All posts in Recs

01 Mar

March Year of Space Goods!

In Book Extras,Recs,Short Stories by MK England / March 1, 2018 / 0 Comments

Happy March!

🚀🌟🌌 Okay, March sneaks up on me EVERY YEAR because February is so short and it’s not faaaair. BUT, I am still ready with your March Year of Space Goodies, and I’m featuring one of my favorite things. Here we go!  🚀🌟🌌

Why the Year of Space? Because I love space a lot, and my debut YA space opera is coming out in December, so I’m counting down with goodies on the 1st of every month to help you get more space in your life. Music, books, video games, podcasts, GIVEAWAYS, & more! I’m using #2018isforSpace all year, but no need to go hunting—I’ll be posting all the goodies on my Year of Space page and linking to them in my newsletter each month.

This month, I’m featuring podcasts that will get you both fiction and nonfiction spacey goodness. WAIT, DON’T GO. I know not everyone has jumped on the podcast bandwagon, but I beg you to hang in until the end of this post and consider giving them a shot.

What’s a podcast? They come in so many different varieties, and they can be anything from talk radio shows to radio dramas to audiobooks. There’s a little bit of everything in this list, so no matter what you’re into there should be something that will appeal.

How to listen to podcasts: You have lots of options! Most (if not all) of these shows have audio players built directly into their websites, so you can definitely listen that way if you prefer. I always use my phone, though, because it means I can listen to them in the car, while getting ready for work, while cooking or cleaning—whenever! There are tons of apps out there that let you subscribe to podcasts. I use Apple Podcasts and Overcast, and I definitely recommend Overcast for iOS users. For Android users, there’s a handy list here. It’s super simple. Just dive in and give it a shot! (My favorite non-space-related podcast is Print Run, and I can’t sing its praises enough. Start there if you’re interested in the publishing industry!)

So, without further ado: the list!

I kept this list pretty tightly curated re: the line between science fiction/science nonfiction and SPACE fiction/nonfiction. There are so many excellent podcasts out there about general science topics, or covering science fiction as a whole genre. This is the year of space, though, so I wanted to stick with podcasts that are as directly relevant as possible. (For more sci-fi podcasts, click here.) Starred podcasts are regular listens for me!

Spacey Fiction Podcasts

I always used to wish I had more short fiction in my life, but I never seemed to think of it when looking for something to read. Fortunately, many of the major SF short story markets put out podcasts with audio versions of their stories! Between that and serialized radio dramas and comedies, I’m well set on short fiction these days. 

Clarkesworld Magazine Podcast – In print since 2006, now available for your ears. Short fiction from Clarkesworld Magazine, 6 times per month.

Escape Pod – Founded in 2005 by Serah Eley, and presently co-edited by Mur Lafferty and Divya Breed. A weekly podcast with short stories from some of today’s best science fiction authors..

Lightspeed – Produced by Skyboat Media, and under the direction of Grammy and Audie award-winning narrator and producer Stefan Rudnicki. Features audiobook-style recordings of four of the eight stories published each month in Lightspeed, released more or less on a weekly basis.

StarShipSofa – Actually several podcasts under one umbrella brand: short fiction, author interviews, and sci-fi news.

Uncanny Magazine Podcast – Uncanny Magazine is an online Science Fiction and Fantasy magazine featuring passionate SF/F fiction and poetry, gorgeous prose, provocative nonfiction, and a deep investment in the diverse SF/F culture. This is a monthly podcast featuring a story, a poem, and an interview that is likewise released on the first Tuesday of each month.

MarsCorp – MarsCorp is a 12-part scripted comedy podcast about Station Supervisor E.L. Hob’s first year at MarsCorp, a terraforming colony established on the red planet in 2070. There may be a 12-episode second season… one day.

