Tag Archives: YA speculative fiction

Book Review: The Sacred Scarred

12 Apr

“Beauty can indeed come from ashes.” Calysta Daniels met Brendan Keefe at a time when she was embracing the true meaning of beauty and he was becoming the embodiment of a beast. Several years later, their paths crossed once again, and she agreed to a strange request to save her father from imprisonment: to live under the beast’s roof for four years. It didn’t take long for him to realize that there was something about her that a part of him hated – something sacred threatening to expose all his scars. Scarred as they both were, she was holding on to a secret that kept her sacred, while he was holding on to a past that kept him scarred. Thus, the battle of wills raged within the beauty and the beast over what price had to be paid to make a person truly beautiful.

 

 

 

Joanna Alonzo is a walking paradox. She is a beautiful, albeit messy, mixture of thought and emotion, expressed in the form of hopefully readable – and relatable – stories. She is a kingdom kid, who looks forward to being a writer and storyteller even when she reaches heaven. She is passionate about the unreached, about those who have yet to know the Love she found in the arms of the Almighty. She is intrigued by the world and its people, who day by day, continue to convince her that God is the greatest Storyteller of all.

 

My Impressions:

With all the buzz surrounding the release of Disney’s newest imagining of The Beauty And The Beast (my favorite childhood fairy tale) comes the advent of various retellings of the story in novel form. Joanna Alonzo, author of The Sacred Scarred, has written a contemporary version with a Christian twist. She takes very messy lives and weaves them into a modern-day fairy tale with the power of God at the center. The result is an edgy YA novel.

Both Calysta and Brendan are the products of very dysfunctional families. Yet the paths they find themselves on are very different. One chooses hope in God; the other the pursuit of perfection. Their self-inflicted scars mar their lives, but God’s healing is there for them if they will just accept it.

The Sacred Scarred, with its characters and situations, definitely has a YA vibe to it. Readers in the targeted audience (older high school to young adult) will identify with the struggles the characters face. The dysfunction of the families was at times difficult to read (there is a lot of abandonment by important women in the main characters’ lives). The book takes a while to come to the familiar Beauty/Beast storyline as it sets the stage for the action. I felt the book dragged at times, and I became impatient for the real story to begin. The real story, to me, is the transformation of Brendan and his beastly attitudes and expectations. There are magical elements for those who love that about fairy tales. The theme of God’s love is very strong and prominent throughout the book. And the happily-ever-after is achieved for most involved.

While The Sacred Scarred wasn’t really a hit for me, it is an interesting spin on the Beauty/Beast story.

Audience: older teens to young adults.

To purchase, click HERE.

(Thanks to the author for a complimentary copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

 

 

Book review: Cursed

7 Sep

51xkZOIVNHL._SX342_BO1,204,203,200_Two kingdoms. One curse. The Enchanted Rose trilogy weaves the tales of Beauty and the Beast & Sleeping Beauty into a single, seamless story. Witty and romantic, it still addresses the darker elements found in the original tales—abandonment, captivity, and true evil—resulting in a fresh take that will appeal to adults and youngsters alike. Full of well-developed characters and delightful world-building, these books are a rare treat for anyone who has ever loved fairy tales.

 

 

 

Rachel-on-Zipline-500px-high2aEver since she could hold a pen, R.M. ArceJaeger has been writing stories. Though her talents range from fantasy epics to campfire horror stories, she particularly adores twisting classic tales in directions that no one has ever thought of before. Her novel, Robin: Lady of Legend, is a remarkable reinvention of the mythos of Robin Hood that takes the classic tale in an entirely fresh direction.

 

My Impressions:

If you love fairy tales retold in interesting and creative ways, then Cursed, book 1 in the Enchanted Rose Trilogy is definitley worth checking out. R. M. ArceJaeger has taken not one, but two fairy tale classics and merged and twisted them into an entertaining story. Especially suited for YA readers, Cursed is just the opening act of a sometimes dark adventure.

Two kingdoms come together to celebrate the birth of a princess and heir. But as the fairies gather to bestow their gifts, another manipulates the ceremony for her own motives. Soon families that were rejoicing over new beginnings and alliances, are mourning broken dreams and promises. Three children, Princess Aurea, Prince Ari and fairy child Liliath, are bound together in a struggle to break free.

