The Line Between

the line betweenAuthor: Tosca Lee

Publisher: Howard Books

Release Date: January 29, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

In one of the most intense and believable thrillers I have ever read, Tosca Lee takes readers on a journey they will never forget in a story they will beg for more before the last page is turned!

After spending most of her life in a doomsday cult called New Earth, Wynter Roth is cast out with nowhere to turn. An old family friend takes her in and she learns how to deal in the real world. Pretty soon, all of the cults predictions of the horrible things destined to happen in the world start to come true. Wynter tries to figure out how much of this they knew about and how much of it might be because of New Earth and its leader, Magnus. One night, Wynter’s sister shows up and gives her medical samples that are a key to understanding the sickness ravaging the country. Power across the country is starting to go out spreading panic with every passing hour. Wynter must get the samples to Colorado to a lab ready to help. In a world going mad it is hard to know who to trust.  With hesitation, she receives help from a former military man, Chase Miller. At first, she doesn’t understand his motivation to help her but embraces the only help she has before time runs out.

In all the years I’ve been reading, I don’t know that I have ever been able to pinpoint my number one book for the year this early. Now something could come along later to snag that spot, but it would have to be out of this world good. I have always been a fan of Tosca Lee but this one right here is by far the best I have read, (and that’s saying a lot because her last two books The Progeny and First Born were my top books of their release years) I didn’t think anything would top Progeny, and it is still one of my favorite reads. The Line Between just has something about it that pulled me in and refused to let go until the final page, and now I’m chomping at the bit waiting for the sequel to come out. The characters, especially Wynter, were so believable and well fleshed out that I pictured each scene as though I was right there with them. Although it isn’t very conventional, I found the back and forth timeline to work very well for this story.  Seeing what happened to Wynter during the time she was with the cult and how that has affected her now with how she sees the world and everyone in it worked this way. If it had been a straight timeline, I think some of the story would have been lost and not connected well. The fact that everything talked about in this book could actually happen is a little scary and shows how well Lee did her research and poured her heart into this book. If you have never read anything by Tosca Lee you are sorely missing out.  She is solidified herself as one of my very favorite authors and I can’t wait to see what comes next. I recommend this book to fans of Dystopian thrillers that are ready for a thrill ride they won’t soon forget.

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

The Expedition

the expeditionAuthor: Chris Babu

Series: The Initiation #2

Publisher: Permuted Press

Release Date: December 5, 2018

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

The initiation was child’s play compared to the new quest bestowed on the four champions!

Shortly after completing the initiation, Drayden, Catrice, Sidney, and Charlie are presented with a new quest: to travel to the City of Boston and represent New America in an attempt to seek aid.  New America is failing as battery life is coming to an end and wind turbines desperately need maintenance.  Food production has been shortened and people are now being randomly exiled so that the colony as a whole can survive.  Unfortunately, this shortens the time that Drayden has available to look into his mom’s exile.  Trying to bargain for more time or a change of expedition has only frustrated their superiors to the point they have been threatened with execution and their families exiled.  Fortunately, they have a team of elite guardians with them for protection on the way to Boston.  But once out of New America, things don’t go quite as the group had planned.  Could there be different missions between them and the guardians?  Will Boston even still exist?  Why hasn’t there been talk about their future once they return?

This book picks up right where the first one left off.  Four scared and confused teenagers with no idea what awaits them are thrown into yet another scenario of seemingly ensured failure.  We get to see how the world has developed post confluence outside of the New America walls and to say the least, humanity has gone back to being fairly primitive, but there are a few surprises along the way.  This installment focuses on the teens continued survival as well as a challenge against the guardians.  A consistent element was that of Drayden’s insecurity.  It smeared throughout all the pages of the book, especially his relationship with Catrice.  I would really like to know what is going through Catrice’s head most of the time but may never get to see that.  I would like to see the next installment with alternating points of view.

If you enjoy this style of book, then you will likely enjoy this one as well.  There is some mild language throughout, but nothing that is not expected in today’s society.

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

The Initiation

the initiationAuthor: Chris Babu

Series: The Initiation #1

Publisher: Permuted Press

Release Date: February 27, 2018

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Fans of The Hunger Games will be excited about this new series!

