty captivated and giggling within the first few minutes of the pilot. A “pantsing” and lunch spewed all over the principal (played by The Office‘s Brian Baumgartner) will do that to a 7-year-old. It also didn’t hurt that my hockey-loving son saw the main character being driven to school in a Zamboni. (And yes, I was fairly intrigued by that as well.)

For all of the goofiness though, Maker Shack Agency does have tons of science, tinkering, and general maker goodness.

It focuses on Wolfie (Kalama Epstein), Merle (Gregory E. Freeman), and Jo (Gianna LePera), three teens that come up with all sorts of inventions to help out their school and their community in general.

Image: Amazon Studios/Electus Digital.

The pilot finds the school being terrorized by Floyd Butscomb (Zachary Conneen), a rather angry kid looking to be the student body’s sole candy supplier. The kids decide to enlist Wolfie and Merle (a.k.a. the Maker Shack Agency) for help. The dynamic duo builds a “Fart-O-Meter,” which can sense when the tootie-plagued bully is nearby. Of course, when that runs out of gas (I said it!), Jo steps in with her super-cool robot to save the day.

Flatulence, candy, and robots: What more could you ask for? Maker Shack Agency uses bodily functions and more of the typical tricks that would pull in its target audience. You can’t really fault them for that. However, the underlying themes are great—and pretty unique for any television comedy currently being produced.

Overall, I think my 7-year-old was a bit on the young side for Maker Shack Agency. He does have a hearty interest in STEM, but some of the speedy dialogue and concepts seemed to go over his head. That said, it kept him entertained and sparked a great conversation between the two of us about the gadgetry and inventions highlighted in the episode.

It’s certainly not perfect, but Maker Shack Agency is exactly the type of program I’d like to see become a regular TV show. What will the kids come up with next? Hopefully, it will include an accompanying website and/or book with projects. The opportunities are endless. Take a peek and if you like it, make sure to vote at the Amazon Originals website. However, you’re going to need to do that fairly soon. The pilot for Maker Shack Agency will be available to stream for free through the voting period, which ends on March 8, 2014.

Amazon Instant Video is available on a variety of smart TVs, game consoles, mobile devices, Blu-ray players, streaming media players, and more. Check out Amazon’s website for a complete list of compatible devices.

Amazon’s Maker Shack Agency to Highlight Science and Problem-Solving

“Maker Shack Agency” will follow three teenage thinkers and tinkerers, who use science and personal ingenuity to solve their client’s problems. Image: Amazon.

Forget House of Cards and Orange Is the New Black. Of course, Netflix has produced some awesome original programming. However, Amazon is getting something ready for the kiddies—and it’s got a scientific twist.

Amazon Studios has just given the green light to Maker Shack Agency, a new children’s series that will stream through Amazon Prime. It features 13-year-old inventor Angus Wolfe (please call him “Wolfie”), as well as his two best friends and fellow “makers,” Jo and Merle. Each episode will find the three using science and creativity to come up with all sorts of super-cool problem-solving inventions.

To keep the show realistic, the Maker Shack Agency production crew plans to work closely alongside the scientists, engineers and programmers of Applied Minds. Produced by Electus Studios, the live-action show will target kids ages 6 to 11.

“We are incredibly excited for our first initiative with Amazon and we look forward to inspiring the next generation of makers,” said Drew Buckley, chief operating officer and head of digital for Electus. “With Maker Shack Agency, we hope to inspire kids to think about new and different ways to solve life’s problems and to never be afraid of failure—as Wolfie always says, ‘Fail Forward.'”

Maker Shack Agency is the latest kids’ pilot that Amazon is putting on the fast track. Last month, Amazon Studios announced five other pilots, all of which should be available by early next year. All six of the streaming options will debut on Amazon Instant Video, where customers will be able to comment on the episodes. Earlier this year, Alpha House, Betas, Annebots, Creative Galaxy, and Tumble Leaf were given series orders, thanks to customer feedback. Those options will start streaming through Prime Instant Video later this year and in early 2014.