This interview today marks the first showcasing I will be featuring during my newly minted #SciFiSundays – a concentration of reviews, interviews and features celebrating one of my favourite genres which is Science Fiction! As you know, I have a soft spot in my bookish heart for Space Opera – which was definitely seen through my journey of reviews into #TheClanChronicles a few years ago whilst I have a lovely surprise coming this @SciFiMonth which re-anchours me into that beloved series. Until then, I decided I want to read more Sci Fi throughout the year rather than merely concentrate on it during November – as you might have seen, I am also starting to feature Fantasy showcases outside of the months of May & October, where I predominately feature them during an event for @WyrdAndWonder.
My interview today is about a new trilogy I learnt about via Breakeven Books when I was approached to host this blog tour. Through a quick conversation with them, I realised this series is a lot like Becky Chambers novel “The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet” which I helped co-host a series of discussions about on Twitter a few years ago as well. Very character centred and driven and there is an intensive challenge for the characters to overcome whilst there is a diverse cast at the centre of it all, too.
I wanted to explore a bit more about this first novel of the trilogy through a conversation with the author as I wasn’t entirely sure if I could read the book right now in time for the blog tour. Also of note, one of my top favourite series for Star Trek isn’t the author’s favourite (ie. Enterprise) but I have very fond memories of watching that in the Spring of 2020 (or thereabouts!). We do agree on Classic Trek and not the new additions; as a bone of contention for me is ‘Picard’ which takes Trek too dark for me to traverse inside.
I am hoping this conversation gives readers on the tour and those of whom follow me something to chew on about this story and the evolving series as I know sometimes it is hard to choose which stories are good fits for us as readers simply through a synopsis! This author kindly lent her time and truly enriched the conversation with insight about how she approached writing the story as much as what you can find inclusive of it.
At the far edge of cultivated space, a derelict ship rests. Ten times larger than the biggest Terran dreadnaught, the ship is not recognized by any of the five species tenuously coexisting in the galaxy.
Small crews are sent to investigate. What they find is a trap.
Once in the metal labyrinth’s clutches, it is clear the unlikely allies will not escape unless they can work together as a team. Unfortunately, trust and cooperation are entirely out of the question.
An immersive tale of escape and comradery, Escaping First Contact brings together an unforgettable cast of characters, richly detailed alien cultures, deft humour, and explosive action.
Acquired Book by:Did you ever grow curious about a new publisher who produces science fiction, fantasy, and horror genre selections in both novel length and short stories? Did you ever decide to enquire with the publisher you’ve found to see if they were open to book blogger requests to read and review their selections!? This is the situation I found myself in as I was quite mystified by the offerings of World Weaver Press! Such a delightful discovery on my behalf [in 2015] with a website full of inspiring reads across SFF!
Since I started reviewing with World Weaver Press [in August, 2015] there has been a changing of the guard behind-the-scenes where there is a new owner & publicity team. I am wicked happy to see the legacy and tradition of WWP has been carried forward by this lovely new team! I am honoured to work with them continuing to showcase World Weaver Press through reviewing their titles and hosting future guest features by their authors! Except to say when my personal health afflictions and adversities overtook my ability to concentrate on the stories with successive delays in posting my reviews suddenly became the norm, I withdrew making new requests from the publisher as much as it pained me to admit I was falling further behind. I enjoyed the time I had as a reviewer for this publisher and I will continue to seek out the stories by the authors I’ve discovered along the way. I especially want to continue to gather the anthologies by Rhonda Parrish to round out my collection!
I received a complimentary copy of “Far Orbit: Apogee” direct from the publisher World Weaver Press in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.
Why I’ve been dearly keen on reading this lovely Anthology:
It is fair to say, one of my favourite sections of Science Fiction are the realms within Space Opera & the infinite array of how we can not only explore Spacer lifestyles but delve into the myriad dimensions of how evolving life in Space can become for intrepid explorers, traders & colonists who dare to live offworld. It’s a place where due to the variety of entrances you can make as a writer – the reader, can become treated to different perspectives of life in Space inasmuch as the complex complications which go along with interstellar travels.
I originally wanted to read this during #RRSciFiMonth 2017 – as that is when I last updated the draft for this review. However, it was the year my father recovered from his stroke and the following year  I had over 10+ months of health afflictions and a higher frequency of my chronic migraines. Last year  was the first year I started to find relief from the migraines but also, the first year I could re-address my backlogue reviews whilst self-motivating myself through a few challenges which help re-inspire our self-directed goals such as #BeatTheBackList.
I made some positive enroads towards that personal goal of mine of erasing my backlogue of reviews, however, to be fair, I had less migraines this 2020 but more adversities to overcome as well. Such as the medical emergencies of my parents which included two ER visits in March (non-covid related) wherein I was alerted to be prepared if my Mum might have had a TBI and that would have left me as the carer of both my parents for the foreseeable future. She had sustained a series of bad injuries in an accident and thankfully after a few months recovered and healed from them all. It was an unexpected blessing and one we cherished receiving – yet, from January to May I was migraine-free only to have them return May-October.
