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

Flash Review, Issue #004

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

 The String Diaries by Stephen Lloyd Jones

This book was practically impossible to tear myself away from to do otherwise unimportant things like eating, sleeping, or going to my job.  Blending elements of thriller, historical fiction, and the supernatural, THE STRING DIARIES is first and foremost the story of a line of women with the desire to survive in the face of unimaginable danger and, secondarily, about the lovers and family members willing to do anything to ensure they can do just that.

There’s little I can say without giving away key elements of the story, but this is one novel that doesn’t hesitate to make its characters pay heavy prices, and even its relatively “happy” ending has enough foundation built so much earlier in the story that it doesn’t feel oddly deus ex machina.  Definitely a recommended read.

Black and White (Noughts & Crosses) by Malorie Blackman

My official Goodreads review for this book is very simple:

The only thing I can really say about this book without giving up a lot of spoilers is that it makes me want to lay on the floor in a ball and cry in the best way possible.

The only thing I’d want to add is that I feel this book is very important for people with racial privilege to understand the base level of racism in the US.  I feel Blackman’s attention to detail really digs in to make the reader understand, on both a conscious and unconscious level, what discrimination feels like.

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?

Writing Organizations and Programs for Young Adult Writers

So you want to write for teenagers.  You’re not alone: young adult blockbusting books have been sweeping the country, from the meteoric rise of the Harry Potter series to the Twilight and Hunger Games phenomena.  It’s still considered a niche genre, though – one that isn’t always respected at the college level, as I’ve found through personal experience.

Yet it’s easy to see that networking and peer critiques are incredibly important, and you may even want an MFA – but it might be difficult to get accepted into a typical or traditional MFA program with only young adult writing samples.  Here, I’d like to give you a few tips and tricks to finding organizations or programs if you’re a YA writer.

Your best bet, at least to start with, is the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, more commonly known as SCBWI.  SCBWI is one of if not the absolute largest organization of people working in the children’s book industry.  It hosts conferences and contests, gives awards and grants, and boasts over 22,000 members and 70 regional chapters across the world.

Canadian YA writers may be interested in CANSCAIP, or the Canadian Society of Children’s Authors, Illustrators and Performers. CANSCAIP is an association of Canadian children’s entertainment workers with around 400 members.

Classes or graduate work in young adult literature is also an option.  While traditionally there has not been many YA programs, there are classes and degree-granting programs available for those interested in the topic.

Those in the Minneapolis, MN area may be interested in taking classes at The Loft.  While The Loft is a literary center rather than a young adult-specific establishment, it offers several classes for adults who are interested in writing for young adults.  Don’t forget to check your local writing or literacy centers as well as your local public library system to see if there are any similar classes – and you can also check your local degree-granting institutions as well.

Vermont College is known for the first program focusing on an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults.  This low-residency program allows degree-seeking candidates to take distance learning classes, allowing students to continue working full-time in their current career while simultaneously learning finer points of craft.  The program boasts a number of published alums and a postgraduate study program.

Hamline College in Minnesota also offers an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults.  The program is also low-residency, as is the MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults at Spalding University in Kentucky.

There are many great options for those interested in writing for young adults.  Beyond these listed, you can also search on your own or even found a new organization dedicated to young adult literature.

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.


  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!


  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.