Fans of Sleeping Beauty and Beauty And The Beast will recognize many familiar elements in Cursed. But ArceJaeger adds her own touch with a back story of The Arrival — the advent of fairies into the land.  The fairies, ghastlies, and mythical creatures escape the destruction of their island, but find the welcome among humans has a few conditions. Magic has lost some of its potency, but there is still enough to cause blessings and curses. The fairy lore ArceJaeger creates is shared at the beginning of each chapter by experts on the subject, many with tongue-in-cheek names and credentials. She interjects humor into what sometimes is a very dark tale. There is definitely evil in this fantasy world and not just among the ghastlies. Pride, greed, and jealousy are rampant among the Kings who rule in the lands.  And Cursed is just the beginning of the story. Part one of the trilogy focuses on Crown Prince Ari of Gurion who is caught up in the revenge of a ghastly. Transformed into a beast after trying to save the life of baby Princess Aurea, he must learn to live a life of exile at a very young age. A great foundation is laid, but there is much more to come. Thankfully all three books in the trilogy are available (and are FREE for those with Kindle Unlimited).

Great for those who love fairy tales and fantasy worlds, Cursed is a recommended read.

Recommended.

Audience: middle school to adults.

To purchase this book, click HERE.

(Thanks to the author for a review copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

 

Book Review: Sons of Thunder

24 Apr

sonsofthunder-500k-e1426428479337Connor Merritt risks his life to save the cashier in a convenience store robbery. He’s shot three times in the torso and once in the head. He walks away without a scratch on him. Anna Wales is held captive in a government cell with no windows, one locked door, and zero way out. The next morning she’s gone without a trace. Together, the two of them will learn that God is doing something new in our time. A new age of miraculous gifts is breaking out in the world. Now a team of young people will have to learn how to use their God-given Gifts for the good of all, while an evil counterfeit arises to oppose them. Their friends and family choose sides, their commitment will be tested, and they will learn what it really means to serve God. In a classic battle of good against evil, a new kind of hero will rise to take up a mantle and a name dating back to the time of Jesus: The Sons of Thunder.

 

Bowen_Greenwood_2014-e1398136021277-283x300Bowen Greenwood has worked in politics and lived in Washington D.C., but his home and his heart will always be in Montana. He’s a former newspaper reporter, a backpacker and hiker, and of course a writer.

Author Interview

 

My Impressions: 

Bowen Greenwood has departed from his political thrillers Death of Secrets and Life of Secrets with his latest project, Sons of Thunder. A speculative, super-hero novel, this book will appeal to fans of the genre, especially YA and New Adult readers. With a strong good-guy/bad-guy tone, Greenwood explores God’s gifts.

Connor Merritt’s late night run to a convenience store turns violent as he is shot three times at close range and survives! This shocking turn of events soon lands him in a secret government facility devoted to studying supernatural abilities showing up in young adults. Determined not to be manipulated by the officials, a band calling themselves Legion rises up. But Connor is unsure just what is going on and runs. A showdown begins and Connor must choose a side.

When I think of spiritual gifts, I think of prayer, prophesy, preaching, etc. But Greenwood takes the idea and expands it to include the miraculous things Jesus did — controlling weather, teleportation,  walking on water, etc. Beginning with a clever premise, Sons of Thunder makes the reader think about gifts and the Giver. When he adds free will, it makes for a twisting and turning story that keeps the reader on his toes. Trust in God is a major theme and the characters must decide where their focus will be centered. The ending is open for more books to come.

Fun and a bit over the top (aren’t all super-hero stories), Sons of Thunder would be a great book for youth group discussions.

Recommended.

Audience: older teens to adults.

To purchase this book, click HERE.

(Thanks to the author for a review copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy Blog Tour — Rebels by Jill Williamson

29 Sep

This month the CSFF Blog Tour is featuring Jill Williamson‘s book, Rebels, the third book in her The Safe Lands series. You really need to start this series with book 1, so I will be featuring each book in the series today through Wednesday. Be sure to check out the info on the Jill and the other participants in this tour.

