Lost Island

Author: MarcyKate Connolly

Series: Hollow Dolls #2

Publisher: Sourcebooks Young Readers

Release Date: October 5, 2021

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The follow up to Hollow Dolls picks up where the story left off and takes readers on a magical adventure full of surprises complete with all the magical adventures kids love in books.

After learning the truth about her mother, Simone is in a frenzy trying to keep her friends safe from Maeve and her powers. Now, Simone is in search for others with power to keep her Mother from taking their powers and using them for evil. An old legend leads her on a hunt for the Island she used to call home. Together with Sebastian and help from the librarians they set off to save others before it is too late. The closer they get to the island the more Simone sees that Maeve will stop at nothing to get what she wants.

MarcyKate Connolly has crafted a fun and magical adventure for young readers. With lots of suspense, action, drama, and adventure, readers will fly through the pages of this book. Most of the characters from the first book are back and we see a deeper depth with Simone and several of the characters. I really connected with Simone and the way she cares for her friends and wants to do all that she can to keep them safe. Her attitude and the way she was written really kept the story moving forward at a great pace for me. My only complaint would be the end and the last few chapters. Things were wrapped up a little too conveniently and felt rushed to me. I wish there would have been more development instead of it all ending so abruptly. Overall, it was still a good story that I enjoyed reading and would recommend to young readers that want a fantasy adventure.

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

Hollow Dolls

Author: MarcyKate Connolly

Series: Hollow Dolls #1

Publisher: Sourcebooks Young Readers

Release Date: January 7, 2020

Rating: 4 out of 5.

An intriguing tale of magic, powers, and the lengths some will go to get the powers others have.

Simone is one of the few with powers, she is a mind-reader. With her power she knows many things, but the one thing she can’t remember is her own past. She is on a mission to find her family and the home she was taken from. Helping her search is Sebastian, another child taken with powers, the ability to take memories from people and was used against her while they were held captive. They come across a man that has been taken over by a body walker; Simone wants nothing more than to leave the life of magic behind her. But the more she looks into the history of where she came from and how to get back home, the more evil she sees around her. Before it is too late, Simone must dig deep into herself and find the courage to stop the evil around her before those she cares about get hurt.

Hollow Dolls is a fun, entertaining magical story that will keep young readers engaged with the characters and following along on their journey. Simone is a very real protagonist, even though she has magical powers, it is easy to connect with her and the passion she has to find her family and get back all that was taken from her. The dynamic between her and Sebastian moves the story forward during their scenes and all they have had to work through together. Several points throughout the story I started to feel as if I knew what was going on and what would happen next, some of my thoughts proved true and some not so much. The story wraps up with a solid cliff-hanger ending that will leave readers aching to find out the rest of the story in the follow up. While I didn’t enjoy this book as much as others I have read by Connolly, it was still an enjoyable read that I would recommend to other young readers looking for a magical adventure.

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

Wolf Soldier

Author: James R. Hannibal

Series: Lightraider Academy Volume 1

Publisher: Enclave Escape Publishing

Release Date: October 26, 2021

Rating: 5 out of 5.

A perfect fantasy for young adults to read that will send them on a fantastical adventure full of magic, dragons, and an all-knowing Rescuer.

It’s been nearly two generations since the Knights of the Lightraider order disappeared and now the Keledan have gone behind the barriers and the Dragon Lands are taken over with darkness. The Rescuer freed them long ago, but the people forgot what the Rescuer did for them and turned their backs on him. Connor Enarian works on his family’s farm as a shepherd until he and three other young initiates are called to the Lightraider Order to cross mountains into Tanelethar and stop the dark invasion. Connor and his friends make it into the Dragon Lands and find a missing Lightraider and a talking silver wolf that is the key to saving them all.

James Hannibal has crafted a fabulous journey full of magic, adventure, dragons and so much more. A lot of fantasy novels can be hard to follow because of the world building that happens to make the story the way it needs to be set up. Hannibal did a fantastic job of creating this world, but not bogging down the pages with information that isn’t needed. I must admit, I’m not usually a fan of fantasy, (I’ve never read any of the Lord of the Rings books and have no desire to). But something about this book and the way James Hannibal writes appealed to me. Hannibal has a way with words and crafts a story that is entertaining and engaging all while being unique to others out there. This isn’t the type of story that can be read quickly or not paying attention to all the little details, if you do, there will probably have to be some rereading. I encourage other readers to give him a try if you are looking for something new, either this new fantasy series or even his suspense novels, you won’t be disappointed.

