“Pop in a Box” Unboxing and Review

I’ve been subscribing to Pop in a Box for a few months now, but I haven’t been doing “unboxing and review” posts (except for this comparison post), which is actually a bit unfair to the service since I do a post for every other subscription box I receive. So, okay, no sense in talking about it…let’s just start doing it! I’m not going to go back and do the previous boxes I’ve received, but I’ll start with the most recent one and go from there.

So, first of all, since this is the first of this kind of post that I’m doing for this service, what is Pop in a Box? Well, as the name suggests, it’s a service that sends you Funko Pop figures…in a box (presumably). The service originated in the UK, but has also been running out of the US for several months now, which makes it significantly more affordable for Canadians. You can choose the number of Pops you want to receive each month – from one to twelve – and there are methods to ensure that you don’t get anything you already have, or don’t want. First, you build your collection on their site so they know what you already have. Then you give a “thumbs down” to anything you do not want, which creates a “graveyard” list of Pops that they’ll never send you. Finally, you give a “thumbs up” to things you want, which creates a “wishlist” that they’ll attempt to pick from if those Pops are available at the time. Anything that you haven’t given a “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” is considered fair game; you’re basically saying that you don’t mind if they send you those Pops. Keep up with this easy system and you should always be happy with whatever comes in your box.

So, on to the actual fun bits! Here’s the unboxing video from my most recent Pop in a Box:

So, I like to be able to give you a sense of the value of the box, so for the sake of these posts I’m going to set the “value” of each Pop based on the value that is currently listed on Pop Price Guide. Keep in mind, of course, that these values are based on what kinds of selling prices are currently occurring around the internet, and are therefore subject to change. They also don’t reflect retail value, which is normally between $12 and $25 depending on the type of Pop and where it was purchased. At the end of the list I’ll give you the total based on Pop Price Guide, as well as the approximate retail value.

Luke Skywalker (Hoth) – Star Wars line #34
I love Star Wars, and I love Star Wars Pops, which is quite convenient since Pop in a Box seems to love sending them to me. This one particularly amuses me because it adds to an awesome little “Hoth” collection that I’ve got going on. Although when he’s standing alone you might not immediately realize that this is Luke, I’m certain that he’ll look perfect  standing next to my flocked, 6″ Wampa. Definitely an awesome start to the box!
Pop Price Guide Value as of March 3 2016: $10

First Order Stormtrooper – Star Wars line #66
And another Star Wars Pop comes out on the heels of the first, this one from the newest movie, The Force Awakens. I’ve collected several Imperial and First Order soldiers at this point and there’s not too much that I can say since they’re so similar, but I’m quite happy to be able to add another one of the “bad guys” to the collection.
Pop Price Guide Value as of March 3 2016: $10

C-3P0 – Star Wars line #64
Aaaaand, one more Star Wars Pop just for good measure. This version of our favorite golden protocol droid is almost identical to the original versions, but he’s sporting his snazzy red arm from The Force Awakens. Unfortunately, this also happens to be a Pop that I picked up in stores recently, which is one of the hazards of continuing to purchase Pops while waiting for your Pop in a Box shipment to arrive. That’s my bad though, and not something I can really fault the service for. It would have been a good pick if I hadn’t bollocksed up.
Pop Price Guide Value as of March 3 2016: $9

Agent Coulson – Marvel line #53
This is definitely one of the plainer Pops in the Marvel line. To be honest, if you didn’t already know who he was you probably wouldn’t be able to guess, and that’s why I never picked him up…there’s just nothing special about him, other than the teeny badge on his coat. That said, I’m perfectly happy to have him because I do actually love Phil, and he’s part of the Marvel Universe, which is my jam.
Pop Price Guide Value as of March 3 2016: $6

Mulan – Disney line #166
I may not have gotten this across in the video, but I really like this Pop. I think her hair and outfit are very nicely done, and I love that she’s holding Shan Yu’s sword instead of just standing there looking pretty like most of the princesses. She makes an excellent addition to my growing Disney collection.
Pop Price Guide Value as of March 3 2016: $8

