The Royal Order of the Fighting Dragons

Fighting DragonsAuthor: Dan Elish

Publisher: Vesuvian Books

Release Date: August 7, 2018

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

With a sprinkle of humor and a double dose of action, The Royal Order of Fighting Dragons is sure to be a hit with kids and even their parents. 

When Ike Rupert Hollingsberry starts getting strange messages about how his father died on the set of The Fighting Dragons, he starts to question what really happened all those years ago. Things get even more interesting when a giant locust attacks outside of his school.  That was exactly how his father was killed on the show.  Ike works together with Elmira Hand, who is in his class and keeps a blog about the show.  After Ike kills the locusts, he is taken to a secret location to become the next in line to lead the Royal Order of the Fighting Dragons.  What everyone thought was just a TV show turns out to be real, the locusts, the dragons and those fighting to keep the world safe.

With a diverse group of characters and a magical story, this is sure to be a crowd pleaser. I enjoyed this more than I thought I would, the storyline flowed and there were just enough twists and turns to keep things very interesting.  Ike is unsure of himself just enough to make him the right lead character, he’s not cocky or whiny because of the blows life has dealt him.  He is able to rise to the occasion and see the potential in his team and use that to carry on and not be set back.  Having Elmira find the bylaws and use that as a way to bring his friends into the story when they weren’t part of the order was a great way to move the story along and keep it believable.  The ending and how a few of the characters played out didn’t fit just right for me, thought they could have used a little more fleshing out before doing a one eighty on attitudes.  I feel that this is just the first in a series and am looking forward to where the next will go.  This was written very appropriately for the age group it is intended for with no language and the violence kept to a minimum.  I really appreciate when an author stays true to whom they are writing to and keeps it age appropriate.  It has become so common to see harsh language and themes suggested that are not appropriate for little eyes to read.  I recommend this for kids who enjoy a good magical action story with a little bit of history and humor sprinkled in for good measure.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher. The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

A Secret to Die For

A secret to die forAuthor: Lisa Harris

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: September 18, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A fun romantic suspense read with just the right amount of tension to keep you on the edge of your seat.

Grace Callahan is trying to get her life back on track. After suffering the loss of her daughter and going through a divorce, she has moved back to Dallas and is helping others as a psychologist.  As the anniversary of her daughter’s death approaches, she readies herself for an emotional roller coaster.  Little does she know it is about to get a lot worse.  She is drawn into a major terrorist scheme involving murder, cyber hacking and the reintroduction of an old friend.  Detective Nate Quinn is dealing with his own demons when he lands the case of a murder that leads him to Grace Callahan, someone he hasn’t seen or thought of in years.  Finding out how deeply she is involved in the case, even without her realizing it, and trying to keep them both alive is a bit much for his first case back after being involved in a bombing that killed eighteen, including his partner.  Together, Grace and Nate will have to work together to stop the cyber-attack and keep the country safe.

Lisa Harris’s newest installment is definitely one that will keep readers on the edge of their seats and questioning everything they think they know of the characters until the very end. I love when I read a romantic suspense book that is not filled with sappy romance scenes.  To me, the romance is built by the tension and the way the characters come together by tackling the tough moments and coming out the other side stronger.  Grace was a great character.  She was strong and determined and even though she wanted to give up at times after the struggles she faced, she didn’t.  I also loved that in certain scenes it might have been convenient for a big strong male character to come in and save the day didn’t happen.  Grace was able to pull up her boot straps and do just fine on her own.  The ending felt a little rushed and I was hoping for a little more but still not much to complain about.  I hope that we can see more from these character in the future.  I recommend this to readers that love Lisa Harris and romantic suspense reads.  If you haven’t read anything by Lisa Harris before this would be the perfect book to get you started with her writing.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher. The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

The Impossible Girl

The Impossible GirlAuthor: Lydia Y. Kang

Publisher: Lake Union

Release Date: September 18, 2018

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A dark historical mystery that is perfect for fall reading!

Every era has a dark side and New York City in 1850 is no exception. People with abnormalities die all the time, but now people want to know more about these abnormalities, they want to dissect the people and see what made them occur.  In fact, there are plenty of people to pay nicely for such a body.  From aneurysms to blocked arteries to being born with multiple appendages, these are worth big money to explore and then display to the public.  Cora Lee is the only female resurrectionist and she plays the game well.  She stays one step ahead of those looking for bodies to purchase.  After all, she has to.  She was born with two hearts.