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

Raising Dragons

Author: Bryan Davis

Series: Dragons in our Midst #1

Publisher: Tyndale

Release Date: October 5, 2021 (Rerelease)

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The first book in The Dragon in Our Midst Series is a fun fantasy novel I can’t wait to let my son read. Clean, entertaining, and magical; a great combination for young readers!

Billy is called Dragon Breathe by kids at school after a science experiment gone wrong. He’s been dealing with abnormally hot breath as he has gotten older and when his breath accidentally sets off the fire sprinklers, his parents finally tell him the secret they have kept all his life, he is half dragon. Once he knows the truth, a lot of things make more sense about his life. When a new girl at school arrives hiding her own secret, Billy becomes the only one she can trust. Bonnie and Billy discover they are part of a legend leading back to Arthur and Excalibur. Together they find more faith and courage they didn’t know they had to deal with an evil slayer determined to exterminate the dragons forever.

I took this book with me to the hospital while my mom had a procedure and ended up reading the entire thing in one day. It was a fun, exciting, entertaining, and clean read. I love finding a great book that I can recommend to my son to read without any worry that the material will not be appropriate. Books on dragons and mythology aren’t my normal go-to reads but I am so happy I gave this one a try. As the start of a series, this book brings all the right stuff, magical legends, drama, tension, evil and so much more. Bonnie and Billy make a great team to move the story along and keep readers entranced in the story. The writing is perfect for young readers and their parents. I wanted to read it and see if my son would like it and if it would be appropriate for him. Even though it is a story about dragons and legends of Arthur, it still has an element of faith. I recommend this to readers that enjoy mythical, magical, and fun stories.

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

Heartless Heirs

Author: MarcyKate Connolly

Series: Twin Daggers #2

Publisher: Blink YA Books

Release Date: August 10, 2021

Rating: 5 out of 5.

A fantastic follow up to one of my favorite books from last year. So much action, drama, tension, and character connection to love.

After rescuing her sister from the dungeons and technocrats, Aissa and her friend Remy flee to the woods for safety. At one time, Aissa and her twin, Zandria were closer than two sisters could hope to be. After being trapped in the steel helmet and tortured, Zandria is having a hard time understanding how Aissa could fall in love with Aro, a Techno prince when they are the very enemy they are trying to take down. Remy still sides with his father, a Magi leader who refuses to believe his spymaster is a traitor. Their mission is now to find the secrets of the Alchemist Alliance and the key to healing the divide between the Technos and the Magi after centuries at war. The bond between Aro and Aissa grows with each day, and if they don’t find the answers, all they hold dear will be threatened.

I have been eagerly awaiting the release of this since I turned the last page on Twin Daggers. I quickly fell in love Aissa, Aro, Zandria and the rest of the characters. The connection between Aissa and her twin and then Aissa and Aro was the driving force to the page turning story. With the bond between the twins strained, the story took a different yet interesting turn, would they be able to regain their trust in one another or would the torture they both endured turn them against one another? Being able to establish the connection between the characters the way Connolly did kept me engaged with the story and what would happen to the characters. That relationship is more important to me than a strong plot. When I find characters, I love, I enjoy the story even more which is what happened with these books. Every conversation, fight and tense look was enough to make me nervous for what would happen and keep me envisioning myself in the room with the characters. This was a perfect two book series with just the right amount of character development, world building and magic. I recommend this book to those that love a good YA fantasy with characters that are easy to cheer for to succeed.

Ember of Night

Author: Molly E. Lee

Publisher: Entangled Teen

Release Date: May 4, 2021

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Great world building with a heroine you can’t help but root for in a story that takes readers on a wild ride.

Harley feels completely alone and unloved in this world, except for her baby sister, who she tries desperately to protect from their abusive father. About to turn 18, Harley has saved all she can from her job at a dinner to be able to get her own place and take her sister with you. Just when she thinks her life can’t get any more complicated, a stranger shows up and tells her she is the key in a war against Heaven and Hell. Not what she wanted to hear and definitely not something she has the time or energy to deal with. Draven has shown up at the dinner and is working with her to fight the war that is coming. With more at stake than she has ever had to deal with, Harley feels more alone than ever in a battle that will take all she has to give and maybe more.