The Message – A serialized story following the weekly reports and interviews from Nicky Tomalin, who is covering the decoding of a message from outer space received 70 years ago. Over the course of 8 episodes we get an inside ear on how a top team of cryptologists attempt to decipher, decode, and understand the alien message. (complete)


Spacey Non-Fiction Podcasts

Between SpaceX, the push for Mars, and the upcoming Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway, there’s a lot going on! These podcasts manage to be full of cheeky humor, real science education, and that breathless wonder that draws humanity to the stars, all at once. 

StarTalk with Neil deGrasse Tyson – It’s space, it’s comedy, it’s celebrity guests, it’s all things to all people. Though it does fall into general science topics fairly often, it’s hosted by America’s beloved astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson and often features spacey topics, “Cosmic Q&A” with listener questions from twitter and instagram, and regular visits from Planetary Society CEO Bill Nye the Science Guy. Speaking of the Planetary Society…

Planetary Radio – The Planetary Society’s weekly podcast. Regular updates on what’s going on in the world of space, space policy and advocacy, interviews with scientists and engineers, and more. Each week closes with a random space fact and a summary of what you can see in the night sky that week.

NASA podcasts – Holy spacecows, there are a lot of NASA podcasts. Updates from the International Space Station, “Houston, We Have a Podcast” for news from Johnson Space Center, interviews with experts, This Week @NASA, and much more.

Are We There Yet? The Space Exploration Podcast from NPR – “When it comes to human space exploration, we’re on the brink of something big.” Host Brendan Byrne, a space reporter in Orlando, FL, hosts scientists and engineers who are tackling the big issues of getting to Mars, working on the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway, and otherwise getting humankind out among the stars.

Big Picture Science from the SETI institute – Okay, this really is more of a general science podcast, BUT it’s hosted by the SETI (Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence) institute. “The Big Picture Science radio show and podcast engages the public with modern science research through lively and intelligent storytelling. Science radio doesn’t have to be dull. The only dry thing about our program is the humor.”

AstronomyCast – Astronomy Cast is “a fact-based journey through the cosmos as it offers listeners weekly discussions on astronomical topics ranging from planets to cosmology. Hosted by Fraser Cain (Universe Today) and Dr. Pamela L. Gay (CosmoQuest), this show brings the questions of an avid astronomy lover direct to an astronomer.”


Did I miss any? Recommend your favorites in the comments! I’ll see you on April 1st for more space goodies. Until then—get some space in your life! ☆☆☆

01 Feb

February Year of Space Goodies!

In Book Extras,Reading,Recs by MK England / February 1, 2018 / 0 Comments

Happy February!

🚀🌟🌌 The first month of 2018 is somehow already over, but that’s okay because that means it’s time for your next dose of space goodness! Onward and upward! 🚀🌟🌌

What the hell is this about? As a reminder, last month I declared 2018 the Year of Space, and to celebrate I’m posting goodies on the 1st of every month to help you get more space in your life. Music, books, video games, podcasts, GIVEAWAYS, & more! I’m using #2018isforSpace all year, but no need to go hunting—I’ll be posting all the goodies right here and linking to them in my newsletter each month. (Speaking of which… if you wanna see the cover of THE DISASTERS before the rest of the world, you might wanna sign up for that newsletter in the next 10 hours… ¯\_(ツ)_/¯)

This month I figured, hey, we’ve got 11 months left in this Year of Space, so maybe I should pick something that’ll take you a good long time to consume, right? So, buckle up for an epic list of…

Yep, I went full librarian on your asses. I’ve included books across four age categories here: Young Adult, Adult, Middle Grade/Kids, and Picture Books. But folks, I’m totally serious about this: I really think you should read at least one from each category. Your local public library system should have most of these on hand, so why not give a spacey picture book a try? It’s 32 pages and usually less than 800 words. You can handle that. I believe in you. I’ve also curated this list to ensure it only has books that involve space. That means no Earth-based sci-fi, no time travel, alien invasions, or other sci-fi subgenres.