This was definitely a welcome change in my reading schedule. It was almost like a forced shift from light summer reading to a dark, fall read that keeps your mind spinning throughout the night.  This book just had a little bit of everything: grave robbing, freak show abnormalities, expected murders, and a cat and mouse game.  Kang always brings together a well told story that will keep the reader intrigued from beginning to end.  This story flowed better than some of her past books and kept me pretty well hooked throughout, which was probably the subject and timeframe of the story.  If you enjoy a little more on the darker side of a novel, give this one a try!

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher. The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

The Mystery of Three Quarters

The Mystery of Three QuartersAuthor: Sophie Hannah

Series: New Hercule Poirot Mystery #3

Publisher: William Morrow Books

Release Date: August 28, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Hercule Poirot is back and in top form!

The legendary detective Hercule Poirot was having a normal day when he is suddenly approached by someone who is angry with him for accusing him of murder in a letter. Knowing he has sent no letter to this individual, Poirot is frustrated that someone has used his name to play a prank.  Then someone else shows up with the same accusation.  Soon two more come forward.  The more Poirot thinks about it, the more intrigued he becomes.  All four have been accused of the same murder and all four proclaim innocence.  Some research shows that the victim of the murder is in fact deceased, but the death was ruled accidental as he was ninety-four years old and fell asleep in the bath.  But Poirot cannot help himself.  Someone must believe it is a murder and have known that this act would intrigue Poirot to find out the truth.  So he sets out on an investigation to learn the truth with Inspector Edward Catchpool of Scotland Yard.  At first, the investigation provides more questions than answers.  In true Poirot fashion, he always figures out who committed the murder, if there actually was one.

I felt like I was reading one of Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot novels through the whole book. I didn’t even know that someone had started up a continuation of the series, but I’m glad that she did.  I enjoyed everything about this book.  The way it was narrated kept me turning the pages to find out what was going to happen next.  Each character was solidly developed and played out their parts beautifully.  The connection to Poirot was imminent and carried throughout the story.  I love old mystery novels and that was just what this felt like.  The personalities just clicked like they were supposed to.  It was a clean read all the way through, which is a rare find these days.  I’m happy to say that there is a new follower to this series and I recommend all readers give this a try!

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

A Christmas by the Sea

A christmas by the seaAuthor: Melody Carlson

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: September 4, 2018

Reviewer: Jennifer S. Roman

Wendy Harper and her son Jackson are driving to Seaside, Maine, the weekend before Thanksgiving to clean up and prepare her recently-inherited seaside cottage for sale.  A recent widow, Wendy can use the proceeds from the sale of the cottage to pay for her late husband’s medical bills and to get herself back on solid ground financially.  It’s going to be hard, considering all the summers she spent with her grandparents in that cabin, and Jackson is especially excited to be going there.  Jackson assumes they are moving from their home in Cincinnati to live in Seaside full time, and she doesn’t have the heart to correct him.  She herself entertains the fantasy of living in the tourist town, but she doesn’t expect to find a good income there.  She definitely does not expect to find the cabin in good shape after her grandfather has done some recent updates, and more importantly, she does not expect to make so many friends so quickly.  One in particular, Caleb Colton, seems to take an interest in Wendy and Jackson, and with all the work she has to do at the cottage, she is happy to accept.  As she finishes her projects and comes to love the house, Wendy has to decide if she really can go back to her old life again, right before Christmas.

True to form, Melody Carlson creates a sweet story with personal conflicts that immediately garner interest from the reader.  Her light writing style makes the story go quickly, leaving readers wanting more.  I know that as I went through the book, I was looking forward to finding out what would happen next.  The whole book was enjoyable and, while dealing with some serious concerns, still light and easy to read.

One criticism of the book comes at the end, and that is the big problem.  The book unfolds nicely and does a good job of moving along at a good pace.  By the end, however, everything was resolved in just a few pages.  What life-changing decisions Wendy and Jackson are making are wrapped up like a bow, neat and tidy.  While I am all for getting through things in an efficient manner, it seems overly simple and quick, even for a short romance novel.  While I enjoyed the ending, it was all too quick and simple to overlook.  That being said, I still enjoyed the book and would gladly recommend it to my friends who enjoy the genre.

