Monday, July 21, 2014

Megan Reviews SYLO (The Sylo Chronicles, book 1) by D.J. MacHale (YA)

(reviewed by Megan Besing, EIR regular guest contributor)

What it’s about:
(from publisher Razorbill)

THEY CAME FROM THE SKY parachuting out of military helicopters to invade Tucker Pierce’s idyllic hometown on Pemberwick Island, Maine.

They call themselves SYLO and they are a secret branch of the U.S. Navy. SYLO’s commander, Captain Granger, informs Pemberwick residents that the island has been hit by a lethal virus and must be quarantined. Now Pemberwick is cut off from the outside world.

Tucker believes there’s more to SYLO’s story. He was on the sidelines when the high school running back dropped dead with no warning. He saw the bizarre midnight explosion over the ocean, and the mysterious singing aircraft that travel like shadows through the night sky. He tasted the Ruby—and experienced the powers it gave him—for himself.

What all this means, SYLO isn’t saying. Only Tucker holds the clues that can solve this deadly mystery.
           
LOOK TO THE SKY because Pemberwick is only the first stop.


Megan’s thoughts:
           
The plot is simple. The town is barricaded off from the world.  A strange substance makes rounds giving off super powers. Its only downfall seems to be…death. Yikes! Not a premise that makes me jump up and down, necessarily, but then I started reading about . . . football.

I enjoy football, sure, but I’m not in love with football. However, Sylo’s opening chapters made me love it. D.J. MacHale has a gift for drawing you away from reality and into the world he created.

What I enjoyed most about this book were the characters. Oh, boy, were they full of spunk!

Tucker, whose point of view you follow, just wants to live a normal life. Tucker doesn’t need to be anything special, he just wants to live and be happy. Instead, he is forced to become a ‘leader’ during an end-of-the-world scenario--definitely not on his to-do list! Quinn, his best friend, is the sarcastic brainiac. When the mess starts and the football ends they are focused in cahoots with Tori, the girl who keeps everything to herself. The ‘band’ is rounded out with Olivia, the hot one, and Kent the jock. It’s a ride in and of itself.  

Who is SYLO? What are they really there for? Lies, betrayals, and deaths are only the beginning. Each chapter will keep you guessing until the end. And The Storm, the second book in The Sylo Chronicles, promises to bring the guessing game to a whole new level.

RATING: 4.6 Stars
CONTENT: Edgier nearing Edgiest (language and violence)
(sequels available)

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Don't you just love it when you discover a new author with a wonderful, fresh, evocative voice? Me too. Let me introduce you to Rajdeep Paulus and her novel, SWIMMING THROUGH CLOUDS

What it's about: 
(from publisher Playlist Fiction)
When high school cell phone disruption forces a classroom ban, the words on a Post-it note spark a sticky romance between two unlikely friends. Transfer student Talia Vanderbilt has one goal at her new school: to blend in with the walls. Lagan Desai, basketball captain and mathlete, would do just about anything to befriend the new girl. One Post-it note at a time, Lagan persuades Talia to peel back her heart, slowly revealing her treasure chest of pain—an absent mother, a bedridden brother, and an abusive father. In a world where hurt is inevitable, the two teens search for a safe place to weather the storms of life. Together.

Why you should read it: 
This novel surprised me in so many ways. With beautifully crafted poetic prose, author Rajdeep Paulus weaves fear and tragedy, hope and romance through a story that dictates you endure emotional anguish right along with her characters. When I say this is not an easy book to read, I am not speaking of vocabulary or comprehension levels, though there is a superb level of craft on display in this novel; I am speaking of the emotional depth of suffering through which this author dredges a reader's soul. Once you experience — for that is how it feels — the horrors of Talia's reality, it is impossible to disengage yourself from it. It is no wonder this novel has received so many award nominations and has garnered praise from critics, bestselling authors, and readers, alike. It is a work of art.
Talia is so fragile, so frightened, and so lonely — but she never comes off as weak, only as waiting to discover her strength. Lagan is steady, patient, creative and every bit the romantic hero she needs, but the prison within which Talia lives erects obstacles to his heroism. Although the physical, verbal, and emotional abuse suffered by Talia is beyond difficult to bear, even as a reader, it resonates as all-too-true, making Swimming Through Clouds the sort of story that lingers and begs you not to exit it unchanged.
Watch for my rec of the sequel, Seeing Through Stones, coming soon!
(rec first appeared at USA Today's Happy Ever After blog)
CONTENT: Edgier (especially for Christian fiction) due to domestic violence/child abuse
STORY: 5 stars

Monday, July 14, 2014

THE ONE -- a sweet ending for Kiera Cass's bestselling YA "The Selection" series!

What it's about: 
(from publisher HarperTeen)
The Selection changed America Singer's life in ways she never could have imagined. Since she entered the competition to become the next princess of Illéa, America has struggled with her feelings for her first love, Aspen—and her growing attraction to Prince Maxon. Now she's made her choice . . . and she's prepared to fight for the future she wants.
Find out who America will choose in The One, the enchanting, beautifully romantic third book in the Selection series!

