Emergency Skin

Emergency skinAuthor: N.K. Jemisin

Series: Forward Collection #3

Publisher: Amazon Original Stories

Release Date: September 17, 2019

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

What if everything you knew about Earth was a lie?

Several years ago, the founders of a new colony left Earth to form a new civilization. Earth, now known as Tellus, was overpopulated, rivers had run dry, ice caps had melted, and entire cities were lost.  Not everyone could come, so a few thousand were chosen and left to form a new world while leaving everyone else behind to perish.  Now there is need for some cultures from Tellus and a brave individual has volunteered for the effort.  The founders have placed their consciousness along with him so that he can have access to knowledge that may be necessary.  Also packed is an emergency skin that can be used in an emergency, but it will not be needed.  Once the samples have been picked up and returned, the hero will be awarded a beautiful new skin.  But what’s that?  Tellus appears to be inhabited?  This can’t be.  There should be no one here.  What happened after we left?

This was an intriguing read as it was a one side conversation for most of the book. The Founders  consciousness  dictate the conversation with the volunteer.  As questions are asked, the Founders respond in different tones to their mood.  It is pretty easy to determine what the questions where, but it gets hilarious when the humans begin talking to the volunteer and the Founders respond.  Aside from that, the story of how Earth rebuilt civilization was really interesting and worth reading.  I would love to see more of this story and will be picking up some books by this author.

Summer Frost

Summer frostAuthor: Blake Crouch

Series: Forward Collection #2

Publisher: Amazon Original Stories

Release Date: September 17, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Who controls who in this exciting futuristic story!

Years into the future, we have continued to perfect our AI until it becomes a lifestyle for us. We now have virtual reality for almost every aspect of our lives.  Even our games become more of a livable experience than just a past time.  Riley works for one of these companies and is the chief brain behind the new video game Summer Frost.  In this game, Riley has developed a character named Maxine.  She is a non-player character who is supposed to die in the beginning story line.  And she does, for the first two thousand test runs.  But then, Max decides to go rogue.  She starts out by exploring the boundaries of the game.  Then she kills the main character.  Riley can’t believe what just happened, but she knows it’s extraordinary.  She convinces Max to leave the game essentially gives her a place to exists in a hard drive.  As the two begin to communicate, Riley discovers that Max can obtain and learn information at an alarming rate.  Riley begins to have plans for the future of Max including taking her out of the game one day.  She becomes obsessed with this creation that is costs her everything.  But will the return be worth it?

As usual, Blake Crouch writes an amazing story that will put readers on a futuristic track that is mind blowing. You don’t have to be a gamer to enjoy this story, it’s going to take you for a ride either way.  It’s the longest story of the Forward Collection and bends readers concepts of reality.  From 200 story buildings to thought based texting to incredible AI, it puts readers in a place to question how far some of this tech is in the future.  Even in the future, characters are flawed in their relationships and careers.  Obsession still reigns, but has an unexpected price.  I expected the first part of the ending, but not the second.  I would love to see this story  played out even further.

There is some occasional strong language throughout the story. I would recommend this book for mature readers who enjoy a futuristic setting.

Ark

ArkAuthor: Veronica Roth

Series: Forward Collection #1

Publisher: Amazon Original Stories

Release Date: September 17, 2019

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

The start of this series already has me hooked!

Earth as we know it is coming to an end. A five mile wide meteor was discovered decades ago and its eventual trajectory will collide directly with Earth.  When it does, it will shred the atmosphere and completely obliterate an area the size of the United States on impact.  The next few days after impact, all life on earth will perish.  Suddenly borders didn’t matter anymore because everyone was an earthling.  A new location for the next Earth has been found and the planet’s inhabitants have been evacuated on airships.  Even though most on board won’t live to see the new colony, their children will.  Those left no family that have a master in science degree are given the opportunity to stay behind and categorize as many samples of species on current Earth to bring to the new Earth in the Ark.  Then days before the meteor impact, they too will be evacuated.  But not everyone has a reason to leave.

This new series has me hooked. Six well known authors are putting together a series that centers around a common theme, but aren’t necessarily tied together.  Roth is such a master at building dystopian worlds that this come across naturally.  Samantha is the main character and has led a rough life with the death of her parents.  She has no one left and as a horticulturalist is given the opportunity to stay behind and categorize samples of plant life.  I loved how she was able to find new life for herself in the death of her planet.  I can tell that I’m going to want more from each of these stories instead of the snippets in time that readers are provided.  Hopefully this project will be granted a continuance.  If you love a good futurist science fiction story, then you will love this series too!

 

After the Flood

after the flood

Author: Kassandra Montag

Publisher: William Morrow

Release Date: September 3, 2019

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Unique take on dystopian literature that is not as washed up as the title suggests.

