Flash Review, Issue #005

Here are a few short reviews of books I’ve read in the past month.

The Screaming Divas by Suzanne Kamata

Provided by the publisher for review. Find Suzanne’s interview at Girls in Capes.

When I started this book, I was expecting something more along the lines of a book about a band, with a lot of practicing and concerts, but the book ended up reading more like The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants except with a punk band instead of magic jeans.

Originally, I’d set this book aside because the first chapter didn’t hook me, but I’m glad I ended up following through, because as it turns out, the character (Trudy) whose point of view is shown in the first chapter is the least interesting and relatable.  I enjoyed each of the other three girls’ plotlines, especially Esther’s, and I found some of my own life experiences reflected in Harumi.  Cassie was my favorite of the girls, though I didn’t quite like the progression of her plot.

The Screaming Divas was a fascinating read after that initial bump, but the strange change of pace towards the end and the overall plot wasn’t really for me.  However, the book has fascinating diversity and represents each character in what I find to be a very fair way.

3 out of 5 stars

Kindred by Octavia Butler

Purchased for the Girls in Capes book club.

Octavia Butler’s been on my list a long time, and KINDRED was an incredible introduction to this prolific science fiction author.  Following a woman as she gets yanked back and forth in time between the present day (1976) and the antebellum South, the novel is harsh and emotionally difficult in the best kind of way.

Its emotional difficulty will turn many readers off, but this book is an important one to read, especially for those interested in history.  Despite its genre, KINDRED is an obviously well-researched and deeply thoughtful read.

5 out of 5 stars

My most anticipated Fall 2014/Winter 2015 continuing series (Orbit Books)

One of my favorite publishers is Orbit Books.  That’s kind of a difficult thing to say, since there are tons of publishers that put out books I adore — Firebird, Penguin’s SPEAK imprint, Quirk Books, Dark Horse, and First Second all come to mind – but most books I’ve read from Orbit US have been right up my alley — this year alone, there was the conclusion of Rachel Bach’s Paradox trilogy and M. R. Carey’s The Girl with All the Gifts.

Most of the books from Orbit are ones I review for Girls in Capes, but not all of them are right for the site, so my reviews don’t always get posted there.  However, there are quite a few titles due out this year that I’m really looking forward to checking out.

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Flash Review, Issue #003

Here are a few short reviews of the books I’ve been reading recently.

Audrey, Wait! by Robin Benway

Purchased at Main Point Books.

I first heard of this book around the time it first came out in 2008, and the book’s concept stuck in my mind since then: a girl breaks up with a boyfriend, who writes a hit pop song about their breakup.  Young adult books about the concept and consequences of fame always interest me, so this book had me hooked from the description – but it’s way better than I thought it would be.

Audrey herself, who narrates in the first person, is funny without being downright nasty or mean, and her conscious use of “PSAT words” throughout the story makes her smart and hilarious.  While I didn’t think she made the best of decisions in the story – especially when she gives a very sarcastic interview to a newspaper reporter – it was easy to see how a seventeen-year-old would make those decisions, and she was very relatable.  Definitely would recommend.

Shooting Stars by Allison Rushby

Purchased at Main Point Books.

This book was a lot of fun, but the overall story ended up much more serious than I imagined a story about a teenage paparazzo to be.  The story itself felt very genuine, especially when Jo described her night job, though the main plot of faking her way into a teen therapy facility was a little less believable.

With nice writing, a fun and interesting protagonist, and an entertaining plot, I’d recommend SHOOTING STARS as a fun read with a serious edge.  Great for teen readers, especially ones who enjoy celebrity-related plotlines.

The Lascar’s Dagger by Glenda Larke

Provided by publisher for review.

While I tend to appreciate more subtlety in my fantasy, I appreciated the issues the book tackled. The world Larke builds is fascinating, completely believable, and crafted with nods to many aspects of society.  I’ll admit I found a lot more enjoyment in the secondary protagonists – while the premise of Saker Rampion, the protagonist, was very interesting and certainly drew me in, what sold me on this book was the fascinating view from secondary characters Ardhi and Sorrel.

Definitely would read the rest of the series. I’d recommend this book to fantasy readers with an interest in exploring colonialism in fiction.  For anyone else, it’s a really fun ride.

The Girl with All the Gifts by M. R. Carey

Provided by publisher for review. Full review at Girls in Capes.

I’m not sure what exactly I expected from this mysterious book – its jacket copy contains nearly no hints about what the book contains, except that it’s the story of a “gifted” girl who lives in a scientific facility. But the novel took a turn I didn’t quite see coming, then hurtled along with hardly a pause for breath.

The book is written in a style that’s not quite for everyone, but the themes it explores are accessible and fascinating. Recommended for readers of thriller and horror who also appreciate science fiction, especially those who can handle gore (not quite to the level of another personal favorite, Battle Royale, but still pretty gross) and are interested in science fiction that asks difficult questions.

Battle Royale: Angels’ Border by TAKAMI Koushun

Speaking of Battle Royale… Contains spoilers for the original novel. This manga side story/companion to Takami’s Battle Royale contains lovely art and a pair of engaging story arcs centering on the girls who hole up in the lighthouse that the protagonist meets partway through the novel.

While those who haven’t read the novel or seen the film may not love the story as much because the girls’ rather horrific deaths will be shown by the end of the first chapter, the target reader of ANGELS’ BORDER – which will be completed in two volumes – is obviously a reader who has read the novel and feels strongly connected to the characters.

This manga deals with many heavy topics also addressed in BR – the novel is heavily focused on tyranny, fear, and human desperation – but adds additional heavy topics from the teens’ lives before they were forced into the experiment such as dealing with suicide in the family, homosexuality/homophobia, and more. It makes for a heavy read, but rounds out the lives of characters who weren’t fully explored in the novel.

I would definitely hesitate to recommend this manga for those who haven’t read or watched Battle Royale. However, it’s an excellent read for those who HAVE read and enjoyed the original, and a must-read for anyone who wanted to know more about the girls in the lighthouse – or any of the kids in the class.

Flash Review, Issue #002

Here are a few short reviews of the books I’ve been reading recently. (You might notice a lot of speculative fiction in here!)

Honor’s Knight by Rachel Bach

This book definitely doesn’t suffer Second Book Syndrome. The continued adventures of Devi Morris takes readers from Fortune’s Fool to the wider universe as she tries to unravel what’s happening to her and why she can’t just shoot all her problems.

Though I wasn’t a huge Devi fan after reading Fortune’s Pawn, HONOR’S KNIGHT delved further into her personality, pulled back from the less-than-interesting romantic subplot, and engaged with some really great universe-building. I’d say this book is great for a space opera fan and is more than ready to pull any reluctant readers of this series back in.