Blog Tour & a Giveaway: Sunrise by Mike Mullin

SRBT

I’m thrilled to be participating in the blog tour for Sunrise by Mike Mullin. Thank you to Books With Bite for organizing the tour!

Sunrise is the third book in the outstanding young adult trilogy which begins with Ashfall and continues in Ashen Winter.

Synopsis:

The Yellowstone supervolcano nearly wiped out the human race. Now, almost a year after the eruption, the survivors seem determined to finish the job. Communities wage war on each other, gangs of cannibals roam the countryside, and what little government survived the eruption has collapsed completely. The ham radio has gone silent. Sickness, cold, and starvation are the survivors’ constant companions.

When it becomes apparent that their home is no longer safe and adults are not facing the stark realities, Alex and Darla must create a community that can survive the ongoing disaster, an almost impossible task requiring even more guts and more smarts than ever—and unthinkable sacrifice. If they fail . . . they, their loved ones, and the few remaining survivors will perish.

This epic finale has the heart of Ashfall, the action of Ashen Winter, and a depth all its own, examining questions of responsibility and bravery, civilization and society, illuminated by the story of an unshakable love that transcends a post-apocalyptic world and even life itself.

My thoughts:

sunrise1Ashfall and then Ashen Winter blew me away, and I had high expectations as I waited for the release of Sunrise. Well, those expectations were absolutely met, and then some! Sunrise continues the breakneck pace of the earlier books, with non-stop action and unrelenting danger around every corner.

Alex and Darla make a formidable team, and as young leaders trying to create a new community, they face challenges both from external threats and from internal mistrust and dissension. The pair are remarkably brave and cool-headed, and despite their youth, they manage to organize their small community’s defenses as well as to provide a vision for the future that just may get them — and their loved ones — through the grim realities of the awful present and into a future that might actually contain hope.

There are some truly horrifying moments, and the danger is real and insidious — all the worse because the most life-threatening dangers come not from the natural disaster, but from human reactions in the aftermath. Practically no one comes through unscathed, but the fact that Alex and Darla manage to pull together a random group of people into a community with a future is astounding — and given how far we’ve come with these two characters, it’s also quite believable.

I’ve tended to shy away from YA series lately after feeling let down or not fulfilled by the wrap-up. In the case of the Ashfall trilogy, I can definitely say that it’s worth sticking with! This trilogy delivers in all three books. No filler, no slack, no let-up — all three books are detailed, tight, and compelling, and once you start reading them, it’s impossible to stop.

About the Author:

Mike MullinMike Mullin’s first job was scraping the gum off the undersides of desks at his high school. From there, things went steadily downhill. He almost got fired by the owner of a bookstore due to his poor taste in earrings. He worked at a place that showed slides of poopy diapers during lunch (it did cut down on the cafeteria budget). The hazing process at the next company included eating live termites raised by the resident entomologist, so that didn’t last long either. For a while Mike juggled bottles at a wine shop, sometimes to disastrous effect. Oh, and then there was the job where swarms of wasps occasionally tried to chase him off ladders. So he’s really glad this writing thing seems to be working out.

Mike holds a black belt in Songahm Taekwondo. He lives in Indianapolis with his wife and her three cats. Ashen Winter is his second novel. His debut, Ashfall, was named one of the top five young adult novels of 2011 by National Public Radio, a Best Teen Book of 2011 by Kirkus Reviews, and a New Voices selection by the American Booksellers Association

Giveaway!

Don’t miss out on the awesome giveaway offered by Books With Bite! You could win a complete set of the Ashfall series!

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Blog Tour Info:

To buy Sunrise:

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Want to read my reviews of the first two books in the series? Here are the links:

Wishing & Waiting on Wednesday

Nothing like a Wednesday for thinking about the books we want to read! My Wishing & Waiting on Wednesday post is linking up with two fabulous book memes, Wishlist Wednesday (hosted by Pen to Paper) and Waiting on Wednesday (hosted by Breaking the Spine).

This week’s pick is the third and final book in a series:

Sunrise (Ashfall, #3)

Sunrise by Mike Mullin
(release date April 15, 2014)

Synopsis:

The Yellowstone supervolcano nearly wiped out the human race. Now, almost a year after the eruption, the survivors seem determined to finish the job. Communities wage war on each other, gangs of cannibals roam the countryside, and what little government survived the eruption has collapsed completely. The ham radio has gone silent. Sickness, cold, and starvation are the survivors’ constant companions.

When it becomes apparent that their home is no longer safe and adults are not facing the stark realities, Alex and Darla must create a community that can survive the ongoing disaster, an almost impossible task requiring even more guts and more smarts than ever — and unthinkable sacrifice. If they fail . . . they, their loved ones, and the few remaining survivors will perish.

This epic finale has the heart of Ashfall, the action of Ashen Winter, and a depth all its own, examining questions of responsibility and bravery, civilization and society, illuminated by the story of an unshakable love that transcends a post-apocalyptic world and even life itself.