SLTrilogy

 

jillwilliamsonnewsmallJill Williamson is weird, which is probably why she writes science fiction and fantasy novels for teenagers. She grew up in Alaska with no electricity, an outhouse, and a lot of mosquitoes. Thankfully it was the land of the midnight sun, and she could stay up and read by the summer daylight that wouldn’t go away. But the winter months left little to do but daydream. Both hobbies set her up to be a writer.

Her debut novel, a medieval fantasy called By Darkness Hid, won an EPIC Award, a Christy Award, and was named a Best Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror novel of 2009 by VOYA magazine. Jill has since published twelve books.
Jill loves working with teenagers and encouraging them to respect their dreams. She speaks and gives writing workshops at libraries, schools, camps, and churches. She lives in Oregon with her husband, two children, and a whole lot of deer. Come visit Jill on her Facebook author page or on her website at http://www.jillwilliamson.com, where adventure comes to life.

CAREER HIGHLIGHTS
Jill wrote half a book and tried–and failed–to sell it in 2004
Jill published her first novel, By Darkness Hid, in April 2009
A major theme in most of Jill’s novels is finding your purpose in life and respecting your dreams
Jill joined Stephanie Morrill on http://www.GoTeenWriters.com where they blog for teen writers five days a week
Jill is a popular speaker at writers conferences for YA and speculative fiction workshops
Jill published her first nonfiction work, Go Teen Writers: How to Turn Your First Draft into a Published Book, which she co-authored with Stephanie Morrill in 2013

AWARDS
Family Fiction Magazine 2012 Reader’s Choice Awards: #5 Speculative Fiction Author
Winner: 2011 Christy Award, Visionary category, To Darkness Fled (Blood of Kings, book 2)
Family Fiction Magazine 2011 Reader’s Choice Awards: #4 Speculative Fiction Author
Family Fiction Magazine 2011 Reader’s Choice Awards: #5 Book Trailer: To Darkness Fled
VOYA magazine’s Best Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror 2010: To Darkness Fled
Winner: 2010 Christy Award, Visionary category, By Darkness Hid (Blood of Kings, book 1)
Winner: 2010 Epic Award, By Darkness Hid
Finalist: 2010 ACFW Carol Award, By Darkness Hid
Finalist: 2010 Clive Staples Award, By Darkness Hid
Finalist: 2010 Next Generation Indie Book Award, By Darkness Hid
VOYA magazine’s Best Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror 2009: By Darkness Hid

CaptivesSafeLandsCaptivesIn a dystopian future, eighteen-year-old Levi returns from Denver City with his latest scavenged treasures and finds his village of Glenrock decimated, loved ones killed, and many–including his fiancée, Jem–taken captive. Now alone, Levi is determined to rescue what remains of his people, even if it means entering the Safe Lands, a walled city that seems anything but safe. Omar knows he betrayed his brother by sending him away, but helping the enforcers was necessary. Living off the land and clinging to an outdated religion holds his village back. The Safe Lands has protected people since the plague decimated the world generations ago … and its rulers have promised power and wealth beyond Omar’s dreams. Meanwhile, their brother Mason has been granted a position inside the Safe Lands, and may be able to use his captivity to save not only the people of his village, but also possibly find a cure for the virus that threatens everyone within the Safe Lands’ walls. Will Mason uncover the truth hidden behind the Safe Lands’ façade before it’s too late? 

See my review HERE.

 

9780310724254OutcastsUncovering the truth could cost them their lives.

Since entering the Safe Lands, Mason has focused on two things: finding a way to free his village from captivity, and finding a cure for the disease that ravages many within the walls of the Safe Lands. After immune-suppressive drugs go missing in the clinic, Mason discovers his coworker, Ciddah, may know more about the Safe Lands than imagined … and may have an agenda of her own. At the same time, Mason’s brother Levi is focused on a way to free the remaining Glenrock captives, while Mason’s younger brother Omar decides to take the rebellion against the Safe Lands into his own hands as a vigilante.

Soon all three brothers are being watched closely—and when Mason stumbles onto a shocking secret about the Safe Lands meds, his investigation just might get those closest to him liberated.

 

RebelsRebels — The remnant of Glenrock has been scattered. But they are not beaten yet.

The Safe Lands have long kept secret from their people what it means to be liberated. Mason and Omar are about to discover the truth.