Princess Celestia – My Little Pony line #8
I’ll be totally honest: I was a little disappointed to pull this one out of the box, not because I don’t like it, but because it’s basically a lesser version of a Pop I already have – the Hot Topic exclusive with sparkly hair. I didn’t want to give this one a “thumbs down” on the website though, because it would be nice to actually complete the entire line, although it’s not really a big deal to me to have both. I’ll probably let my daughter add it to the mini-collection she’s been gathering. 🙂
Pop Price Guide Value as of March 3 2016: $10

Petyr Baelish – Game of Thrones line #29
This was an unexpected (but not unpleasant) Pop to pull out of the box. I haven’t been actively looking for Game of Thrones Pops – simply because there are so many other lines that I’m focusing on – but this is an awesome one to add to the group. I love the character on the show, and although his Pop is one of the more plain, human ones that I tend not to like, it’s also one that is extremely well done. All the little details of his hair and outfit are spot on, making him instantly recognizable to any Game of Thrones fan.
Pop Price Guide Value as of March 3 2016: $8

Lumpy Space Princess – Television (Adventure Time) line #30
Adventure Time is one of the oddest shows I’ve ever watched, but also tons of fun, and the Pops are excellently done. This particular one doesn’t have a huge amount of detail because the character is basically a purple blob with arms, but she’s also very unique-looking in the world of Pops. Personally, I think she’s adorable, and she’s definitely going to look great with the rest of the crew from the show.
Pop Price Guide Value as of March 3 2016: $9

Capt. Apollo – Television (Battlestar Galactica) line #228
This is the first Pop that I’ve gotten from this service that means absolutely nothing to me, but I am hoping that won’t be the case for too long. I purposely left the Battlestar Galactica Pops open-ended on the Pop in a Box website because I’ve never actually watched the show, but I believe that I will probably love it when I do eventually get around to it. In the meantime, this little guy will have to hang out by himself, being under-appreciated.
Pop Price Guide Value as of March 3 2016: $6

Mushu and Cricket – Disney line #167
I’m really glad that these two little guys came in the same box as Mulan, because all three are going to look so cute together on the shelf. Mushu is an adorable little mini-dragon whose design is very loyal to the movie, and I just love that he came with a teeny Cricket Pop. Funny add-on in case you didn’t watch the unboxing video: there was an actual dead but in the Pop box when I opened it up. Maybe he was trying to rescue his buddy from the plastic.
Pop Price Guide Value as of March 3 2016: $10

Cogsworth – Disney line #91
Okay, I have to admit that I was pretty excited to see this Pop because, although I haven’t been actively collecting them, I think the Beauty and the Beast Pops are super-cute. I loved the movie as a kid, and I think they did a really great job on Cogsworth’s mold and paint. Now if I could only find a Beast to stand him with!
Pop Price Guide Value as of March 3 2016: $7

Ariel – Disney line #27
And last, but certainly not least, we have the princess of the sea. I feel like I didn’t express nearly enough joy when I pulled out this Pop (I think I was having an off-day during filming) but believe me, I was super happy to see this little mermaid. Ariel was my princess when I was growing up, so if I was going to collect any Disney Pop, she is definitely the must-have. I had previously gotten the human Ariel and the hipster Ariel Pops, but this is one I hadn’t seen around and I absolutely love her. I especially love that her fin is covered in pretty green sparkles. Magical!  ^_^
Pop Price Guide Value as of March 3 2016: $10

Total approximate value on Pop Price Guide: $103 (US) / $140
Total approximate retail value: $156 (CAD)
Total cost to me: $154 (CAD)

So, that was the whole box, and although there were a few negative points, I thought it was pretty great. I’m always happy to get Star Wars Pops, and I’ve been enjoying getting the random Disney Pops that I don’t normally look out for. I was a little disappointed in the MLP Pop since I much prefer the version I already had, and I don’t really have any feelings either way about the Battlestar Galactica one yet, plus there’s the accidental C-3P0 double, but the awesomeness of the Petyr, Lumpy Space Princess, and Cogsworth make up for those three. I also absolutely love the Luke Skywalker, Mulan, and Mushu and Cricket. And, of course, there’s Ariel, my all-time favorite princess in the history of Disney princesses.