Despite the warnings, doctors continued to over prescribe antibiotics.  Once the greatest medical advancement, now an adverse effect has been created.  Bacteria continued to develop until antibiotics no longer provided any effect.  This created superbugs, which in turn created the confluence, an epidemic that begin to wipe out civilization.  In an effort to save humanity, Manhattan Island was walled off from the rest of the world and set into a quarantine.  As people planned for equality and lives free from power, wealth, and corruption. New America was born and divided into four cells.  Most people live in the Dorms sector, which has been getting the shaft from the other sectors as of late, but for an unknown reason.  New American is failing.

Drayden is a 16-year-old math whiz who is about to graduate and take a job in the dorms.  Suddenly his mom is exiled from New America for conspiracy.  He knows something isn’t right about this and the only way to find out is to enter a contest known as The Initiation.  A series of puzzles and tests await him in the abandoned subways as he travels from the Dorms to the Palace.  If he survives, his remaining family can move into the Palace with him and he will be able to find the truth about his mom’s exile.  If he fails, he faces exile himself, or possibly death.

Dystopian literature is the fastest growing reading genre today and several new books hit the market every week.  It’s difficult to weed through what might be worth reading and what is better left on the shelf.  This book took a little bit to set up, but once it did, it really took off.  It takes on the familiar trait of kids that are living in the least respected quadrant of ruined America that have the opportunity to make a better life for themselves.  In this case, it’s an event called the Initiation and requires them to pass several different challenges to move forward.  The character development was done very well.  Drayden was instantly likeable.  Alex was the perfect antagonist that you loved to hate.  The other characters pretty well fit in where you would expect, with a few flaws possibly.

If you enjoy this style of book, then you will likely enjoy this one as well.  There is some mild language throughout, but nothing that is not expected in today’s society.

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

Enclave

EnclaveAuthor: Thomas Locke

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: November 20, 2018

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

With post America in shambles, a special group of humans may be the only hope!

Caleb lives with his father in a West Virginia enclave making a living as a trader, but Caleb has a secret, he is able to sense things about other people. During a heated encountered between his father and two tribal leaders, Caleb senses that one of the leaders aims to kill his father.  When he turns and yells this to his dad, the leader realizes that Caleb is what they call specials.  Realizing that he can never return home, Caleb sets out to meet up with his dad along the road later to determine what he can do now.  He comes upon another young man named Kevin, who has run the underground railroad for refugees to get them to safety, but the militia have cracked down on Kevin and want him to round up specials.  Kevin and Caleb strike up a quick but trustworthy friendship that will set a course to change the future for all involved.

The dystopian post-apocalyptic genre has quickly become one of my favorite. It gives every author a blank canvas to create what they believe the world is going to look like in the future and many of the authors have focused solely on America.  Locke chooses to use this same approach and has a little bit of supernatural tied in as well.  Human experiments mixed with a plague causes devastation throughout the country.  Now most people live in enclaves with some townships remaining a mega power centers.  Locke has never disappointed me with the quality of his writing.  He always comes up with new ideas, especially in his future worlds.  They are always action packed and the short chapters really move the books along.  I’m looking forward to the characters getting developed during the next books to see how they flesh out more.  If you need a new series to end your year, grab a copy!

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

The Book of Dog

The Book of DogAuthor: Lark Benobi

Publisher: Vegetablian Books

Release Date: September 6, 2018

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Very odd take on end times prophecy mixed with today’s dystopian flair.

In the wake of a yellow puff-ball mushroom cloud, a yellow fog is making its way across the world. Rivers have run dry, earthquakes are occurring, and volcanoes are erupting in multiple events that may be signaling the end of the world.  Through all the chaos, six women are tied together through a common prophecy.  As people continue to vanish, causing many to believe the rapture has occurred, a series of events has been set into place that could be the end of humanity as we know it unless the six women are able to work together and bring it to an end.

