Arena

arenaAuthor: Holly Jennings

Series: Arena #1

Publisher: Ace

Release Date: November 1, 2016

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A unique story that takes a look at the gaming world and what out future of might just look like.

Kali Ling is one of the top gamers and is about to make history as the first female captain in the Virtual Gaming League’s RAGE tournament. RAGE is a competition where the top gamers in the world compete in a fight to the digital death.  Millions of people watch the fights and cheer for their favorite players.  The game and all its parts may be digital but that doesn’t mean the pain is, every player feels every killing blow.  When one of her teammates overdoses, Kali doesn’t know if she has what it takes to lead the team anymore.  As a new member is thrust into their mix in the middle of the tournament, the team has to find a way to come together in order to conquer their biggest battle yet.

I have mixed emotions about this book. The story itself was good, a bit predictable at times but enjoyable.  The drug usage, foul language and sex was a bit over done.  The images put forth by the author really made me picture the story playing out in my mind as I read it.  The romances, all of them, felt forced for the most part.  By the end a small percentage of the romances felt right and will be interesting to see where they go in the next story.  Kali and her team go through a lot in finding the right dynamic and in the end I enjoyed the way they found a way to fully work together as a team.  The theme of teamwork throughout was depicted well and something that everyone can take away as a useful lesson.

The ages of the main characters seem to be early twenties, could be a little younger, and so this book could be counted as a YA. If so, I don’t feel comfortable recommending to that target audience with the sex and language.  If it is an older audience, I think the book will be a very enjoyable read for those that especially enjoy the gaming world and virtual reality.

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

Wilders

WildersAuthor: Brenda Cooper

Series: Project Earth #1

Publisher: PYR

Release Date: June 13, 2017

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Another dystopian novel that is a bit more unique than you might think.

Coryn Williams has grown up in the metropolis of Seacouver, Washington. A town that has been developed under a weather dome.  This is a new generation of smart city that is completely connected with each person and tells them when they need certain items or when to go to the doctor.  But the city is not for everyone, many suffer from it.  Coryn’s parents each took their life and her older sister must get out of the city before it drives her to the same fate, so she sets of to work for a rewilding foundation that is reestablishing the ecosystem that humans have destroyed.

Three years later, Coryn is set to graduate from school and must head into a career. Instead she decides to do the unthinkable; voluntarily go outside of the dome to find her sister.  But will her sister want to see her?  And will the city let her back in?

Dystopian novels are rapidly becoming a dime a dozen. It’s hard to find something new and fresh that doesn’t build upon an already realized idea.  However, Cooper definitely piqued my interests with this one.  I’ve done a lot of research into smart cities and how they currently interact versus how they are planning to connect in the future with the internet of things.  This book easily brings my fears into place with the amount of data that the city knows and how the city can protect itself.

Coryn was an interesting character. She was very independent (and stubborn) and set out to find her sister with no thoughts of what could happen to her.  But she got more than what she bargained for once she found her.  I’m curious if the storms were a result of the damaged ecosphere, but that may come in a future book.

There is some occasional harsh language for a YA novel, which is why I took it down to 4 stars. Even so, it is a really good read.

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

The Divide

The DivideAuthor: Jolina Petersheim

Series: The Alliance #2

Publisher: Tyndale

Release Date: June 6, 2017

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

The stunning sequel to The Alliance is even better than I imagined!

For the last six months, Leora Ebersole and Jabil Snyder have moved the Mennonite community from their village up to the mountains in order to escape disaster. Every night, Leora still wonders about the fate of Moses Hughes, who stayed behind to give the community a chance to get away before a gang overtook their village to plunder anything that was left.  But the winter has been very harsh and people are beginning to starve.  The men who hunt and gather for food are starting to grow weary of providing for those who are not able to help.  Worse yet, a sickness comes into the camp, threatening to kill many of the other members that are already in a weekend state.  Can they survive the winter? Much less the outside world?

Okay, I realize that the synopsis is a bit vague and doesn’t really hint much on the fate of Moses and whether he continues to be a main character in the story. But that is because you really need to read this to find out for yourself.  Let’s just say that there was so much tension in the Jabil-Leora-Moses triangle in the first book, that Petersheim found a way to continue that tension throughout this story.  Now the title definitely draws you into believing that some event or relationship within the story causing a divide between the community.  And that is true, but it is not just the Mennonite community that it divides.  There is another group that is in this story that must make a decision similar to drawing a line in the sand.  And the reason behind it is shocking.