I realise now my backlogue goals were set a bit too high to reach and thereby I’ve reset my goals to simply be “pick up a book on the backlogue, read it, sort out my thoughts for the review and let time be the chooser of when it is erased”. It speaks to how sometimes our goals are more long-term than short-term and how sometimes if you have health afflictions, you can maintain your optimism but sometimes you have to be more realistic with how quickly you can accomplish the goals you dearly want to achieve. Thereby, it is a pleasure of JOY being able to share this review during #SciFiMonth 2020! *whew!* What a long, long route I took to diving into FAR ORBIT: Apogee!
It goes without question, I will one day purchase copies of FAR ORBIT (the original collection) and FAR ORBIT: Outpost (if I can find where it was published and when).
Acquired Book By: I had to take a leave of absence hosting for this touring company in  whilst I worked towards finding better balance in my blogging and personal life. I returnt to hosting for Lola’s Book Tours in  before having to take a small hiatus from requesting future blog tours for a second time. By  as my health afflictions from 2018/19 started to recede I realised I could start to host for her authors with better confidence in being able to participate on the tours themselves. Thereby it was with the Dream Horse Adventures series I decided to mark my return and was quite thankful this was a series she was celebrating through her touring company.
I received a complimentary copy of “Ultra Squad: Adventures under the Strangebow (Graphic Novel)” direct from the author Julia Devillers in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.
Why I felt this would be a good series to showcase during #WyrdAndWonder:
I participated on my first Graphic Novel blog tour during #IndieApril – wherein I was first introduced to the Ultra Squad series. I felt the series had some positives going for it and a few choices within the context of the story which I felt were either irrelevant or missed the mark a bit for me. For instance – it has the marketing of being a diverse universe and thereby a diverse cast leads us into the stories themselves but there isn’t a lot of development within the characters (at least in book one) to where you can see those individualistic qualities and distinctions; each of the girls’ nearly collide into each other visually because their own voice wasn’t as strong as I had hoped they would become.
Also – there was a maze for the reader to solve in the middle of the story – which to me felt out of context with the overall vibe of the story itself. I hadn’t remembered those being inclusive of the previous graphic novels I’ve read in the past and how it was inserted just struck me as being rather odd. However, it did have a few strong points too – about friendship, finding leadership and living outside your comfort zones.
Part of hosting the original blog tour – I was given the option to read the sequel – which is why I elected to run it during my #WyrdAndWonder showcases. The key reason is because this is a bit of a genre bender – it is part Science Fiction and part Fantasy; wherein I would deem this #SciFantasy as it has a few bits from both genres to give readers something to contemplate as their reading the series. It is also a perfect blend of ‘wyrd and wonder’ if you think about the origins of our event and why we started hosting it. It isn’t quite like what you’re expecting to find and it is in of itself a wholly new way of seeing a story come to life.
What my takeaways were about the first Ultra Squad story:
There is definite cheeky humour – although also a few words I think had a few liberties taken with their usage – as studenting might have raised a few brows for me as a middle grade reader. The humour itself thought was how Devillers was referencing the danger imagery and how she was anchouring the foreshadowing into the action of the present within the series itself.
Ooh my dear ghouls – when the secretary requests the presence of the four girls’ in her office – this is when Ultra Squad meets Galaxy Quest! In such a stroke of genius really – as similar to what you love about the film transitioning seemingly regular and quite ordinary humans into outer space to counter-act against a reptilian terrorist – you now find yourself at the mercy of ULTRA and what this entails for the girls’ being recruited to aide in their missions!
The segue into meeting the girls’ families was lovely because you had the chance to see their different backgrounds – including how one of the girls’ has a military family. It also showed a bit of back-history of the Ultra Squad as it was implied this was a legacy appointment and not just a random bit of good news in the middle of an ordinary school day where your not expecting much except homework, class-time and a disappointing lunch!
There is a lot of verbiage in the storyline which is slightly more urban slang than contemporary cool – mostly as the context has to be understood before you proceed with reading it. I was never the kind of kid who was clued into contemporary slang or acronyms as they were difficult for me to process as a dyslexic reader and learner. Therefore as an adult dyslexic reader entering into this series – I’d have to say, if I were to give this to a middle grade reader I’d ask them a few questions about shortcuts in contemporary language patterns and if they knew shorthand for certain phrases as the wordplay is altered and is attempting to come across as ‘clued in’ to the language of younger children although for me, I felt it fell a bit short on that end of it. I almost thought the author was trying a bit too hard to pull that off and should have just kept the girls’ speaking in a language pattern which was more reflective of their own personalities than what would be considered the ‘best’ en-vogue collection of terms and phrases.