So, this book was really different. I’ve read a lot of end times prophecy books and this followed (partially, or at least hinted of) the biblical revelation.  However, it wasn’t in a serious manner.  In fact, most of it was hilarious.  It got to the point that it was so crazy, that I just kept turning the pages to see what would happen next and I never saw what was coming next.  It kept getting nuttier with each page, but the story line was enjoyable all the same.

This is definitely a book that needs to be read by a mature audience. There is quite a bit of language throughout as well as some rather graphic sex based material that would not be suitable for a young audience.  If you are looking for something different and can keep an open mind, check this out.

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

The Scythian Trials

the scythian trialsAuthor: Elizabeth Isaacs

Publisher: Vesuvian Books

Release Date: October 23, 2018

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A little bit of The Hunger Games mixed with The Valiant makes for a great read for a mature audience.

The Scythians are descendants of the Amazons and highly valued warriors. Nya Thalestris is one of the best in her generation and she has earned a spot in the Trials, a mating ritual responsible for the evolution of her species. Nya has a hard time letting anyone, especially men, get close to her or touch her, it sets her off violently. What she doesn’t remember is years ago she was abducted by their enemy, the Drahzda and tortured. Jax Nickius has been working with her for years to help her get past her abuse and he discovers hidden triggers in her mind. Jax has grown close to her and pursues her as a mate during the trials. When Nya’s memories start coming back, she realizes she has enemies within her own walls and her life is in more danger than she would have thought possible.

I was about to give up on this book but stuck with it and I am glad I did. The ending ramped up the tension and really made me care more about the characters. Nya is a real fighter and the kind of tough female lead character that is becoming more and more popular. However, I had mixed feelings about Jax. His devotion and feelings for Nya were clear and I didn’t have trouble relating to him on that level, but there was just something else about him that didn’t have me jumping to the edge of my seat when he was being written about. The secondary characters, especially the other warriors helped bring the story to life.  When Nya’s memories started returning and flashbacks showed what she had been through, I wanted more back-story and more scenes with Nya and Penn. While this is targeted to a Young adult audience, I have trouble recommending it to a young audience because of the language and sexual scenes throughout. With that being said, I do recommend this to readers that enjoy dystopian novels with plenty of action, tension, and romance throughout.

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

The Rule of One

"Steely-vented hummingbird (Amazilia saucerrottei), perched on verbena plant, Costa Rica, July"Authors: Ashley Saunders, Leslie Saunders

Publisher: Skyscape

Release Date: October 1, 2018

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

When telling the truth becomes more dangerous than telling a lie, a young girl’s life is turned upside down when her secret is exposed and she has to find the strength to fight for the truth.

In the future, the United States is not what it once was. A strict one child only policy has been enforced making everyone subject to the Rule of One.  Ava Goodwin is the daughter of the head of the Texas Family Planning Division, one of the highest positions in the country, and is therefore always under scrutiny.  This makes her secret even harder to keep, she has an identical twin sister, Mira.  The two have been living as one for the past eighteen years.  They have to keep every detail of their lives in order as they trade places day after day.  All is going fine until one day they are exposed and told to run by their father as he is taken into custody.  They are all labeled as traitors and the girls fugitives.  As they rush to find safety in a world out to get them, they find unlikely allies and an underground group favoring for the old America.

I thought the premise of this book sounded very interesting for several different reasons. First of all, I am a twin and wanted to see how the story would play out in that aspect.  Secondly, dystopian novels are all the rage right now and this one did a great job of world building in the future but keeping things relatable and easy to follow.  I enjoyed the back and forth between Ava and Mira, especially the way they came into their own as the book progressed.  Being a twin, I am aware more than most of the fact that it is easy to label twins as one person but each is their own individual and needs to be treated that way.  When times were tough, Ava and Mira were actually able to express themselves as individuals and we got to see them grow as characters.  A few of the minor characters could have been developed further and seemed too short and then abruptly ended.  The ending was just enough for this book, but left open for a follow up which I intend to read.  My one big critique would have to be the language, I know harsher language is becoming more common but I have a problem when it is in young adult novels.  The words were not strung out on every page but the few that were in the book were harsher than I would like to see in these novels for young readers.  Overall I would recommend this to a more mature audience and those that enjoy a good dystopian read.

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