I want to start with the positives on Ember of Night: the world building was great and the characters are very well put together. Harley has such a passion for helping protect her sister that I couldn’t help but feel invested in her story and the outcome. Those points of the book were really great for me; unfortunately, the rest fell flat. The story was slow at times, I didn’t connect with some of the other characters, and the way the twists came about at the end, especially the very last page, did not sit right for me. Sometimes YA books just go a little too predictable and it just didn’t work for me. I also have a problem with books marketed to young adults that have a large amount of language and mature themes throughout. It’s much more acceptable if it is marketed to adults with those themes, these are just problems I have, may not be a problem for others. I do think readers that enjoy Twilight and other fantasy type novels will enjoy this one.

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

A Sky in the Storm

Author: Sabaa Tahir

Series: Ember in the Ashes #4

Publisher: Razorbill

Release Date: December 1, 2020

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The final edition to the Ember in the Ashes series delivers all the feels! Fans of the series will not want to miss out on this one.

Back for one more adventure, Laia of Serra, Helene, the Blood Shrike, and Elias Veturia who is now the Soul Catcher, battle together to stop Commandant Keris Veturia and the Nightbringer from ruining what is left of the empire. After years of battling each other, Laia and the Blood Shrike work together to stop the upcoming apocalypse and destruction of their people. Thinking that her love, Elias, is gone and doomed to a life as the Soul Catcher, Laia loses hope that she will be alone forever. Elias stays in the Waiting Place helping the souls that come to pass on and find peace. It will take all of them working together to keep the Nightbringer from destroying their world and all they hold dear.

As with any series, the last installment is highly anticipated. A Sky Beyond the Storm is no different. As I started reading, I found myself holding my breathe through several chapters, asking what was going to happen? Would my favorite characters make it out alive? Each new chapter brought a new intensity and had me invested deeper in the story. With multiple viewpoints, readers can see much of the story than if only a single viewpoint had been provided. The connection between the different characters and the way they changed over the course of the four books was beautifully done. Enemies became friends, families are torn apart, and nothing is as it seems. The short chapters make it a quick easy read even at over five hundred pages.

Several moments/characters I will take away as my favorite from the series, one such is the saving, “Emifal Firdaant.” Once you read it, you will understand that one just resonated with me and every time I read it my heart fluttered. Of all the characters, I really felt a connection with Helene and Harper, something about the way the characters were written really struck a chord with me and even as secondary characters part of the time they really carried the story. Overall, this was a fantastic conclusion to a wonderful series. So many great moments and creativity that many novels lack. This world that was built will draw readers in and give them a great escape they may need in the crazy world we live in. I recommend this for older YA audiences as the themes get a little heavy and mature at times.

Midnight Sun

Author: Stephenie Meyer

Publisher: Little Brown Books

Release Date: August 4, 2020

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Twilight from Edward’s point of view, not much else needs to be said about this one. Fans of the series will not want to miss out on the phenomenon.

When Edward Cullen meets Bella Swan, his life is changed forever. Edward is seventeen, and he’s been seventeen for almost a hundred years after he was bitten and became a vampire. He and the rest of his family have chosen a ‘vegan’ life, meaning they only hunt animals and not humans. The scent of Bella is almost too much for him, her scent is like his own personal brand of heroin. Readers follow Edward as he meets, falls in love with and almost loses Bella when another vampire starts to hunt her. The story is familiar to anyone who has already read the series but being told from this perspective is new, intriguing and highly entertaining.

