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.

Flash Review, Issue #001

Though I do enjoy writing nice, long book reviews, my normal modus operandi when finishing up a title on Goodreads is to write a few quick paragraphs instead. Here are some flash reviews based on what I’ve been reading lately. (For more, you can always follow me on Goodreads!)

This was inspired by my friend Emily’s book reviews on her blog.

The Geek’s Guide to Dating by Eric Smith

geeksguideWhile I’m most definitely out of this book’s target audience – I’m female and in a relationship already – I found this book truly funny and helpful. From the point of view of the type of person on the opposite side of most of these situations, I’d agree with basically all the advice the author gives out (yes, it’s nice for the gentleman to offer to pay for the date; yes, he should accept when I tell him I’d like to pay half; no, a gentleman should NOT wear a geeked-out logo shirt on a first date.)

But the best part of The Geek’s Guide to Dating is the voice, which is incredibly funny and jam-packs the advice with geeky references (including a how-to guide on dressing like geekdom’s most debonair dudes.)¬† Even if you’re not in need of some lady-chasing advice yourself, it’s a fun book to check out and would make a really good gift for a geeky guy in your life who’s currently looking for love.

– 4.75 out of 5 stars

The Almost Girl by Amalie Howard

TheAlmostGirl_CoverI love sci-fi, I love alternate history and alternate universes, and I love kickass female heroes, but The Almost Girl just didn’t do it for me. Between the dialogue – which I found a little stiff, cumbersome, and unnatural – and the let’s-make-vauge-and-ominous-allusions style of the plot, I had a hard time reading it in a single sitting, despite the fact that I can read most YA sci-fi in a very short amount of time (when engaged.)

There were some problematic things in the story – a LOT of comparisons between the heroine and other, more sexualized and consequently inherently bad female characters being my biggest annoyance – as well as the fact that I’m just NOT the reader this book is intended for. It’s much more of an action-y romance than a sci-fi story, and I think romance readers will enjoy it much more.

– 2.5 out of 5 stars

Boxers & Saints by Gene Yang

#1: Boxers – Wow. Just – wow.

I sat down to review this after finishing Boxers – directly after reading Saints – and it’s incredibly overwhelming. This historical fiction graphic novel follows Little Bao from his quiet village to the capital of China as he attempts to free China from Western military and political influence and “keep China whole.” But his journey isn’t precisely like the ones in the operas he loves so dearly, and his path wavers in places.

While I’d recommend this graphic novel to absolutely everyone, it would be best read by someone interested in learning more about world history or a particular interest in colonialism in literature.

– 5 out of 5 stars

boxers&saints

#2: Saints – To start off, allow me to preface with the following statements: I read this book before reading Boxers, which is a longer story and seems to be intended to be read first, and I am Catholic myself.

That said, I found Saints to be an incredibly compelling historical fiction. It didn’t shy away from the ugliness of religious-based politics – in fact, almost the entire story is about religion and war – but at the same time explored why people would choose to convert to a faith when it could be so potentially deadly to do so.

I’d recommend this graphic novel for those interested in world history, especially those not well-versed in Chinese history or imperialism, and for anyone interested in colonialism or post-colonialism in literature.

– 5 out of 5 stars

Books to Look Forward To in 2014

I’m kind of a big reader: I’ve been doing it since I was three, and I can be completely ridiculous about things I like.¬† Last year, I crammed 85 books into my spare time (yes, it exists) and hopefully can fit even more this year, especially adult science fiction – which I love but never get enough time to read.

That said, though, there are tons of books I’m looking forward to reading (or re-reading) this year, many of them sequels.

Honor’s Knight by Rachel Bach is the sequel to 2013’s Fortune’s Pawn, which I reviewed for Girls in Capes.¬† While it wasn’t as mind-blowing as other SFF series I read in 2013, Fortune’s Pawn was an exciting and adventurous ride with a hilarious narrator with a great voice.¬† This title is out soon from Orbit Books.

The Enceladus Crisis by Michael J. Martinez is the sequel to his debut, The Daedalus Incident. Set in a simultaneous alternate history and possible future, Daedalus is a quirky and swashbuckling science fantasy treat, and I can’t wait to see what the next adventure will be. (More on Enceladus here.)

Marie Lu’s new series, The Young Elites, is a high fantasy series with the first book out Fall 2014.¬† She describes it as “X-Men meets Assassin’s Creed meets Game of Thrones.”¬† With my intense love for Lu’s series LEGEND and the fact that I enjoy all three of those comparative titles, how could I NOT look forward to this¬† series?¬† In fact, a better question is probably how I’ll make it through most of 2014 WITHOUT reading it.

