Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Megan Reviews mainstream YA: AFTER THE END by Amy Plum

Find After the End by Amy Plum at Amazon
What it's About:
(from publisher HarperTeen)
Juneau grew up fearing the outside world. The elders told her that beyond the borders of their land in the Alaskan wilderness, nuclear war had destroyed everything. But when Juneau returns from a hunting trip one day and discovers her people have been abducted, she sets off to find them. And leaving the boundaries for the very first time, she learns the horrifying truth: World War III never happened. Nothing was destroyed. Everything she'd ever been taught was a lie.
As Juneau comes to terms with an unfathomable deception, she is forced to survive in a completely foreign world, using only the skills and abilities she developed in the wild. But while she's struggling to rescue her friends and family, someone else is after her. Someone who knows the extraordinary truth about her secret past.

Megan's Thoughts:
When I read the book description, I thought, "Yes! This sounds like something I’ll totally love!" After I read a few pages, however, I felt a bit…mislead. Sure, it is everything as described, but a lot of this story rests on Juneau’s beliefs and on her ability to connect with the ‘Yara.’ She uses things of nature to do her bidding, and even has people act as oracles to gain direction. 

Once I got over my confusion, I found After the End to be a fast paced, cat and mouse game told by both Juneau and a boy named Miles who, in hopes of getting back in good graces with his father from his misbehavior at school, decides to go behind his dad’s back and locate the girl his father’s medical company must locate. 

From the start Juneau and Miles use one another to further their own paths. I enjoyed the differences between the two main characters, and loved watching them come together as a team, even though Miles thought she was crazy. (But to give him credit, who can speak to birds and give them orders? Well, besides Juneau of course?)

However, I feel the urge to warn you: The end is a major cliff hanger! MAJOR (read that word with a singing voice, please.) My Nook led me to believe I had several more pages to go, but no! I arrived at the last page with mouth open. 

Ms. Plum, I’m ready for book two.

STORY: 4.3 STARS
CONTENT: EDGIER, for language and religious practices (non Christian)

Monday, August 25, 2014

Hello, Girl Power! A new format for Rapid Fire Fiction from Ronie Kendig -- and it's free! OPERATION ZULU REDEMPTION: OVERKILL

Grab this FREE INTRO EPISODE to the
new serial fiction series by Ronie Kendig at Amazon
What it's about (from publisher Shiloh Run Studios):
Intro episode to a brand-new five-part serial novel.
They never should've existed. Now they don't. In the aftermath of their first highly successful op, the first all-female special ops team, known as Zulu, discovered that innocent civilians—women and children—died at their hands. Zulu was set up to take the devastating fall. Fearing for their lives, the Zulu team vanished. With new identities and spread across the globe, they live in relative but isolated peace—yet still haunted by the past. Terrified of being discovered. Five years after that horrific night, they've begun to hope they might be safe and the tragedy forgotten. Until two of them are murdered.
Start the mission with Operation Zulu Redemption: Overkill — The Beginning. This FREE episode drops you into the rapid-fire action where the women of Zulu are trying to figure out who is targeting them. Who really set Zulu up to take the fall years ago? Are they one and the same? Now the remaining members of Zulu have no choice but to regroup and stop their enemy--before it's too late. And Overkill is just the beginning...
Why you should drop everything and download this freebie: You've heard me gush over the heart-pounding pace and fiery-sweet romance in Ronie Kendig's trademark Rapid Fire Fiction before, but with this serialization, she has simply blown me out of the atmosphere and into girl-power, book-love Nirvana!
This short intro "pilot" episode is about half the size of the following four novella-length episodes, but — wow! — what a start! After a brief overview of the cast, who might be compared to an updated and estrogen-packed A-Team, the action explodes on the page with the pace and stylization of a television drama. Even in this short episode, the reader is drawn into the loss, love, hope, romance, regret, fear, determination and heartbreak of each character. And since this intro episode is free, there is no good reason not to download this book *ASAP* to your e-reader. (And I can pretty much guarantee you will be clicking to purchase the next episode as soon as you finish reading this one. I certainly did!)
(this rec originally appeared at USA Today's Happy Ever After blog)

STORY: 5 STARS OF GIRL POWER ENTHUSIASM!
CONTENT: EDGIER (for inspy fiction) due to violence, death, a character's substance abuse

Friday, August 22, 2014

5-star, Well-crafted WWII Romance! IN PERFECT TIME (Wings of the Nightingale, book 3) by Sarah Sundin