I, like so many others, have waited a very long time to get this book in my hands. I remember when I first heard about Stephanie Meyer writing this, it seemed almost too good to be true, another side to this story. Oh, how I longed to read it, but we all had to wait a very long time. 2020 has been the year none of us thought it would be and has caused a lot of heartache. One bright spot though has been being able to escape in the pages of books such as this. Not only do we get Edward’s point of view in this story, we also learn so much more about the rest of the Cullen’s through his head as he hears their thoughts and they interact. Reading Midnight Sun was just what I wanted it to be, an escape from reality into the pages of a familiar story. These stories are not the overall best ever written but I did see an improvement in this one as compared to her writing of almost 15 years ago and you can’t argue with the millions of teens and young women who have fallen in love with the series. There is something about the story that draws you in and keeps you glued to the edge of your seat until the very last page. Midnight Sun adds a different dimension to the characters and parts of the story we haven’t seen before. Instead of just seeing Edward as a brooding vampire that is aching for something he shouldn’t have, we get to see and hear what he is going through. In the first books of the series, I saw myself as more of Team Jacob; after reading this though I have to say I am leaning more towards Team Edward now. I loved escaping into the story for a few days and reliving all that I enjoyed about the original. I would recommend this to anyone who loved the original series and wants to get more out of it by hearing another point of view.

These Nameless Things

These Nameless ThingsAuthor: Shawn Smucker

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: June 30, 2020

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A retelling of Inferno that will draw readers from all genres.

Dan has lived in the village for a long time.  He escaped captivity from the mountain long ago and occupies the first house of the village that other people come to after they have escaped captivity.  He keeps watch as they come through and rushes them to the village leader to best decide how to help and rehabilitate them.  There is one person that Dan has been waiting to see come out of the mountain: his brother.  He knows that he can’t leave this village until his brother comes through.  Many of the villagers have begun to move out of the village toward the eastern plains, but some remain and are unsure why they are waiting.  But one day a woman comes through the mountain and people begin to remember their lives before the mountain.  One thing begins to become clear; everyone seems to be waiting for Dan’s brother.

At its core, this is a modernization of Inferno by Dante Alighieri.  Readers will discover many parallels between this book and the original.  However, if you haven’t read Inferno, it will not take away from this story.  I was quickly pulled in by the intrigue of Dan’s experience in the village and the appearance of Kathy.  I devoured this book to discover what was going on and why people were suddenly remembering past lives and what it all had to do with Dan.  The first half of the book sets up the base of the story and the second half is the trip through the inferno to rescue Dan’s brother.  There were several tie ins -between the two parts that I had to reflect on to fully understand the significance.  My one complaint is that the ending just wrapped up to quickly.  I felt that there was a lot of tension built up and it just sort of ended.  Aside from that, it is a worthwhile read that many will enjoy.

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

Warden of Eternity

wardensAuthor: Wardens of Eternity

Publisher: Blink YA Books

Release Date: January 21, 2020

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A slow start, but well worth sticking with until the final pages! The ending puts events in motion for a follow up I am dying to get my hands on!

For as long as she can remember, Ziva has been on her own. The only memory she has of her parents is of the day her mother abandoned her when she was three years old in New York City. It’s been fifteen years since they left her and Ziva is starting to discover she has powers she barely understands and no idea how to control them. The more she uses her powers, strange things begin to occur around her. When other worldly monsters start to attack her, others show up with powers like Ziva’s and explain the history she has missed out on growing up on her own. Sayer and Nasira have searched for Ziva and tell her that she is descended from Egyptian royalty and her magic has passed down from the time of the gods. They teach Ziva how to control her magic and give her the family she has looked for all her life. However, they are not the only ones that have been looking for Ziva and the magic she possesses. World War II is brewing around them and Ziva quickly finds herself at the center of a battle for power, uncertain who she can turn to for help and what it all could mean for her.

This book started a little slow and had a few bumps along the way but finished with twists and turns that I didn’t see coming. Ziva has to overcome struggle after struggle and she does so for the most part on her own. When she finds out there are others out there like her, she feels her spirits lifted for the first time in her life. The way she was portrayed helped me relate to her and wish for her to succeed. Not all the aspects of what happened to Ziva and how they got to the end point added up if a reader was paying close attention. Certain moments had me scratching my head trying to figure out how we got to the point we were at. The mythology and magic could have been fleshed out a little more instead of the reader having to try and figure out what the spells actually meant and how Ziva knew them. So much was left out I had trouble keeping up at times. I will say what saved this book for me was the ending. The last two chapters kept me glued to my seat unable to focus on anything else. I really hope there is more to come with this story, so many questions left unanswered and the relationships between the characters that I want to see further developed. I can’t wait to see what comes next. I recommend this book to young readers that are looking for a great story full of mythology, a little bit of history and plenty of action and adventure.

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