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SciFi Book Review: Star Wars: Guardians of the Whills

Star Wars: Guardians of the Whills by Greg Rucka

Synopsis:
On the desert world of Jedha, in the Holy City, friends Baze and Chirrut used to be Guardians of the hills, who looked after the Kyber Temple and the devoted pilgrims who worshiped there. Then the Empire came and took over the planet. The temple was destroyed and the people scattered. Now Baze and Chirrut do what they can to resist the Empire and protect the people of Jedha, but it never seems to be enough. Then a man named Saw Gerrera arrives, with a militia of his own and grand plans to take down the Empire. It seems like the perfect way for Baze and Chirrut to make a real difference and help the people of Jedha live better lives. But will it come at too great a cost?

Review:
Author Greg Rucka has written several backstories of characters from the recent Star Wars film. Baze and Chirrut are introduced in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. And now we get a backstory focusing solely on these fascinating characters. This story begins with Baze and Chirrut already dealing with the Empire invading their world. When Saw asks for their help in rebelling against the Empire, the two friends must weigh their distrust of Saw versus the evil the Empire is causing.

This is a quick, fast-paced read for Star Wars fans of all ages. There is plenty of suspense, intrigue, and drama packed in this fun adventure. I only wish we could see even further back in these characters lives – such as when they first meet. Where this picks up, Baze and Chirrut are pretty much the same rough and jaded men they are in the film and have the same, brotherly camaraderie. I thoroughly enjoyed this exciting adventure, and hope to see much more of these fantastic characters.

SciFi Book Review: Star Wars: Rebel Rising

Star Wars: Rebel Rising by Beth Revis

Synopsis:
When Jyn Erso was five years old, her mother was murdered and her father taken from her to serve the Empire. But despite the loss of her parents she is not completely alone-Saw Gerrera, a man willing to go to any extremes necessary in order to resist Imperial tyranny, takes her in as his own, and gives her not only a home but all the abilities and resources she needs to become rebel herself.

Jyn dedicates herself to the cause-and the man. But fighting alongside Saw and his people brings with it danger and the question of just how far Jyn is willing to go as one of Saw’s soldiers. When she faces an unthinkable betrayal that shatters her world, Jyn will have to pull the pieces of herself back together and figure out what she truly believes in… and who she can really trust.

Review:
In the film Rogue One, there’s a big gap from when Jyn’s a child and rescued by Saw to when she’s rescued from the Imperial prison. Rebel Rising fills in those missing years.

Jyn is just a young girl when she goes to live with Saw. With Saw, she learns skills beneficial to subverting the Empire. And Saw trusts no one, especially with the truth of who Jyn’s father is. Through the years, Saw become more of an extremist. And after a horrifying massacre, Jyn flees a planet and finds herself alone for the first time. This coming-of-age story is action-packed yet heartfelt. There is plenty of adventure, intrigue, drama, and even a bit of romance. I thoroughly enjoyed Jyn’s story from beginning to end, when she chooses to join the rebellion in an inspiring finale.

Graphic Novel Review: Assassin’s Creed: Last Descendants: LOCUS

Assassin’s Creed: Last Descendants: LOCUS

Synopsis:
Tommy Greyling has traveled to London in search of a murderer – and a secret. Teaming up with the Assassins Evie Frye and Henry Green, he sets out on a quest to uncover the mystery that has changed the world.

Review:
LOCUS ties in to the young adult The Last Descendants mini-series from Scholastic by Matthew J. Kirby. This story focuses solely on the Templar’s investigation, using young Sean to get the details about Tommy Greyling a Pinkerton agent in Victorian London.

This standalone story is a fast-paced and exciting story for fans of the series. It’s not absolutely necessary to have read the Last Descendants series (books 1 and 2 are out now) to get to know the modern day characters, as the story focuses mostly on the Victorian quest. But I’m really enjoying the series, so I highly recommend it to teens and older. They are quick and easy reads with a great twist. And this graphic novel installment is another exciting story and some fun interactions with a historical figure.