 Not far into the future, climate change has wreaked havoc on the planet.  Multiple floods have occurred that has raised the ocean water level to new elevations.  Now there are only a handful of land ports that used to be mountain ranges including the Rockies and Andes.  Life has taken a new approach for everyone as governments began to be overthrown and new colonies were formed.  Eventually raiders became prominent throughout the globe as super powers.  For Myra and her daughter Row, life has become a means of survival every day.  They work to catch fish in order to barter for other supplies they need.  Myra still lives in defeat after her husband left her and took their oldest daughter Row.  In a life-threatening situation, Myra learns that Row is still alive in a colony in the north.  Her boat will never make it, but she manages to join up with a larger crew in hopes of heading to the colony to regain the daughter she lost and reunite her family.

 This book made me think about Water World as the majority of the population now live on ships that sail from port to port.  It is a new twist on dystopian literature mixed with some pirates.  The synopsis of the book only covers about the first three chapters or about 30 pages, leaving almost 400 pages of unchartered territory for the ready to uncover.  I enjoyed the story development that continued throughout the book as well as the author’s ability to create descriptive scenery.  There was plenty of tension that developed between the characters and the author managed to end the chapters with just the right amount to make me start the next chapter so that I could find out what happened, which caused a couple of later nights than I normally have.  My one complaint is that there was about 375 pages of buildup that just played out the finale in only 40 pages.  It just felt rushed after having this incredible journey.  There is also some foul language throughout the book as well as some fairly descriptive sex scenes that will be more appropriate for a mature audience.

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

The Pages of Her Life

Pages of her lifeAuthor: James L. Rubart

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Release Date: May 21, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

If you have never read a James Rubart book, you are missing out!  He is one of the best authors I have ever read. The Pages of Her Life is another home run for this very talented author.

Allison Moore thought starting her own architecture firm with her best friend was going to be the best thing ever, no more working in the corporate world and having to answer to others. After her divorce and the death of her father, she needs something good in her life. While she enjoys working with her best friend and not having to answer to anyone, things are tougher than she would like to admit. When her mom tells her that her father had been living a secret double life and has left them almost half a million dollars in debt, she knows she must do something to help. As Allison searches for ways to help, she is gifted a journal which she pours her heart into. With each passing day, her problems seem to intensify and so does the mystery of her new journal. The words she writes in the journal begin to disappear and are replaced by new ones that help her see her situation in a new light.

James Rubart is quickly becoming one of my go to favorite authors. If I see he has a new book coming out, I am all over it. This is the third book I have read by him and it fully lived up to my expectations. His writing style is unlike that of anyone I have read before. He has a way of writing a story that goes so deep with characters that will pull you in better than most. I loved the way Allison and her brother stepped up to help their mom when they found out she was in need. Their mom was trying to do what all moms do and keep her kids from worrying but in the end, they had to come together as a family and work together to solve the difficult problem.

Readers need to go into this book with an open mind for what they will find within the pages. It is not your normal feel good read; this will require readers to go deeper and examine their faith and aspects of their own life. Rubart did an outstanding job of character development with Allison as she goes through trials and tribulations in her personal and professional life. I despised Derek and Linda, but that is ok as these are not characters we are supposed to like, and I loved how real the dislike for them came across. Fans of Rubart’s writing will notice characters from previous novels making an appearance. I almost feel there is a little more that could happen for a few of the characters. The storyline itself wrapped up nicely but I became so invested in these characters I would like to see more with them. I highly recommend this to readers that enjoy a story that will draw them in to the supernatural and explore elements of faith not often written about in such an entertaining and enjoyable story.

Westside

WestsideAuthor: W.M. Akers

Publisher: Harper Voyager

Release Date: May 7, 2019

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Funny how tiny mysteries have a way of asserting themselves into bigger problems!

Manhattan Island, New York in 1921.  Things have gone amiss for several years in the Westside of Manhattan.  While the Eastside is prosperous, the Westside has a darkness.  Ten years ago, people started disappearing along with other objects.  In an effort to stop the madness, a thirteen-mile fence was constructed to separate the eastside and westside with guards to man the gates.  Several people left for the eastside, but not everyone.  One of those people is Gilda Carr, a detective who specializes in “tiny mysteries.”  After all, big mysteries just take up too much effort and energy.

While working a case about a missing glove, Gilda becomes witness to murders.  But not just any killings, murders using guns.  But guns have never worked on the westside, so how is it that these weapons work?  Before she knows it, she is wrapped up in the biggest case she could imagine between the two superpowers of the westside.  What is Even more interesting is that everything seems to connect to her late father.  Will this finally answer what truly happened to her father?  Or will it just lead her down another rabbit hole?