The value is a little bit subjective, depending on how you look at it. I provided the Pop Price Guide values mainly because it gives you an idea of whether the Pops are common or rare, but personally I prefer to think about it in the sense of how much I would have paid for them if I’d bought them in store. Either way, the numbers work out so that I’m basically paying almost exactly the same amount of money, without having to actually go out and search for these Pops, some of which are impossible to find in Nova Scotia. So in that sense, the cost is definitely worth it; otherwise I’d have to order some of these Pops online and pay individual shipping costs every time. Plus, if the Canadian dollar ever does go back up, I’ll actually be paying a good bit less than retail value for each Pop, which would be awesome (fingers crossed).

There are downsides to Pop in a Box that I should mention. For one, their shipping to Canada is painfully slow (although half of that might be the idiocy of customs in recent months). In addition to that, their shipping is very basic, so for people who are very concerned with pristine packaging, you have to realize that your Pops may not come in perfect condition. And finally, while it is possible to receive exclusives in your box, there is no guarantee that they will come with the sticker that proves the exclusive status.

That said, if you’re not terribly concerned about a dent or two or a missing sticker, and you’re patient enough to not get upset with the slow shipping, it’s an awesome service.

So yeah, basically, long-story-short, I love this service. 🙂 And if you’re interested, please use this link, which gives you 20% off your first order, whilst also giving me a percentage toward a free Pop. Win-win!

Pop Culture Peeve

Every reader has something (possible multiple things) that ruins a book for them. These are little pet peeves that are unique to each individual reader and do not necessarily have anything to do with the writing skill of the author. These are simply things that a reader does not enjoy reading. For me, my reader pet peeve, my little brain tick, is pop culture reference in fiction.

It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but pop culture references in fiction really, really bother me. If a character refers to using her cellphone, that’s okay, but if she says the word “iPhone” I get a twitch in my jaw. If a character is playing a video game, no problem, but if they’re playing a Nintendo 3DS I start grinding my teeth. A character can be watching Saturday morning cartoons, but if the specific cartoon happens to be the most recent incarnation of Pokemon, I want to tear the page out of the book.

This pet peeve has made itvery difficult for me to get through some books that I otherwise enjoyed very much. In one particular series the main character makes constant reference to her MacBook Pro… That’s a triple whammy for me because it’s not just a Mac. It’s a goddamn Mac Book Pro.

What’s really funny about this little tick of mine is that it’s present-time exclusive. Only pop culture references that are current to the times bother me. Ageless pop culture is perfectly fine. So a character is safe if they’re watching Star Wars, but not if they’re watching The Hunger Games. I don’t mind if a character is listening to ACDC, but I can’t handle it if they’re listening to Justin Bieber. By all means, have your character own a mobile phone, but if you feel the need to tell me that the phone is the latest, greatest Samsung Galaxy S4, I might just toss the book out the window.

I suspect that the problem stems from a pop culture reference’s ability to forcefully mix fantasy and reality, while additionally forcing the reader into the present. Say, for example, we’re talking about an alian invasion story. Okay, well we know that aliens have never yet invaded Earth, so we suspend disbelief and imagine that the story is taking place in a time that hasn’t happened yet. But if a character starts talking about their PSP, we get hauled back to the present and suddenly it’s hard to get back into the story because we are fully aware that an alien invasion is not currently happening.

But Tracey, you might ask, what about stories that take place in the past, but crazy things like alien invasions happen, like in the movie Cowboys and Aliens? Easy. Those stories occur in alternate timelines or parallel universes, thus the differences from reality are fine…unless you use current-time pop culture references that bring the reader back to the present and thus screw up the illusion.

Okay, okay, it’s a flawed theory at best, but it doesn’t change the way that I feel about these things. Being slapped in the face with a piece of information that proves a story is meant to be taking place in real time, right here, right now, takes me out of the story and makes it harder for me to enjoy. To me, even if a piece of fiction occurs in modern-day Earth, I like the illusion of it being some other world. I read to escape the real world, and trying to make me feel that the story world and the real world are one in the same ruins that mood for me. I’m certain that not all readers think this way, but I’m also sure that there are plenty of readers who do. Keep pop culture out of my fiction!

How do you feel about pop culture in fiction? Annoying or unnoticeable? Do you have an other reader-specific pet peeves? Please share!