Just like last month’s Space Tunes playlist, this is a living list, meaning your contributions are always welcome! You have books you want to see on this list? Suggest them in the comments or over on twitter and I’ll look them over to see if they’re a good fit.

Without further ado, you can download the base list as a PDF, or visit the living list here.

Enjoy a year of fabulous space reads, and I’ll be back next month with more space goodies! As they say on StarTalk Radio—don’t forget to look up. 🌟🌟🌟

16 Jun

MK’s Top 25 Books

In Personal,Questions Answered,Reading,Recs,Short Stories by MK England / June 16, 2015 / 0 Comments

So, someone over on my fandom blog decided to take me up on my offer of personalized book recommendations for the summer. Except they are an omnivorous reader, so they just wanted my top five favorite books.

First of all, you should probably never ask that question of a librarian unless you have lots of time on your hands.


But here’s the problem with asking me specifically for my Top X Books of All Time: I either adore what I read, or I put it down. There’s rarely an in-between. There are SOME books that I forced myself through for the sake of school, and some that I enjoyed in the way you enjoy cotton candy dissolving into nothing. But the books that stick with me are the ones that really engage me intellectually or emotionally, or inspire the writer part of me stylistically. I do have some favorites that I enjoyed purely for a fun story, interesting world, and great characters, but that’s a separate list. This is the list of favorite books that affected me in some way. Most links will take you to Amazon, except in the cases where the book or story is available for free online somewhere. In no order whatsoever:

  1. Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie (YA, realistic, Native American)
  2. The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell (adult, sci-fi, literary)
  3. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (YA, realistic, rape culture)
  4. Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut (adult, sci-fi classic, stylistic influence)
  5. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz (YA, LGBTQ+, romance, realistic)
  6. The Raven Cycle by maggie-stiefvater(YA, fantasy, realistic, stylistic influence, audio version is HIGHLY recommended)
  7. Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith (YA, sci-fi, LGBTQ+, screwed up/filthy/awesome)
  8. Little Brother by mostlysignssomeportents​/Cory Doctorow (read it for free on the author’s website! YA, tech, hacking, cyberpunk)
  9. Saga by Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples (adult, sci-fi, weird, graphic novel, parenthood, nsfw)
  10. The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart (YA, feminist, realistic, humor)
  11. Channel Zero by Brian Wood & Becky Cloonan (gritty, dystopian, tech, awesome art)
  12. Old Man’s War by John Scalzi (adult, military sci-fi, hilarious)
  13. Graceling by Kristin Cashore (YA, fantasy, feminist)
  14. His Majestey’s Dragon by Naomi Novik (one of the founders of the OTW!, adult, fantasy, alternate history, LGBTQ+ subtext)
  15. Local by Brian Wood & Ryan Kelly (adulting, travel, setting as character, 20-somethings)
  16. Einstein’s Dreams by Alan Lightman (adult, literary, quick read)
  17. The Scorpio Races by maggie-stiefvater(YA, celtic mythology, audio version is HIGHLY recommended)
  18. Sold by Patricia McCormick (YA, human trafficking, novel in verse, audio version is HIGHLY recommended)
  19. Young Avengers (2013-2014) by Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie (YA, Marvel universe, LGBTQ+, just…so good)
  20. Runaways by Brian K. Vaughan & various artists (YA, Marvel universe, LGBTQ+)
  21. X-Wing: Rogue Squadron by Michael A. Stackpole (adult, sci-fi, Star Wars, fighter pilots)
  22. Ms. Marvel by G. Willow Wilson & Adrian Alphona (YA, Marvel universe, Muslim hero)
  23. The Knife of Never Letting Go by patricknessbooks(YA, dystopia, hard to explain, just read it, audio version is HIGHLY recommended)
  24. The P.L.A.I.N. Janes by Cecil Castellucci & Jim Rugg (YA, art, social change, nonviolent protest)
  25. Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling (J/YA, wizards, y’all know this one)

BONUS short stories:

Yet More Bonus Selections under the cut. Seriously, just stop me. What books have affected or inspired you? Tell me in the comments!