Fantasy Book Review: Journey Across the Hidden Islands

Journey Across the Hidden Islands by Sarah Beth Durst

Synopsis:
The traditional Emperor’s Journey is meant to be uneventful. But as the princesses Seika and Ji-Lin—twin sisters—travel to pay respects to their kingdom’s dragon guardian, unexpected monsters appear and tremors shake the earth. The Hidden Islands face unprecedented threats, and the old rituals are failing. With only their strength, ingenuity, and flying lion to rely on, can the sisters find a new way to keep their people safe?

Review:
Ji-Lin has trained to be her twin sister’s guardian, along with her trusted flying lion. Seika is the princess next in line for the throne. The young girls do not feel ready for their journey, but with the barrier failing, they need to seek out the dragon protector to renew their treaty.

Journey Across the Hidden Islands is a fun and exciting middle grade fantasy. From thrilling battles against monsters to intrigue and betrayal – I thoroughly enjoyed this unique, standalone novel. I especially loved the talking, flying lions. This is an inspiring and a feel good, coming-of-age story for all ages. It’s a fast-paced, easy read that is over all too soon.

ROAR: Pre-Order Promotion and Giveaway!

Pre-order your copy of Roar and submit your receipt here (http://us.macmillan.com/torforge/promo/roar2017preorderoffer) to receive a special swag bag.

Roar by Cora Carmack, on sale June 13th

In a land ruled and shaped by violent magical storms, power lies with those who control them.

Aurora Pavan comes from one of the oldest Stormling families in existence. Long ago, the ungifted pledged fealty and service to her family in exchange for safe haven, and a kingdom was carved out from the wildlands and sustained by magic capable of repelling the world’s deadliest foes. As the sole heir of Pavan, Aurora’s been groomed to be the perfect queen. But she’s yet to show any trace of the magic she’ll need to protect her people.

To keep her secret and save her crown, Aurora’s mother arranges for her to marry a dark and brooding Stormling prince from another kingdom. At first, the prince seems like the perfect solution to all her problems. He’ll guarantee her spot as the next queen and be the champion her people need to remain safe. But the more secrets Aurora uncovers about him, the more a future with him frightens her. When she dons a disguise and sneaks out of the palace one night to spy on him, she stumbles upon a black market dealing in the very thing she lacks—storm magic. And the people selling it? They’re not Stormlings. They’re storm hunters.

Legend says that her ancestors first gained their magic by facing a storm and stealing part of its essence. And when a handsome young storm hunter reveals he was born without magic, but possesses it now, Aurora realizes there’s a third option for her future besides ruin or marriage.
She might not have magic now, but she can steal it if she’s brave enough.

Challenge a tempest. Survive it. And you become its master.

Courtesy of Tor, I have a copy of the above map/poster for one lucky winner! (Click the picture to view a larger image.)

Contest is open to US residents only. No PO Boxes please. To enter, just fill out the form below. Contest ends May 12. I’ll draw a name on May 13, and notify winner via email.

ENTER DAILY TO INCREASE YOUR CHANCE OF WINNING!

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SciFi Book Review: Alone

Alone by Scott Sigler

Synopsis:
Pawns in a millennia-old struggle, the young people known only as the Birthday Children were genetically engineered to survive on the planet Omeyocan—but they were never meant to live there. They were made to be “overwritten,” their minds wiped and replaced by the consciousnesses of the monsters who created them.

Em changed all of that.

She unified her people and led a revolt against their creators. Em and her friends escaped an ancient ghost ship and fled to Omeyocan. They thought they would find an uninhabited paradise. Instead, they found the ruins of a massive city long since swallowed by the jungle. And they weren’t alone. The Birthday Children fought for survival against the elements, jungle wildlife, the “Grownups” who created them . . . and, as evil corrupted their numbers, even against themselves.

With these opponents finally defeated, Em and her people realized that more threats were coming, traveling from across the universe to lay claim to their planet. The Birthday Children have prepared as best they can against this alien armada. Now, as the first ships reach orbit around Omeyocan, the final battle for the planet begins.

Review:
Em has created an alliance between her young human survivors and the aliens on the planet. But outlier aliens continue to attack. And her own people are changing, growing more aggressive. Meanwhile, new ships are arriving and there seems to be nothing that can stop them.

Alone is the final installment in a thrilling YA, science fiction trilogy. As everyone’s aggression escalates, Em eventually discovers the cause. But with an enormous invading army and the human ship still being led by Em’s malevolent creator, Em is running out of options. This finale is packed with action, drama, mystery, and suspense. It’s a much larger novel than the predecessors, but it’s still fast-paced. There are many twists and shocking turns that build to an exciting and satisfying ending.

