Monday, September 30, 2013

Book recommendation & giveaway! THIS SONG WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE by Leila Sales

Leila Sales has become an auto-read author for me, and her latest novel, THIS SONG WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE, will definitely not disappoint her fans — and should win her some new ones.

It's a contemporary YA about an outsider, Elise, carving out her place in the world. We're brought along for this rollercoaster, and in the beginning, Elise has dealt with bullying and loneliness for so long that she seriously considers suicide and even attempts it, just to see if anyone will finally notice her.

But despite the dark topics, the narration manages to not feel heavy (and not preachy, thank God, because I have ISSUES with thinly veiled After School Specials with Important Lessons). It just feels REAL. Sometimes (often) painfully real. A lot of it has to do with Elise's voice and Leila's trademark wit — and her keen eye for how the social hierarchy works in high school, and how arbitrarily cruel it can be.

Most of the novel focuses on Elise discovering herself as a DJ in an underground dance party, which is such a reader-rush, and it sets the stage for Elise's transformation. (And I love that, throughout all of this, she's imperfect and makes some realistic mistakes along the way. I had more than one moment of wanting to smack her upside the head to come to her senses.)

The genius is in how easily you connect with Elise and her point of view, and how you empathize with her. It happens so seamlessly in this book that you almost forget it's simply because Leila Sales is a fabulous writer.

Overall, it's an engaging story, and (as is key in contemporary) the characters are all fleshed out, with great dialogue, and a main character to root for. Read this book!

Buy it at: Barnes and Noble | IndieBound

One lucky reader will win my ARC! Info below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, September 23, 2013

My ridiculously enthusiastic recommendation for THE BURNING SKY by Sherry Thomas

When you finish reading a book and then immediately read everything else the author has ever written, you know that author is skilled.

That's exactly what happened when I read Sherry Thomas's THE BURNING SKY (Balzer & Bray), which I picked up at BEA. I went on her website to (not kidding) find out if they'd announced the release date of the sequel, and discovered that she had established her career as an author of historical romance. THE BURNING SKY, a traditional fantasy novel, was Thomas's first foray into writing YA, and she transitioned seamlessly into the new genre.

The official summary of THE BURNING SKY:

It all began with a ruined elixir and an accidental bolt of lightning…
Iolanthe Seabourne is the greatest elemental mage of her generation—or so she's being told. The one prophesied for years to be the savior of The Realm. It is her duty and destiny to face and defeat the Bane, the greatest mage tyrant the world has ever known. A suicide task for anyone, let alone a sixteen-year-old girl with no training, facing a prophecy that foretells a fiery clash to the death.
        Prince Titus of Elberon has sworn to protect Iolanthe at all costs, but he's also a powerful mage committed to obliterating the Bane to avenge the death of his family—even if he must sacrifice both Iolanthe and himself to achieve his goal.
        But Titus makes the terrifying mistake of falling in love with the girl who should have been only a means to an end. Now, with the servants of the Bane closing in, he must choose between his mission and her life.

THE BURNING SKY has excellent world building and a fun concept, with a well-written dual point-of-view, third person narration. (No simple feat!) It's an easy read, but since it's basically about epic-scale political machinations that span both the mage world and our world .... with some complicated magical rules to boot ... I'd say the ease comes from Thomas's skills as a writer and not the simplicity of the plot.

I felt connected to both Iolanthe and Titus, and I became totally invested in their story. And thankfully, there's a perfect balance of romance mixed in with the main plot, so that it never felt overwhelming.

When adult authors transition to YA, many times their debut is a teen version of the type of book that cemented their career in the first place. That's not necessarily a bad thing ... but once I discovered that Thomas was an RITA Award-winning romance writer, it really impressed me how she chose to rein in the burgeoning romance in THE BURNING SKY and really let fantasy take center stage.

The only way Thomas followed the traditional advice "write what you know" is that she stuck to her norm of excellent characterization and dialogue, plus a witty narration. (Like I said, I ended up reading her seven other novels, so I know for a fact that the quality of THE BURNING SKY isn't a fluke.)

I definitely recommend THE BURNING SKY for fans of Rae Carson's incredible Fire and Thorns trilogy. However, where the Fire and Thorns books could've easily been marketed as adult (like Maria V. Snyder's Poison Study or Kristin Cashore's novels), THE BURNING SKY feels solidly YA, mostly due to the innocence of the main characters and the fact that they're still in school. But Iolanthe and Titus's situation is changing quickly, and I have a feeling they'll grow up with the trilogy, as the stakes become higher. (And I wouldn't complain in the least if we upped the swoon scale. Because Thomas can really bring le swoon.)

I'm always anxious reading the end of the first book of a trilogy, wondering if there's enough of a plot arc to support three novels. With THE BURNING SKY, you have a satisfying ending that teases into an epic-scale, trilogy-worthy plot, and I'm looking forward to seeing where the rest of the books go.

Final verdict: Sherry Thomas will be welcomed into the world of YA with open arms, and she earned it.

More love for THE BURNING SKY from Angieville
THE BURNING SKY is available now! Barnes & Noble | IndieBound
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