Why you should read it: 
The wildly popular Selection series by Kiera Cass is sweet YA fairy tale romance — within a dystopian world full of explosions, gunshots, secrets, politics, and a little sass. I loved it, and although I am happy with the way it concluded, I am feeling a little dejected *sniffles* to have come to "the end."
In both book two, The Elite, and book three, The One, there were a lot of times I wanted to grab America by the shoulders and shake some sense into her, but regardless of the poor choices she made and the opportunities she ignored, I remained gleefully addicted to this story and entirely invested in its outcome. Now that I've completed the entire tale *insert rapturous sigh* I consider myself among the quieter — and also, ahem, older — members of the Selection Fandom.
The pace of the series is quite steady up until the last third of the final book, when — Zip! Bam! Zinger! — everything changes and the characters are forced to suffer one tragic surprise after another. I would be lying if I didn't admit to a gasp, followed closely by an exhaled, "No-oooo!" at one particularly violent moment in the book. The author masterfully pulled off that shocker by building my affection for the character-in-question so much, but so gradually, that it almost physically hurt to say goodbye when the moment struck.
Although the idea of a royal-wedding-meets-The-Bachelor reality competition might seem a little fluffy at first glance, don't let the story premise fool you. Instead, trust the readers who have made this series so insanely popular. If this is fluff, it's a dark-chocolate mousse flambé — the sort of fluff that has a deep-flavored smoothness throughout and sizzling finale that leaves you fully satisfied. I ate it up.
Read the first two books first, of course, but once you do, I think you will find The One to be a tasty — and tasteful — fairy tale/dystopian romance.
(rec originally appeared at USA Today's Happy Ever After blog)
Content: Edgy -- due to violence and a couple of steamy-but-clean scenes

Story: 5 stars

Friday, July 11, 2014

Recommended for readers who love a great epic fantasy (with a good dose of romance!) OATH OF THE BROTHERHOOD by C. E. Laureano

What it's about:
(from publisher TH1NK)
In a kingdom where the Old Ways hold fast and a man's worth lies entirely in his skill with the sword,Conor Mac Nir is a scholar, a musician, and a follower of the forbidden Balian faith: problematic for any man, but disastrous for the son of the king.
When Conor is sent as a hostage to a neighboring kingdom, he never expects to fall in love with the rival king's sister, Aine. Nor does he suspect his gift with the harp (and Aine's ability to heal) touches on the realm of magic. Then his clan begins a campaign to eliminate all Balians from the isle of Seare, putting his newfound home in peril and entangling him in a plot for control of the island that has been unfolding since long before his birth.
Only by committing himself to an ancient warrior brotherhood can Conor discover the part he's meant to play in Seare's future. But is he willing to sacrifice everything—even the woman he loves—to follow the path his God has laid before him?

Why you should read it: 
Oath of the Brotherhood introduces readers to a medieval world in which the natural and supernatural collide in sometimes frightening and often beautiful moments of Christian allegory and emotional truth. Author C.E. Laureano does not hesitate to strike her characters in the heart, contrasting the dissonance of passionate despair against the brighter chords of hope as they are forced to exchange betrayal for aid, death for life, friendship for sacrifice, honor for faithfulness, and all for love.
Conor is a very relatable teen boy, a likable outsider who longs to find his place in this world. Aine is, likewise, a character who seems just beyond the reach of true acceptance in her current situation. As attraction grows between Aine and Conor, it becomes the stirring, driving force of the tale and provides "that one good thing" to strive toward when everything good seems out of reach.
Best known for her debut contemporary romance, Five Days in Skye (written as Carla Laureano), this author's second offering proves she is a powerful voice that will appeal across multiple genres. Rich with Celtic lore, battle, and competing magics, C.E. Laureano's Oath of the Brotherhood is a heroic coming-of-age fantasy experience and an inspiring, romantic YA series opener.
(rec originally appeared at USA Today's Happy Ever After blog)
Content: Edgier (due to violence)
Story: 5 stars

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Better late than never... Serena *finally* reads DOON by Carey Corp & Lorie Langdon ... and falls in love!

What it's about
(from publisher HarperCollins/Blink)
Veronica doesn't think she's going crazy. But why can't anyone else see the mysterious blond boy who keeps popping up wherever she goes?
When her best friend, Mackenna, invites her to spend the summer in Scotland, Veronica jumps at the opportunity to leave her complicated life behind for a few months. But the Scottish countryside holds other plans. Not only has the imaginary kilted boy followed her to Alloway, she and Mackenna uncover a strange set of rings and a very unnerving letter from Mackenna's great aunt---and when the girls test the instructions Aunt Gracie left behind, they find themselves transported to a land that defies explanation.
Doon seems like a real-life fairy tale, complete with one prince who has eyes for Mackenna and another who looks suspiciously like the boy from Veronica's daydreams. But Doon has a dark underbelly as well. The two girls could have everything they've longed for… or they could end up breaking an enchantment and find themselves trapped in a world that has become a nightmare.

Why you should read it: 
Although Doon might be considered pretty light reading fare when compared to the other two books in this rec, this retelling of Brigadoon is a dessert bar of YA romance awesomeness.
The tale unfolds from both Veronica's and Mackenna's uniquely voiced points of view. Veronica is smart, but she is also serious and emotionally fragile — but resilient and dependable. Mackenna is strong, theatrical and driven. Although her humor is often self-deprecating, it doesn't lead one to think she suffers from the sort of self-esteem her friend Veronica does. The boys in this tale — both princes, be still my heart! — are pretty doggone yummy heroes and well suited for these girls.
Fans of Lisa T. Bergren's River of Time series and My Super Sweet Sixteenth Centuryby Rachel Harris will find a worthy bookshelf companion in Doon. I can hardly wait to cross the bridge into Doon again when Destined for Doon releases in September!
(rec originally appeared at USA Today's Happy Ever After blog)

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