The Third Book of Ore: Blaze of Embers Excerpt and Giveaway!

Cam Baity and Benny Zelkowicz are pleased to share an excerpt from Blaze of Embers, the conclusion to their Books Of Ore series. On-sale today!

Margaret Tanner already wished she hadn’t come home.

When she got the news that Micah had run away, Margaret had requested a leave of absence. It had taken an entire week for her submission to be processed. Tensions had spiked after President Saltern’s condemnation of the Quorum at the Council of Nations, so it was an “inopportune time” for an officer of the Foundry’s special engineering corps to be off duty. Nevertheless, she had managed it, and after a high-speed Galejet flight from Vellaroux, Trelaine, to Albright City, Meridian, she was home.

Yet international strife was nothing compared to what was waiting for her at Plumm Estate.

“Not like that,” Deirdre Tanner snapped, snatching the ornamental zigzag silverware from her daughter to properly pack it for shipping. “Fold the table linens.”

Accustomed to taking orders without question, Margaret moved with military precision to the other end of the giant brass table in the dining room. She adjusted the cuffs of her starched gray-and-gold Foundry uniform, brushed a strand of copper-blond hair from her heart-shaped face, and set about the new task. In their correspondence, her mother had neglected to mention that Dr. Plumm had fired the Tanners, and that he and Phoebe had moved out without so much as a thanks. Foundry officials had packed up all of the Plumms’ necessities, mostly files and personal effects, and shipped them to their new, undisclosed residence, leaving the staff to take care of the rest. Of course, Mr. Macaroy, Mr. Kashiri, and most of the others had abandoned ship at the first sign of trouble, leaving all the remaining work to the Tanners—namely Margaret and her mother, since Randall was utterly useless. So they had been at it for hours, working away into the night. Margaret wouldn’t have said no to a quick bite to eat, especially because a Televiewer in the kitchen was blaring with revelry from President Saltern’s campaign rally, and she was curious to hear his address.

“No, no,” Deirdre said, slamming down the box of silverware and stomping over to Margaret. “The trim folds in. Like this.” She yanked the silversilk tablecloth away.

“Mother,” said Margaret.

Deirdre flattened the pleats of the tablecloth as if she were spanking a disobedient child. Margaret placed a firm hand on her shoulder.

“Mom?”

Strands of cobweb hair framed the gouges of grief in Deirdre’s face. Bruise-colored bags hung beneath her mudbrown eyes, which swam with tears.

“I just . . . What am I going to do, Margie? Where am I supposed to go?”

“It’ll be fine.”

“It won’t be,” Deirdre sniffled. “I’ll have to go back home to Oleander. Back to . . . him.”

Margaret stiffened at the mention of her drunken absentee father.

“You’re not going anywhere,” she stated. “We’ll figure it out. I’m here. We’re together now.”

“We’re not,” Deirdre whispered. “Not all of us.” Her round shoulders quaked. “My baby . . . My baby’s gone.”

Margaret handed her mother a silversilk napkin from the table. “Not the linens, Margie.” Margaret insisted, forcing the napkin into her hand. Her mother conceded and dabbed at her eyes.

“Go lie down, Mom. You need a break.”

Deirdre appeared eager for the opportunity, but she glanced with some concern at the mountains of valuables that still needed to be packed.

“I’ll take over here,” Margaret said, offering a soothing smile. “Don’t worry, you can redo everything I touch in the morning.”

Her mother smiled in return, a little embarrassed.

“I’m so glad you’re here,” Deirdre said, kissing Margaret on the cheek. She took one last uneasy look around the cavernous dining room of Plumm Estate before shuffling off to her quarters.

Margaret breathed a sigh of relief. She loved her mother and would do anything for her, but the atmosphere in a room always felt lighter when she left it. A sudden spray of wet coughing came from the kitchen. Concerned, Margaret put down her folding and walked over to see. Her brother, Randall, decked out in his Military Institute of Meridian uniform, sat hunched over the counter, sputtering. Tennyson the chauffeur chuckled as he pounded the teen’s back. Between them sat a brown bottle of liquor.