Read more →

03 Mar

Read All the Things: 6 Novels for Superhero Fans

In Reading,Recs by MK England / March 3, 2015 / 0 Comments

Superheroes are being found outside the pages of comic books more and more often lately. From what I hear, literary agents are being swamped by superhero manuscripts, thanks to the success of the Marvel Comics movie universe and the DC comics TV universe. It’s not totally new, though; superhero novels have been a thing for several years, though they’ve never quite acquired trend status. Regardless, there have been several good offerings that are certainly worth your time, whether you’re a comic book fan or not. Below are six superhero novels (YA and adult) published within the last six years that you may want to check out:

The Reckoners series by Brandon Sanderson
(2013-2015, Delacorte Press — Young Adult)
The author of the acclaimed Mistborn Trilogy has turned his worldbuilding prowess to the realm of superheroes. The Reckoners series begins with Steelheart, the story of the dark days following the rise of the Epics, humans with powerful abilities and intriguing weaknesses. The second entry in this series, Firefight, was just released on January 6th, 2015. The series has a tongue-in-cheek, self-deprecating humor that really appeals to the man-creature, who rarely reads anything that isn’t a Redwall or World of Warcraft novel.

Vicious by V.E. Schwab
(2013, Tor Books — Adult)
You won’t find any black-and-white heroes and villains here. This noir-style novel follows two brilliant college roommates who turn to archenemeses, each with their own twisted plan for revenge. Victoria Schwab has written several books for both teens and adults. Vicious was one of Publisher’s Weekly Best Fantasy Books of 2013.

Hero by Perry Moore
(2009, Disney-Hyperion — Young Adult)
Thom Creed has three secrets. He has superpowers. He’s gay. And the league of heroes that kicked his dad off the squad have invited him to join. He wants desperately to keep it all from his disgraced father, but heroes who want to do good can’t hide for long. Hero is the only original novel written by screenwriter and director Perry Moore before his death in 2011.

The Young Elites by Marie Lu
(2014, Putnam — Young Adult)
Shelf Awareness called it “Game of Thrones meets X-men”; a 14th-century historical fantasy take on the exile and persecution of super-powered mutants. Marie Lu is the powerhouse author behind the bestselling YA trilogy Legend.

Soon I Will be Invincible by Austin Grossman
(2008, Vintage Books — Adult)
A supervillain super genius and a rookie cyborg super hero co-narrate this story, populated with stand-ins you’ll quickly recognize. All the usual themes are here — power and responsibility, etc. — but with a healthy dose of realism and emotional honesty. Grossman is a game designer and comic connoisseur, and his love for the medium shows.

Zeroes by Scott Westerfeld
(Forthcoming Sept. 2015, Simon Pulse — Young Adult)
This novel was co-written with Westerfeld’s two Australian author friends, Margo Lanagan and Deb Biancotti. They all met at a pub every Thursday to talk about how to make superpowers a fresh and interesting concept, and Zeroes is the result. Six teens, all born in the year 2000, possess a new kind of superpower that makes them anything but heroes. Pre-order it today!

In addition to the above, rumor has it that Marissa Meyer, famed author of the Lunar Chronicles (which I love), used NaNoWriMo 2014 to begin work on a new superhero trilogy with the working title The Gatlon School for Vigilantes. Everything about the project is subject to change, considering it hasn’t even been drafted yet, but you can read her initial announcement here.

Got any other superhero novels you want to share with the world? Post them in the comments, my dear creatures!


20 Jan

Things I Loved in 2014

In Gaming,Personal,Recs by MK England / January 20, 2015 / 0 Comments

I’m terrible at making ranked lists of any kind. Really, truly terrible. I will agonize over list position, over whether my list really captures ALL THE THINGS, over every tiny decision. So, I’ve decided to save myself the agony and simply make a list of seven things that made my brain and soul happy in 2014.