Liebster Award

Yay! A blogging award! It’s been a while since I received one of these, and they’re so much fun! Grizz-Tion recently nominated me for the Liebster Award, which is given to bloggers with fewer than 200 followers as a way to recognize them and support the pursuit of new followers to their blog. The rules of the award are as follows:

1. You must thank the person who nominated you.
2. You must answer the 11 questions your nominator has left for you.
3. You must nominate 11 other bloggers.
4. You must ask 11 questions of the bloggers you nominate.

So first things first, thank you very much Grizz-Tion! I found Grizz-Tion’s blog when we both participated in L. Palmer’s Hello’s and High Fives post. I was attracted to Grizz’s excellent short story, Kyoko the Book Thief. Go see it! Go see it now!

Second things second, I must answer the questions that Grizz left behind:

1. Long hair or short hair, on people?
Depends on the person. Generally I like short hair on men and my preference is for longer hair on women, but it depends on what looks best on the person. Some guys look good with longer hair, and some women look better with shorter hair.

2. Which would you rather do: walk 10 miles or be forced to run 100 yards…both as fast as you could for that pace?

I find myself trying to imagine exactly how long 100 yards is… I would probably go with the 100 yards because as hard as it would be, and as sick as I’d probably feel afterward, it would be over a helluva lot quicker. 10 miles is a long freakin’ way to walk!

3. If you found out that your role model was actually the opposite of what you looked up to, how would you react?

Probably with tears and accusations. 😛
Honestly though, I’m not sure. It’s been a long, long time since I’ve looked at someone as a “role model”. I have people I look up to, but I have a pretty firm grasp on the idea that no one is infallible and that there is no one out there who I’m going to agree with on every aspect, so I pretty much accept that people are going to disappoint me, basically. Does that sound cynical? It sounds cynical to me.
4. Writing by hand in a crowded park, or writing all alone on a computer with no one around, and why?
Depending on my mood, I’ve preferred both, but honestly I seem to write better when there are some distractions around me. Something about silence and being alone makes it hard for me to think…maybe because I’m so used to having a dozen people milling around me at work, or having my daughter running around and my husband talking to me while I’m home. I’ve adapted an ability to write while surrounded by noise and movement, so it’s actually become harder for me to do it in a peaceful environment.
5. Desert island – only 1 book to take with you, just 1. Why did you pick that one?
I’m going to get a little saucy on this one: I choose Survive! by Les Stroud, because…duh.
6. If you were faced with 1 movie monster/bad guy/villain, which would you want to fight and why that one? (Be specific, no generic answers like zombies or vampires. I’m looking for Lestat, or the actual Wolfman.)
I had to think about this one for quite a while. There are a lot of great movie monsters and villains out there, and the thought of fighting most of them fills me with dread. In the end, I think I’m going to go with Darth Vader. Why? Well for one thing he’d probably just force-choke me and be done with it. For another, come on…Darth Vader, man.
7. What would you want the conversation to revolve around if you could sit down and talk to Jesus?
I’d want to talk about how his good intentions had spawned countless forms of ignorance, intolerance, and bigotry all over the world, and suggest to him that he really ought to come back and bitch-slap a few billion people.
8. Who should Cap’n Reynolds truly be with – Zoe, Kaylee, Inara, Saffron, or just stay alone and be bad-ass?
Inara, all the way. He should still be bad-ass and foolish, but it frustrates me to no end when those two get all SEXUAL TENSION! and *nothing happens*.
9. Les Stroud or Bear Grylls?
Neither. My vote is for the cameramen who have to put up with Grylls.
10. Personal choice for the event that will end civilization? Basically, how do you want the apocalypse to start?
You would think that my vote would be for zombies, but I’m not naive…I know that I would be one of the first poor bastards who gets eaten. Instead lets go with a giant meteor slamming into Earth. Maybe I’ll be one of the lucky ones who manages to stow away on the specially-built spaceships that takes off in hopes of establishing a colony on Mars.
11. Killing people just became legal, but only for those labelled huntable material. Which 3 celebrities would you want to be labelled as such and why?
Paris Hilton because she is quite possibly the worst role model for young kids who has ever walked the planet. Justin Bieber because omfg I’m so sick of hearing about him and his music is awful. Kristen Stewart because (despite and regardless of any opinion anyone else might have about her) I think she is quite possibly the worst actress I’ve ever seen and I can’t believe she keeps getting roles.
Third, I have to nominate more bloggers. I’m only picking five, rather than eleven, because (to be blunt) I don’t have time to go through all the blogs I follow and try to pick out 11 who have fewer than 200 followers. That said, I invite anyone who wishes to go ahead and continue on with this award as though I nominated them!
Fourth, I have to submit 11 questions of my own:
1. When did you figure out what you wanted to do for a living, and did you succeed with your choices?
2. Why did you start blogging? Has that reason stayed the same or changed as you’ve blogged?
3. If you could bring one fictional character to life and have them be madly in love with you, who would you choose?
4. Be totally honest: do you really hate the sexy vampire trend, or do you secretly kinda dig it?
5. Tell me about something you’ve always wanted to do but never did, and why not?
6. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or My Little Pony?
7. Confess a guilty pleasure that you think other people won’t really understand.
8. Pick a pop culture phenomenon (a book, a movie, a video game, etc) that you absolutely hate and explain why.
9. Laid out before you are all the possible pizza ingredients in the world. What kind of pizza do you make?
10. Describe your perfect day of rest and relaxation.
11. Imagine your dream job (say, being a published author). Now imagine the most embarrassing/socially unacceptable version of your dream job (say, writing erotic literature for porno magazines). If you were offered this embarrassing version of your job and you knew that it was the only chance you were ever going to get at your dream job, would you do it?