I really hope that they make these two books into movies. I think they would be awesome to watch.  And Petersheim has mastered the art of cliff hangers at the end of chapters to make you keep turning the pages to see what is going to happen.  Spoiler alert: (two of the main characters from the first book get killed off)!  Once again, the events in this book could easily happen at any time, but I hope that they never do.  But if they did, I can assure you there would be natural division just as described.  This is one of the must reads of 2017!

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

The Book of Air

The Book of airAuthor: Joe Treasure

Publisher: Clink Street Publishing

Release Date: April 4, 2017

Rating: 3 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Interesting concept for a dystopian novel to turn to Jane Eyre.

After an airborne virus attacks the world, Jason tries to flee London to his country estate when his wife and unborn child succumb to the virus. Jason himself becomes infected, but he manages to be one of the few survivors of the virus.  His nephew seems to be immune to it.  After he arrives at his estate, there are already people living there, but they end up taking care of Jason so that he makes a recovery.  But now he must learn to live a new way with people he didn’t plan to spend the remainder of his life with.

In the distant future, a new society has emerged that regards the book Jane Eyre as the new way of life. Agnes belongs to the society, but thinks outside of the rules, which ends up earning her imprisonment.  After she manages to escape, she finds a bit of freedom, but must decide on the true course of her life.

I think this book has promise, but it just took a really long time to get into. The story is told from alternating viewpoints of Jason and Agnes, but it can get confusing because they are at different times.  I was more drawn to Jason’s story as I enjoy post-apocalyptic literature and the virus aspect was really interesting, even if the supporting characters got on my nerves a bit.  If you are looking for something a little different or like Jane Eyre, this may be for you.

There is some strong language throughout as well as several implied sex scenes, however nothing is really graphic.

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

Storm

stormAuthor: Bonnie S. Calhoun

Series: Stone Braid Chronicles #3

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: November 1, 2016

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

With Glade gone and everyone out to get her, Selah is going to have her biggest challenge yet. All she has to do is stay alive long enough to complete her mission. 

Selah has worked tirelessly to reunite her family, but in the blink of an eye it is all about to be gone. Out of the mountain they are surrounded in a world full of volcanic ash hiding the dangers beneath.  With each day that passes, she finds herself growing weaker.  Her abilities are diminishing as are the number of people trying to get her growing.  Being a novarium is a heavy burden, not only in her abilities but also in the knowledge that many have given their lives to save her.  Together they all work to continue the search in finding the Third Protocol to complete their mission.  Their only clues consist of ancient artifacts and relying on Keepers to give her the clues to continue.  With each step, Selah and her team wonder if they have made a mistake in who they placed their trust and if they can actually accomplish what they set out to do before it is too late.

As the Stone Braide Chronicles comes to an end, I feel satisfied yet still wanting more. There could easily be another novel to continue this story but with it ending here it can still be thought of as complete.  I thought this entire series was well written and entertaining.   For several moments of the story I was kept on the edge of my seat waiting to see what the outcome would be for Selah and her crew.  When reading, I love to be on the edge of my seat and feel as if I am right there with the characters.  That happened throughout much of this novel.  Bonnie Calhoun has taken us, not necessarily to a new world, but to a new time in the world we know.  The landscape is familiar with cities and landmarks that most will be familiar with but not what has happened in that land over time.  Being able to provide those landmarks help me set myself in the place the story was working its way through.  The timing is another story.  I know it’s in the future but am still unsure how far into the future we are, even after this third in the series.

While I did have those positives, I have to be honest that there are a few negative aspects for me. The question of what the Sorrows are still bugs me.  I don’t feel that that along with some of the technology they used and what Landers and Novarium are were fleshed out as much as I would have preferred.  With that being said, I feel another story coming on, either a sequel or a novella from a few of the other characters point of view would be welcomed.

There is still some violence here but nothing gets too bloody that it would need to be kept away from squeamish readers. Overall I enjoyed this series very much and am sad to see it come to an end.

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