“Tenny’s bailin’,” Randall managed, wiping his mouth. “Just havin’ a little farewell drink, is all. Don’t tell Mom.”

Margaret huffed. “A chip off the ol’ block, aren’t ya?”

Randall narrowed his beady little eyes at her.

“Go see if she needs anything,” Margaret ordered, and her brother obliged, breezing past her. Tennyson followed, offering Margaret a sly wink as he slipped away.

A tumultuous ovation on the Televiewer grabbed her attention. On the screen, three Razorback fighter jets flew in formation, blazing a trail of golden fire above a gleeful crowd packed onto the bridge to Foundry Central. Newscam drones swept over the bay, looking for the perfect angle of the Crest of Dawn, the titanic sunburst that towered over Albright City. There, thousands of feet above the crowd, emerging onto a platform festooned with bunting and ribbons in patriotic red, white, and gold, was President Saltern with his beautiful wife and children. The leader of the free world had never looked more youthful or vibrant.

An orchestra started playing “Our Shining Hearts.” The crowd sang, voices ringing throughout the glorious metal city. This was a celebration for the ages. The nation’s beloved first family sang along with the people.

“Meridian cast off all her bonds, when Creighton Albright forged the bronze.”

The sky crackled with fireworks, a frenzy of dazzling lights reflecting off the gleaming skyscrapers.

“With ball of lead and sword of steel, we’ll crush our foes beneath our heel.”

The Salterns laughed, squinting against the spectacular light show.

“So praise the gold, the brass, and chrome, of Meridian, our mighty home!”

A Newscam drone held the President’s proud visage in an iconic beauty shot. But something was wrong. His eyes went wide. His mouth went slack. Fear paralyzed Margaret as she too understood. Fireworks were speeding toward his platform. Not fireworks. Missiles. An explosion—a blinding white supernova. The gutwrenching screams of an entire city in shock. A strike against the legendary Crest of Dawn.

Thus the war began.

Excerpted from BLAZE OF EMBERS © Copyright 2017 by Cam Baity and Benny Zelkowicz. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.

Missed The Foundry’s Edge (The First Book Of Ore) or Waybound (The Second Book of Ore)? Found out more at http://www.booksofore.com.

About The Third Book Of Ore: Blaze of Embers:
Phoebe Plumm and Micah Tanner are no longer the spoiled heiress and naïve servant boy who first stumbled upon the fiercely beautiful world of living metal known as Mehk. They have rallied to aid the mehkans and risked their lives fighting the relentless greed of the Foundry, a corporation that harvests the metal creatures to sell as products back home in Meridian. But the kids’ mission to retrieve a mysterious relic ended in devastating tragedy and with Micah as a prisoner of the enemy. Shattered, he can only watch as an unthinkable new power rises in Mehk and international war erupts in Meridian. Trapped between the Foundry and this staggering mehkan threat, Micah has no choice but to work with dangerous humans and mehkans alike, each with their own agenda. As the path of destruction spreads and hope fades, Micah leads his unlikely allies in a desperate race back to Meridian, where the two worlds are about to clash. A terrible reckoning is underway, and this time, everything is at stake.

About the Authors:
Cam Baity is an Emmy Award winning animator, and his short films have screened around the world, including at Anima Mundi in Brazil and the BBC British Short Film Festival. His credits include major motion pictures like Team America: World Police and The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie, and popular television shows such as Robot Chicken and Supermansion.

Benny Zelkowicz studied animation at CalArts and made the award winning film, The ErlKing. He directed and starred in the BBC/CBC animated series Lunar Jim, and worked on The LEGO Movie as well as several TV shows including Robot Chicken and Moral Orel.

Twitter: @CamandBenny
Hashtag: #BooksOfOre
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/camandbenny
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Courtesy of Disney Hyperion, I have a digital copy of Blaze of Embers by Cam Baity and Benny Zelkowicz for one (1) lucky winner!

Contest is open to US residents only. To enter, just fill out the form below. Contest ends April 28. I’ll draw a name on April 29, and notify winner via email.

ENTER DAILY TO INCREASE YOUR CHANCE OF WINNING!

Good luck!

Continue reading The Third Book of Ore: Blaze of Embers Excerpt and Giveaway!