Caution: Avoid At All Costs

A reminder: This post courtesy of Julie Jarnagin’s 101 Blog Post Ideas for Writers.

43. Mistakes to avoid in manuscripts

My three answers to this prompt are based on personal experience with what I’ve seen people do when submitting excerpts to be critiqued on Critique Circle. If you’re a writer and you’re reading this, feel free to add suggestions of your own in the comments.

– One major thing I notice is that tons of people (at least when they’re looking for critiques) pass along pieces of their work that are drowning in spelling, grammatical, and punctuation errors. This is a huge turnoff for anyone who is reading the piece, whether it be for critique, editing, or publishing purposes. I know that no one is perfect, definitely not myself, and that mistakes will be made, but when you’re reading a piece and you find ten spelling errors in the first half a dozen sentences, you begin to wonder if the piece was submitted to you by a five-year-old. Additionally, I’m sorry, but if you don’t have a half-decent grasp on grammar and punctuation, you might have to reconsider your field. Again, I know no one is perfect – I myself often feel that I’m putting in way too many commas while also feeling that every single one is justified – but if the person reading your piece is finding at least one mistake in every single sentence, you are absolutely not going to be taken seriously.

– Word abuse is a complaint I’ve come across many times, and I can definitely understand why. Have you ever read a book in which the author seemed obsessed with a few particular words or phrases and used them constantly to the point that it was both noticeable and annoying? I definitely have. It’s not something that any writer does on purpose (at least I don’t believe so), but sometimes there is just a word you enjoy and so it weasels its way into your work over and over again. I myself have a tendency to overuse the word “incredulous”. I don’t know why, but it seems to come up constantly and makes editing a nightmare as I struggle for different words to use to break up the bad habit.

– The dreaded Mary-Sue Effect, or more recently known as the Bella Swan Conundrum. If you’ve never heard of a Mary Sue, it’s a name given to characters who are unnaturally perfect, with no discernible flaws to speak of. These characters are written to be the ideal person, loved by everyone, someone who never makes mistakes and is naturally perfect at everything that matters. These types of characters have existed for a long time, but one of the new pop-culture-reference examples is Bella Swan from the Twilight Saga. Bella is not special in any way, other than for the fact that the psychic vampire Edward Cullen cannot read her mind. And yet, despite her decidedly common nature, she is portrayed as (to put it bluntly) the Center of the Universe. All the male characters love her, except for the ones who think her important enough to want to kill. She is constantly surrounded by danger, drama, and conflict, and she always comes out of it completely unscathed. She succeeds in everything she tries. This is not how a main character should be. Some readers love this kind of character because they like to imagine that they are that character…this is called wish fulfillment, and while it can serve it’s purpose, it is not good literature. Good characters should have flaws. They should make stupid mistakes and suffer for them. They should have to struggle for their successes, and they should have to deal with all the same issues that life throws at all of us. If you want to make a good character, make them real, not ideal.