Boy, does this sound bleak. BUT — I loved the first two books in the series (click to see my reviews of Ashfall and Ashen Winter), and can’t wait to see how it all works out. Alex and Darla are memorable, incredibly brave characters, and these books are absolutely compulsive reading, just impossible to put down. I really don’t want to wait until April! Meanwhile, if you haven’t read this series yet, give Ashfall a try! I’m willing to bet that you’ll be hooked.

What are you wishing for this Wednesday?

So what are you doing on Thursdays and Fridays? Come join me for my regular weekly features, Thursday Quotables and Flashback Friday! You can find out more here — come share the book love!

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Do you host a book blog meme? Do you participate in a meme that you really, really love? I’m building a Book Blog Meme Directory, and need your help! If you know of a great meme to include — or if you host one yourself — please drop me a note on my Contact page and I’ll be sure to add your info!

Book Review: Ashen Winter

Book Review: Ashen Winter by Mike Mullin

Ashen Winter is the second book in Mike Mullin’s natural disaster trilogy, following the author’s powerful debut novel, Ashfall. SPOILER ALERT: This review will, by necessity, contain mild spoilers for book one. Stop here if you just don’t want to know!

In Ashfall, teen protagonist Alex is forced to grow up in a hurry when life as he knows it comes to an end following a massive supervolcano eruption which causes widespread environmental catastrophe. At the beginning of Ashen Winter, ten months have passed since the eruption. Alex and girlfriend Darla are living at his uncle’s farm in Illinois, struggling to survive the freezing temperatures brought on by the ash-induced climate change. Alex is determined to find his parents, who returned to Iowa to find Alex at the same time that Alex was fleeing Iowa to reunite with his family. Alex and Darla, bound by a soul-deep love, leave on their quest early in Ashen Winter, and immediately encounter one disastrous turn of events after another. The two escape death, barely and not without injury, time and time again, as they face physical danger, loss of food and supplies, freezing conditions, corrupt government contractors, and bands of cannibals who prey upon anyone they can capture.

Alex shoulders tremendous burdens and feels a crushing sense of guilt and responsibility as each carefully laid plan turns ruinous. Alex and Darla are separated early on, and Alex faces one obstacle after another as his quest to find his parents turns into a rescue mission: Find Darla before she is killed or brutalized by the rampaging gangs of armed thugs who prey upon the weak and alone. Alex is not without resources, however. In the first book, we saw Alex repeatedly struggle to do what he could to help others, even when doing so meant his own survival might be jeopardized. In Ashen Winter, we see a kind of pay-off for Alex’s earlier choices, as the people he’s helped or rescued along the way become valuable allies.

An ongoing motif throughout both books is the meaning of adulthood. By Ashen Winter, Alex is sixteen, and the adults he meets along the way continue to try to control him and make decisions in what they think is his best interest. Repeatedly, well-meaning adults discount his absolute commitment to Darla and try to dissuade him from his rescue mission. Alex, despite his age, must prove to himself and to those around him, over and over again, that he is strong, capable, and yes, in love — not a fleeting, teen romance, but a connection and a commitment that means that he must find Darla, no matter the danger or the very real possibility that she’s already dead. Alex’s opponents are not only the gangs and corrupt officials who threaten him, but also the adults he trusts and loves. All of them stand in his way; all of them underestimate him; to all of them, he has to stand up and proclaim that he is an adult to be reckoned with.

Ashen Winter is like paper crack. Each chapter ends with a cliffhanger of sorts. Here’s a random sampling of a few last lines from various chapters:

“What really caught my attention was the machine pistol he had trained on Darla.”

“A line of men popped into view one by one, their heads and shoulders above the low log gate. Every one of them was pointing a rifle at us.”

“Then I heard an engine rumble behind us.”

“The bike fell sidways, trapping Darla’s leg and dragging her ina rush toward the deadly, roiling water at the base of the dam.”

“I slipped — and suddenly I was dangling, my feet clawing futilely at the air.”

“When the body quits shivering, it’s preparing to die.”

I could provide many more examples, but you get the idea. No wonder I’ve been bleary-eyed all week — with ending sentences like these, it was simply impossible to put this book down at the end of a chapter and call it a night.

In other reviews, I’ve referred to 2nd books in trilogies as middle children — not the first, leading the way, not the last, to be cherished and savored. The middle book has to keep the momentum going, provide a link between beginning and end, but not actually allow the story to move too close to a conclusion. When not done well, a reader is left feeling like he or she is treading water, waiting for the action to resume in the final book. I’m happy to report that Ashen Winter is a terrific example of a middle book that accomplishes its mission and then some. It not only moves the story forward and leaves the reader hungry for the final installment, but it contains a compelling plot, filled with twists and turns, memorable characters, action aplenty, and convincing character development. In other words, it’s a good book in its own right, which is really quite rare for a middle book.

Of course, it would be foolish to pick up Ashen Winter without having read the first book and expect to understand what’s going on. But if you want an action story with heart, pick up Ashfall and dive in. I dare you to stop after just one book.