This list is in no particular order, nor is it all-encompassing.

Grasshopper Jungle
by Andrew Smith | Feb. 11th, 2014 from Dutton
In the style of Kurt Vonnegut, with a front row seat inside a teenage boy’s brain (and all that entails). This book is filthy and demented and I loved every second of it. It is not for the faint of heart.

Dragon Age Inquisition
November 18th, 2014 from Bioware/Electronic Arts
Though this game made me rage over its buggy brokenness and I had a few issues with quest bloat, it was still a completely fantastic experience that I loved to pieces. I’ve adored this franchise from the start and I was much happier with this offering than the lukewarm-yet-enjoyable Dragon Age 2.

Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition
August 19th, 2014 from Wizards of the Coast
I wasn’t a 4th edition hater like so many. It had it’s appeal, and was great for certain types of players. Fifth edition, though, is a return to an older style of play that I find very satisfying. Combat feels dangerous again, and though I’m having a hard time switching my brain back to that level of caution (and old spell mechanics), my favorite thing about the new edition is the character building section: ideals, flaws, and backgrounds all make for a more in-depth character creation experience, which I love to use to brainstorm characters for my own original writing, too!

Ten Rules for Being an Intergalactic Smuggler (the Successful Kind)
by Holly Black | Short story in Lightspeed Magazine, September 2014
Holly Black is a well-known writer of middle grade and YA fiction, and while her stuff has never been my particular taste, I know she’s a super-cool lady and I respect her a whole lot. This story is a departure from her usual work, though; it’s a fun YA space opera written in the second person voice. Odd, but interesting for this particular story. As with most Holly Black stories, this one takes a turn for the dark at one point, but stick with it for a really cool ending.

by Saundra Mitchell | Short story from Lightspeed Magazine, September 2014
Can you tell I love Lightspeed Magazine for short fiction? I don’t have much to say about this story other than ‘read it’. This one has a bit more literary tone, and the atmospheric feel ended up inspiring a short story of my own. It all starts with a supernova.

Young Avengers
By Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie | 2013-2014 from Marvel Comics
The most recent run of Young Avengers began in 2013 and wrapped up earlier this year, and I just. I. Look, the Young Avengers are my favorite superhero team, and this run was SO FULL OF GOODNESS. Fun adventures, lots of snark, gratuitous punching of things by Miss America Chavez – can you ask for more? This is a great one for those looking to add more diverse graphic novels to their to-read list. The team is overwhelmingly queer (which is obviously a huge driving force behind my love for them) and quite racially diverse. I won’t give spoilers, but you’ll have to read for details.

Ms. Marvel
By G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona | October 28th, 2014 from Marvel Comics
Kamala Khan is a 16-year-old Pakistani-American Muslim girl living in Jersey City who idolizes Carol Danvers, the former Ms. Marvel (now Captain Marvel). This series is groundbreaking for a whole lot of reasons, but it’s close to my heart because I work at a library in New Jersey with a lot of South Asian Muslim girls, and I love that I can put this book in their hands. And it’s GOOD, too. G. Willow Wilson is a fantastic writer, and Alphona’s art is perfect for the tone of the series. Issue one hit in February 2014 and the series is ongoing.

Guardians of the Galaxy (movie)
August 1st, 2014 from Marvel Studios/Walt Disney
I went into this movie with no expectations on a day when I really needed a laugh, and I came out of the theater an obsessed fangirl. Yeah, it had its problems, but it’s exactly the sort of over-the-top sci-fi camp that I love. I’m working my way through many years of Guardians of the Galaxy comics now, too. Very different, but an interesting part of the Marvel Universe that I’ve not read much of before. In the meantime, this is my new sick-day-feel-better movie.

What do you think, creatures – did any of these scratch your itch in 2014? Anything not listed here that you adored? 2014 may be over, but it’s never too late to enjoy the spoils of the year. Let me know your thoughts and recs in the comments.