And as I mentioned, I’m stoked to re-read some excellent 2013 titles as well (though in some cases mainly to stave off my hunger for the yet-unannounced sequels).¬† This year, I plan to re-read Rainbow Rowell‘s third novel, Fangirl, one of my absolute favorites of 2013.¬† I also want to read all three books in the LEGEND series as well, maybe before Young Elites #1 comes out.

I also want to re-read some of my adult speculative favorites, including Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice and my annual re-read, Neal Stephenson‘s 900-page epic Anathem.¬† (Yes, I try and re-read a 900-page book every year.¬† Maybe this is why I never manage to read 100 books…)

What new releases are you looking forward to during 2014?  What re-reads are you most excited for?

REVIEW: The Daedalus Incident by Michael J. Martinez

Mars is supposed to be dead.

But in this action-adventure science fantasy by Michael J. Martinez, it most certainly isn’t, and Lt. Shaila Jain (part of the Mars mining base in 2132) soon finds herself in a bit of hot water as quakes rattle the planet, carving unnatural structures on the surface of Mars. Meanwhile, in an alternate 1779, Lt. Thomas Weatherby of the British Royal Navy sails through the solar system in an attempt to recover something stolen – and discovers something more sinister than theft along the way.

Military sci-fi has always been difficult for me to get into, but when I picked up THE DAEDALUS INCIDENT, the initial reservations I had about trying a new genre were put on hold. Though I’d been worried the military language of both the future astronauts and alt-history sailors would be daunting, the writing style was accessible and straightforward, with both parties being clever and funny enough to feel like real people.

The plot of DAEDALUS is a bit lengthy and involved; it would make a great rainy-day read, since the large and diverse cast of characters can be a bit much to manage when reading over the course of several days.¬† I definitely enjoyed reading, though, and getting to know each character – my favorite, aside from Shaila, was probably Finch, the alchemist on Weatherby’s alternate British frigate.

Speaking of alchemy, I found the explanations of both universes pretty interesting in and of themselves.¬† I love sci-fi for the world-building, and both the mining base on Mars and the alternate history ships are fascinating. In the alternate history, alchemy develops rather than science as a means to travel, allowing ships to sail through “the Void” between Earth, the moon, and various planets, including a British colony on the Jupiter moon of Ganymede and interactions with denizens of other planets.

The twists and turns of the plot drew to a conclusion I didn’t expect on a path I DEFINITELY didn’t expect, and it was the sort of action-driven plot that keeps a reader engaged. The actual alchemy and science parts aren’t confusing, though as I mentioned before, the characters can get a bit confusing – I found the historic British characters more confusing, since they weren’t exactly diverse in most aspects, though I did like the alchemist a lot.

Overall, I’d recommend THE DAEDALUS INCIDENT for people who enjoy both science fiction AND fantasy, accessible language that’s not pretentious, and action-driven stories with interesting and relatable characters. (4 out of 5 stars)

Happy Birthday – The Rules of the Game

It’s been almost two years since the release date of my writing/publishing experiment, The TECH Project.¬† Publishing the book was something like an education: apart from writing the darn thing, I decided to learn about publishing by learning to operate a publishing company.

To do so, I did research on the publishing industry.¬† I also learned to use industry-standard programs, including Adobe InDesign and Adobe Photoshop.¬† (It was only later that I learned InDesign was much, much more important.)¬† In the year preceding and the two years since the publication date, I have learned so much about the industry that I know it’s where I want to be after I graduate in May.

With that said and done, I’ll get to the point.

Jan. 28 will mark the second anniversary of The TECH Project’s publication date, which I like to refer to as TTP’s birthday.¬† Last year, I gave away one copy to a fan of The TECH Project on Facebook.¬† This year, I’m giving away two copies – one on Twitter, one on Facebook – and below you’ll find the rules.

TWITTER RULES

  1. Start by following me on Twitter.  You can do that in the sidebar on the right or by finding me @FelizaCasano.  If you already follow me, you can skip this step.
  2. Tweet me what superpower you want and the hashtag #TheTECHProject.
  3. You can also tweet me the message “Happy Birthday #TheTECHProject” on Jan. 28 for an extra entry!

FACEBOOK RULES

  1. Start by liking both my personal page and The TECH Project’s page on Facebook.¬† Make sure you like both!
  2. Post on my personal page about your writing experience.  What books or authors inspire you?  What in your daily life inspires you?  Do you write short stories, poetry, novels, or something else?
  3. For an extra entry, post “Happy Birthday!” on The TECH Project’s page on Jan. 28.

It’s a pretty simple contest!¬† Just do what you normally do on Facebook and Twitter, and you could win a hard copy of the book.¬† I’ll announce the winners by Jan. 31, and I’ll notify winners by Direct Message on Twitter and Message on Facebook.

The TECH Project is a young adult novel following Zoe Lee and five other teen superheroes.  To find out more, check out this page.