There is nothing in this book that should be offensive to readers.  The story is short and sweet yet still carries a strong message of hope and relating to the past.  I don’t see any reason that anyone who would be interested in this book shouldn’t read it.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Meet the Sky

Meet the SkyAuthor: McCall Hoyle

Publisher: Blink YA Books

Release Date: September 4, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A love story with so much heart it is nearly impossible for readers not to fall in love with the characters and cheer for them in the challenges they face.

After the accident that changed her life, Sophie has trouble trusting anyone or anything. When her sister, Meredith, is left a shell of her former self and her father walks out on them, Sophie feels the weight of world on her shoulders.  She spends most of her time trying to keep the family business running and working on getting into veterinary school.  When a hurricane threatens them and causes an evacuation, Sophie sees that some things are out of her control.  When her truck blows a tire trying to evacuate, she gets separated from her family and ends up with the last person she wants to be stuck on the island with, Finn Sanders.  She and Finn have a past and she would rather not spend time with him after he broke her heart.  Together they have to find safety from the storm and work past their differences to try and learn from each other how to live life to the fullest.

This is the kind of book that is perfect for young readers. It is just the right length with all the pertinent information and no fluff.  The story develops at just the right speed and doesn’t ever drag.  I especially liked the way Hoyle showed us the love for animals and how they can be affected in a natural disaster too.  The tension is brought to an intense level with the storm, not the threat of another person, and this makes it an even better story.  I enjoyed how we saw Sophie struggling at the beginning with family and the pain of her sister’s condition and then it transitioned on her having to get reconnected to her family in the midst of the horrible storm.  Each chapter showed a clear progression in not only the story but the characters and their growth, something that might seem difficult in such a short novel but was perfectly accomplished here.   I highly recommend this to young readers looking for a book that is full of fast paced action, drama and danger at every turn.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher. The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Formula of Deception

Formula of DeceptionAuthor: Carrie Stuart Parks

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Release Date: July 3, 2018

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A troubled past, a prideful family, a government conspiracy, and a serial killer all collide for an incredible mystery!

Murphy Anderson’s sister’s body was never found, but she knows that she died at the hands of a serial killer. A killer that she helped put in prison, but not without having a scar left on her face from his knife.  But she’s changed her name and escaped to Kodiak, Alaska to try to piece together where her sister’s body might be and hide from the killer should he ever escape.  When the police learn that she has worked as a forensic artist (little white lie), they ask her to help draw up a sketch that a dying man remembers from ten years ago concerning five bodies he found on a remote Aleutian island.  She reluctantly agrees to help diagram the island scene for the police and discovers an Quonset hut from World War II with a body still inside.  As she finds herself pulled deeper into this cold case, people around her begin to die.  What is someone trying to protect?  And how many will they kill to keep it secret?

Any book set in Alaska automatically intrigues me. Maybe it is just someplace that I want to visit.  Maybe it is because my grandfather was stationed in the Aleutians in World War II doing work that still hasn’t been declassified.  Either way, I was ready to read this book.  I’ve read several of the Gwen Marcey series and figured this would be a standalone book, which it is to a point.  However, having read the other series, there is a tie in that only followers of Parks will see for what it is.

Murphy, very much like the character Gwen Marcey, has a troubled past that seems to follow her wherever she goes. She is also an artist like Gwen and would not have been in this situation to help solve the mystery were it not for Gwen.  If I haven’t got you interested in the other series, then what more do you need?  Right off the bat, I took to Murphy; however, I felt that something was amiss that is quickly discovered early on in the book as well as something that is discovered late in the book.  The supporting characters quickly rotate through the book and I never really got to know any of them well enough before they were either dead or somehow removed from the storyline.  Even so, the story flowed well and I enjoyed the overall mystery of what happened during World War II that continued to set events in motion seventy years later.

The only drawback I had was that the ending gave me some whiplash with twist after twist. I would have like to have seen it tied up a little more firm.  But it is a great book that has clean content that several readers will enjoy.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher. The views and opinions expressed within are my own.