Where the story grows in empathy is showing how each of the girls’ have their own strengths and weaknesses – which proved to be a learning curve for their ‘sidekicks’ which were really quite the awkward collection of aliens! Their superhero strengths played off their own individual talents on Earth and thereby gave them superhuman qualities in space! I liked how the girls’ acted their actual age and showed how they still needed a bit of guidance to understand new situations and new experiences where they might have felt a bit overwhelmed by the circumstances.
The ending reminded me a heap of what happens in Back to the Future Part II – in fact, that was one of the films I loved watching at the age I would have naturally picked up this to read. There were some moments where I wish we could have understood more about the girls’ themselves – what made them unique and different from one another – I know the story focused on their individual talents and weaknesses, but I wanted a bit more back-story about the girls’ themselves. I would have preferred a lot less slang and shorthand as well – as again, even as an adult dyslexic reader I find half of that distracts from the story as I am constantly trying to sort out what the abbreviations are referencing and referring to whilst if the story just said what it had meant I would have been able to follow the story a bit easier.
Overall, the biggest surprise was really the unmasking of the villain which reminded me why we always looked forward to that reveal during an episode of Scooby Doo. I felt Ultra Squad borrowed a lot from other pop cultural stories and superheroes – wherein, it was struggling to have its own identity from the crowd. There are some good moments between the sidekicks and the girls’ but there was a bit of a downside in having them stay in-scene and not sound ridiculous too. I think this would be good for readers who might be even a bit younger than projected for the story itself as it is definitely geared towards newer readers who are not actively reading every week or month but might occasionally pick up a story.
An evil, strange rainbow! A former nemesis! And four girls who look exactly like the UltraSquad! It’s an epic battle on an alternate universe for the UltraSquad, a secret superhero team, with a mission to save the universe through teamwork, positivity, and justice. Can the girls and their sidekicks, the Pallies, once again save the world and make it a better place through teamwork, positivity, and unstoppable fierce girl power?
Acquired Book By: I started hosting with Prism Book Tours at the end of , having noticed the badge on Tressa’s blog (Wishful Endings) whilst I was visiting as we would partake in the same blog tours and/or book blogosphere memes. I had to put the memes on hold for several months (until I started to resume them (with Top Ten Tuesday) in January 2018). When I enquiried about hosting for Prism, I found I liked the niche of authors and stories they were featuring regularly. I am unsure how many books I’ll review for them as most are offered digitally rather than in print but this happily marks one of the blog tours where I could receive a print book for review purposes. Oft-times you’ll find Prism Book Tours alighting on my blog through the series of guest features and spotlights with notes I’ll be hosting on behalf of their authors.
I received a complimentary copy of “Mind of Mine” direct from the publisher IlliuminateYA Fiction (an imprint of Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas) in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.
Why I felt this might be a good fit for a Futuristic YA novel:
When it comes to reading INSPY Speculative Fiction, I admit, it is a new concept for me as a reader. Something I have only just begun to seek out – whereas I have the tendency of focusing on Fantasy novelists, I decided to take a chance on a novel such as this one which might push me a bit past where I normally wander in Science Fiction, as the Futuristic story-lines generally have the tendency to take me ‘out of the throes’ of their narratives rather than keeping me actively curious inside them.
This particular novel is published by a publisher I have previously enjoyed reading INSPY Romance & Women’s Fiction from – which is why I felt perhaps, this particular novel might be a better for me in regards to the kind of genre exploration it was going to undertake. Plus, the concept behind the collective mind is one that was previously explored in Star Trek: The Next Generation (ie. regards to Hugh and the Borg) whilst I know it is a well-versed topic of Speculative Fiction overall.
What I was interested in is seeing where the story cross-sects with the INSPY roots and where the Futurism aspects of the story push the boundaries of talking about how high tech and humanity do not oft meld well together. The premise itself was quite an interesting one and I looked forward to seeing where the story would develop from that point of focus.
Raised to put science over self, V must link her brain with fifteen other people, making her one of the world’s smartest humans. With this privilege comes a life dedicated to continual research inside a secluded facility, a life devoid of freedom.
But V is losing her identity and unable to predict which face will peer back at her from the nearest mirror. Escaping this life will mean freedom to think for herself—and abandoning everything and everyone she’s known and loved.
When your thoughts and speech are no longer private, freedom comes at a price. But for V the price may be her life.
Converse via: #YALit, #iReadYA + #SciFi, #INSPY and #RRSciFiMonth
About C.F.E. Black
If you're a teen, I work for you.
I write for you. I teach for you.
Seven days a week I seek to shine light into the world-darkened lives of young people, whether it be in a high school Spanish class, a youth group Sunday school class, or a coffee shop with my computer writing my next book.
I want my writing to be a bright spot on a dark shelf, a source of truth among many lies. You guys deserve books like this.
I live in north Alabama with my son, two droopy hound dogs, a cat named Sprinkles, and my superhero husband. No, really, he saved my life once. It’s a cool story.
If you want to know more about me, my writing, or my escapades as a teacher, please visit my blog.