Levi doesn’t want to give up on his brothers, but when Jemma is captured and becomes the Safe Lands new queen, Levi’s best option is to take up the role of The Owl that Omar began, leading the rebels in their quest to overthrow the government.

But will The Owl be enough to safe Jemma? Will Ciddah be able to deliver Shaylinn’s babies safely underground without the help of a surgeon? And will Mason be able to keep Omar from dying as they search for a way back?

If only they could unite their efforts, together they could expose the Safe Lands lies to the people. But if they fail, they will surely die.

CSFF Blog Tour Participants

Julie Bihn
Thomas Fletcher Booher
Jeff Chapman
Vicky DealSharingAunt
April Erwin
Carol Gehringer
Victor Gentile
Rebekah Gyger
Jeremy Harder
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Shannon McDermott
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Melanie @ Christian Bookshelf Reviews
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Joan Nienhuis
Nissa
Writer Rani
Audrey Sauble
Chawna Schroeder
Jojo Sutis
Elizabeth Williams

Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy Blog Tour — Outcasts by Jill Williamson

20 Jan

The folks at the CSFF Blog Tour are featuring Jill Williamson’s second book in her Safe Lands series, Outcasts. I did not read this book, but wanted everyone to have a chance to check it out, so I am posting the links to all the reviews and posting a summary of the book and info on Jill as well. You can read my review of book 1, Captives, HERE.

724247In Outcasts, the second book in Jill Williamson’s Safe Lands series, Levi finds himself not only the leader of Glenrock’s remaining people but also the head of a new rebel force called the Messengers, intent on unmasking the Safe Lands’ lies. At the same time, Mason uncovers secrets that may be more dangerous than he ever imagined. Meanwhile, Omar decides to take matters into his own hands.

jillwilliamsonnewsmall

Jill Williamson is a chocolate loving, daydreaming, creator of kingdoms and the award-winning author of several young adult books including the Blood of Kings trilogy, Replication, the Mission League series, and the Safe Lands trilogy. She lives in Oregon with her husband, two children, and a whole lot of deer. She loves working with teenagers and gives writing workshops at libraries, schools, camps, and churches.

Click on the image below to purchase a copy of this book.

Check out all of the CSFF participants links below.

Red Bissell
Thomas Fletcher Booher
Pauline Creeden
April Erwin
Victor Gentile
Ryan Heart
Timothy Hicks
Jason Joyner
Julie Bihn
Carol Keen
Shannon McDermott
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Melanie @ Christian Bookshelf Reviews
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Joan Nienhuis
Nissa
Jalynn Patterson
Writer Rani
Chawna Schroeder
Jacque Stengl
Jojo Sutis
Steve Trower
Phyllis Wheeler
Deborah Wilson

Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy Blog Tour — Merlin’s Shadow

16 Dec

The folks on the CSFF Blog Tour are featuring Robert Treskillard‘s second book in The Merlin Spiral series, Merlin’s Shadow. This looks to be a big tour, so take some time to check out what others are saying about Robert’s book. The links to the participants are at the end of this post. In the meantime, here is a brief synopsis of the book (from Amazon). I will be back tomorrow with a look at book 1, Merlin’s Blade and on Wednesday with a full review.

735083Betrayal. 

After destroying the sinister Druid Stone and freeing his people from its dark control, Merlin finds himself to be a royal advisor without a king. Along with his friend Garth and Natalenya, his betrothed, Merlin treks north with the orphaned Arthur in hopes of keeping the young ruler safe from soldiers misled by their turncoat captain. Relentlessly pursued by his nemesis Vortigern, Merlin and his band make for the fortress of Dintaga.

But dangers multiply when Merlin realizes that Vortigern is not his only enemy. Even his own sister appears bent on Merlin’s destruction. As the threat on all their lives increases, Merlin discovers their only hope is sailing to the lands of eternal darkness and once again cleansing the world from an ancient and powerful evil.

To purchase a copy of Merlin’s Shadow click on the image below. The Kindle version is on sale!