Find IN PERFECT TIME by Sarah Sundin at Amazon
What it's about (from publisher Revell):
Bold, sophisticated, and flirtatious, Army Air Force flight nurse Lt. Kay Jobson collects hearts wherever she flies, leaving men pining in airfields all across Europe. So how can ruggedly handsome C-47 pilot Lt. Roger Cooper be all but immune to her considerable charms? In fact, he seems to do everything he can to avoid her.
Still, as they cross the skies between Italy and southern France, evacuating the wounded and delivering paratroopers and supplies, every beat of their hearts draws them closer to where they don't want to go. Can they confront the fears and misunderstandings in their pasts?
Sarah Sundin seamlessly weaves together emotion, action, and sweet romance into a tale that transcends time and calls us to believe in the power of love.
Why you should read it: If you're looking for 19th- and 20th-century historical romance, you can be sure to find a plethora of it offered by inspirational publishers, who seem to have a well-developed fondness for that particular span of time. Me? Not so much. In fact, I've been so burned out on those eras that I almost passed on this novel when it showed up in my mailbox. Imagine my surprise when an "I'll just read a few pages and see if I like it" test run turned into me being entirely swept into Sarah Sundin's lovely, right-there romance!
The characters are both vivid and true, and they feel unique among other books I've read from this era. Kay and Roger are both plagued by deeply rooted self-concept issues from the family dysfunction of their growing-up years. They're haunted by past mistakes, and their romance is troubled by a series of almost-starts and jolty halts that are all so very well-penned that it is almost painful to "live through" these misunderstandings while so longing for Roger and Kay to admit (to themselves as well as to each other!) that they are in love.
Don't let the "book three" label scare you away from starting this series right here. Honestly, I did not even realize it wasn't a stand-alone title until I sat down to write this rec! Even if you don't usually read historical or inspirational fiction, you will enjoy this poignant and beautiful WWII love story. Grab it!
(this rec originally appeared at USA Today's Happy Ever After blog)
STORY: 5 STARS
CONTENT: Edgy (for inspy romance) due to war violence, hospital scenes, implied promiscuity, near-rape

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Megan Reviews YA Christian Dystopian JUPITER WINDS by C.J. Darlington

Find JUPITER WINDS by C.J. Darlington at Amazon
What it's about 
(from publisher Mountainview Books):

In 2160, a teenager becomes the bait to capture her missing revolutionary parents she thinks are long dead.

Grey Alexander has one goal—to keep herself and her younger sister Orinda alive. Not an easy feat living unconnected in the North American Wildlife Preserve, where they survive by smuggling contraband into the Mazdaar government's city zones. If the invisible electric border fence doesn't kill them, a human-like patrol drone could.

When her worst fear comes true, Grey questions everything she thought she knew about life, her missing parents, and God. Could another planet, whose sky swirls with orange vapors and where extinct-on-Earth creatures roam free, hold the key to reuniting her family?

Megan's Thoughts:
 The author did a fabulous job revealing the descriptions of the planets (and places on earth) where Grey and Orinda lived in small doses. I never felt overloaded with the new scenes around me, and was quite able to picture life in this futurist time. The plot held my interest, suspense came at the correct times, and I totally enjoyed the sprinkles of Biblical themes throughout. 

...and did I mention there were "Zorses" ??? Yep, zorses. I was introduced to several original creatures, including the horse and zebra combination.

There were a couple times I thought (and hoped) an extra character may be used for a romantic subplot, but that wasn’t the case. The ending does leave promise for a second book. Perhaps the author may take that route in the future--hint, hint! But even though there was no romance, love isn’t lacking in the story. My favorite part was the connection between the two sisters. I felt the burden of Grey being the eldest, sacrificing many times in order to protect her sister. Yet when the time comes for Orinda to take a step into the unknown, she does so without missing a beat. And whatever they faced, they did it for each other. The display of their family’s bond was refreshing.

Dystopian story + Christian themes = A win-win to me!

If you are a fan of Cress by Marissa Meyer (see Megan's EIR review  of Cress here), I definitely recommend Jupiter Winds.

STORY: 4.4 Stars
CONTENT: EDGY, for violence

Friday, August 15, 2014

New Inspy Romance from Susan May Warren WHEN I FALL IN LOVE (Christiansen Family Novel, 3)

Find When I Fall in Love by Susan May Warren at Amazon
What it's about (from publisher Tyndale):
Hawaii was the last place Grace Christiansen ever imagined she'd vacation, much less fall in love. But when her family surprises her with a cooking retreat in paradise, she is pulled—or maybe yanked—away from her predictable, safe life and thrown headfirst into the adventure of a lifetime.
Max Sharpe may make his living on the ice as a pro hockey player, but he feels most at home in the kitchen. Which is why he lives for the three-week culinary vacation he takes each year in Hawaii. Upon being paired with Grace for a cooking competition, Max finds himself drawn to her passion, confidence, and perseverance. But just when Grace dares to dream of a future beyond her hometown, Max pulls away.
Wrestling with personal demons, Max fights against opening his heart to a love he knows he should never hope for. And as his secrets unfold, Grace is torn between the safe path in front of her and what her heart truly desires. If love means sacrificing her ideal happily ever after, Grace's faith will face its toughest test yet.
Why you should read it: Reading this series out of order will give you a few mild spoilers for the first two books, but this contemporary romance stands perfectly well on its own. For those of you who have already met the very confident lead characters in book one (see my rec of Take a Chance on Me) and book two of this series (see my rec of It Had to be You), you might be surprised to meet Grace, a Christiansen who lacks the drive of her previously written-about siblings. And yet … I'm pretty sure you're going to love her.
Unlike many "wallflower" protagonists who bloom into rock-star personalities over the course of a story, Grace's transformation is gradual, believable, and isn't so much a change of personality as a straightening of the spine. She is well matched with hockey pro Max Sharpe, and the romance sweetly builds as each character struggles with the obstacles, secrets and dreams rising between them. Throw in a reality-TV-style cooking competition and a lush, tropical locale, and you have the recipe for really fun romance. Highly recommended!
(this rec originally appeared at USA Today's Happy Ever After blog)
STORY: 4.3 stars
CONTENT: EDGY (for Christian romance) and yet quite sweet :)

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