Blog Tour Participants:

Red Bissell
Thomas Clayton Booher
Jeff Chapman
Pauline Creeden
April Erwin
Victor Gentile
Ryan Heart
Timothy Hicks
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Jennette Mbewe
Amber McCallister
Shannon McDermott
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Joan Nienhuis
Nissa
Jalynn Patterson
Writer Rani
Nathan Reimer
Chawna Schroeder
Jacque Stengl
Jojo Sutis
Robert Treskillard
Steve Trower
Shane Werlinger
Phyllis Wheeler
Deborah Wilson

CSFF Blog Tour — Captives

12 Aug

724223_w185One choice could destroy them all. When eighteen-year-old Levi returned from Denver City with his latest scavenged finds, he never imagined he’d find his village of Glenrock decimated, loved ones killed, and many—including his fiancee, Jem—taken captive. Now alone, Levi is determined to rescue what remains of his people, even if it means entering the Safe Lands, a walled city that seems anything but safe. Omar knows he betrayed his brother by sending him away, but helping the enforcers was necessary. Living off the land and clinging to an outdated religion holds his village back. The Safe Lands has protected people since the plague decimated the world generations ago … and its rulers have promised power and wealth beyond Omar’s dreams. Meanwhile, their brother Mason has been granted a position inside the Safe Lands, and may be able to use his captivity to save not only the people of his village, but also possibly find a cure for the virus that threatens everyone within the Safe Lands’ walls. Will Mason uncover the truth hidden behind the Safe Lands’ facade before it’s too late?

jillwilliamsonnewsmallJill Williamson is a chocolate loving, daydreaming, creator of kingdoms and the award-winning author of several young adult books including the Blood of Kings trilogy, Replication, the Mission League series, and the Safe Lands trilogy. She lives in Oregon with her husband, two children, and a whole lot of deer. She loves working with teenagers and gives writing workshops at libraries, schools, camps, and churches. Visit her online at http://www.jillwilliamson.com, where adventure comes to life.

My Impressions:

Jill Williamson readily admits that she writes “weird books for teens”. Well, Captives is definitely weird and definitely a book that will appeal to teen readers. A dystopian look at a future America post-pandemic, the book has a lot going for it — interesting characters, fascinating setting, and a disturbing plot that feels both improbable and very possible all at once. Fast-paced with vivid imagery, I would recommend Captives to older teens (high school or older). The novel is never graphic, yet reproduction, surrogacy and promiscuity are part of the story and may be too mature for a younger audience.

The Safe Lands are anything but safe, but the veneer of the nation covers the evil beneath the surface. Those that live in the shadow of its walls have much to fear — the thin plague that infects all of Safe Lands’ citizens and the more insidious allure of a life of pleasure and the overwhelming control of the governing council. Omar is fascinated by the glitter and is determined to help his clan relocate to Safe Lands and start enjoying an easy life. But the encounter between his village and the enforcers takes a deadly turn and the once free people of Glenrock are now captives in a highly gilded cage. Some of those kidnapped are quick to assimilate into the new surroundings, while others are determined to escape before physical or spiritual infection takes root.

Williamson brings to life a dying society built on pleasure — a society where all is well as long as one complies. Beauty is lauded over all else, yet the slow-dying public must cover up who they are with wigs, paint, makeup and SimTags (a kind of virtual tattoo) in order to disguise the plague that racks their bodies. A verse from Daniel is used as an introduction to the book, and the parallels of ancient Babylon and this new world are marked. There are a lot of things to discuss with this book — technology, morality, free will, and freedom — and it would serve as a great tool for a small group. Captives is also book 1 in a series, so there is a great deal to speculate about before the next book is published.

So, if your teen enjoys weird and wants a book that will cause an examination of current trends in our own society, then get Captives for him or her.

Recommended.

(Thanks to CSFF and Zondervan for my copy of this book. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

To purchase a copy of Captives, click on the image below.

To read the reviews of the other CSFF participants, click on the links below.

Julie Bihn
Thomas Fletcher Booher
Keanan Brand
Morgan L. Busse
Jeff Chapman
Pauline Creeden
Emma or Audrey Engel
Victor Gentile
Timothy Hicks
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Shannon McDermott
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Joan Nienhuis
Asha Marie Pena
Nathan Reimer
Chawna Schroeder
Jojo Sutis
Jessica Thomas
Steve Trower
Phyllis Wheeler
Rachel Wyant