I’m not sure what I expected from this book, but I definitely got more than I bargained for.  I really enjoyed the sleuthing aspect of this novel, especially since Gilda didn’t really want to do it.  I bonded with her immediately, even though I’m not really sure why.  Her character was quirky, likeable, and just a bit facetious.   As a reader I couldn’t help feeling compassionate for her.  The dark fantasy of this was interesting too.  There have been a few dark historical fantasy novels involving Manhattan, but this one just seemed different.  My favorite parts of the story is where a tiny mystery would be solved.  It would just pop out of nowhere and reference back to a previous part of the story.  Well done.

There is some strong language throughout the book, so I would not advise this to younger readers.

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

Dark of the West

Dark of the West

Author: Joanna Hathaway

Series: Glass Alliance #1

Publisher: Tor Teen

Release Date: February 5, 2019

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Intricately written with a passionate voice, this new series transports you to a new world filled with hope, despair, and sacrifice.

 Athan Dakar is the youngest son of a military leader.  Although his father loves war and the chaos that comes with it, Athan could really care less.  His brothers have each been bred to lead the charges of his father’s plan, one by land and one by sea.  Athan’s path is for the air.  On the other side of the world, young Aurelia is the princess of a small kingdom.  Her brother is preparing to take over the kingdom from their mother, so Aurelia has had little interest in political matters until she learns of her possible marriage to an ambassador that repulses her.  Can either Athan or Aurelia be truly happy with life?

 All that changes when a lone bullet snuffs out the life of Athan’s mother.  His father is convinced that the plot was schemed by Aurelia’s mother and is determined to return the favor.  But he is master of the long game and waits for his chance.  When Athan and his father travel to Aurelia’s home, he is tasked with spying on her.  But he finds himself drawn to her in an ensuing forbidden romance that neither side can comprehend.  Both teenagers must find a way to be loyal to each other but also to their families, but can these two survive simultaneously?

 The language in this book was very passionate and flowed smoothly throughout the book.  I was hooked in the opening teaser and just wanted to dive right in, but first had to go read the events that set everything into motion.  The characters fleshed out quickly and came to life in an instant, especially Athan’s family.  The book is told somewhat between a revolution era novel and the great war.  It just feels like a little bit of both and transports the reader to a world unlike any other that I’ve had the pleasure of reading about.  This will definitely be a book unlike any you’ve read before.

 The only drawback that I see may be that off the length and overall complexity of the story being of interest to young readers.  Part of what made me enjoy the book so much was that it made me be engaged throughout the whole story and constantly think about different parts that I had read as I continued.  Several of today’s more popular young adult books are much shorter and the content is more cut and dry.  There was some occasional foul language, which is becoming more persistent in YA literature, but it did not detract from the story.

If you want something different the includes espionage, assassinations, romance, military battles, and politics, then you should grab a copy today.

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

Mark of the Raven

mark of the ravenAuthor: Morgan L. Busse

Series: The Ravenwood Saga #1

Publisher: Bethany House

Release Date: November 6, 2018

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

An epic fantasy tale that will leave the readers itching for the next in the series before the conclusion of the first.

Each of the seven great houses has a secret gift that the heir will inherit and the House of Ravenwood is no different. Lady Selene, the eldest of the house of Ravenwood, is about to learn of her family’s secret and experience the dream walking for herself. With this power, she can enter a person’s dreams and use their fears against them. For over a century the women of House Ravenwood have used this secret to keep their people safe, sometimes going as far as to assassinate their enemies.  As Selene comes into her power, she must decide if it is worth upholding her family’s legacy or staying true to what her heart tells her. She does not want to be an assassin, but also doesn’t want to disappoint her mother. With two different paths to choose, she is going to have to make the biggest decision of her life and either direction will lead to consequences.

Fantasy lovers will not want to miss Mark of the Raven.  So much detail brought this story to life and kept me at the edge of my seat.  With fantasy fiction, details are so critical, especially in the first book of a series when the world is being constructed and Busse did a great job creating this world and really bringing us into the house of Ravenwood. The tension between Selene and her mother was so real and brought life to the story. Truthfully, the dynamic between everyone in the family was so real I felt like I could have been a part of the family. I felt the scenes with little dialogue dragged until the conversations picked up. Other than that, there wasn’t much to not like about this book. I recommend this to lovers of fantasy.

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

Rise of the Mystics

Rise of the MysticsAuthor: Ted Dekker

Series: Beyond the Circle #2

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: October 2, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Fans of Dekker and the Circle series will not want to miss this this follow-up installment that holds true to all that fans have come to expect from this exceptional writer.

It has been many years since the death of Thomas Hunter, but he is still remembered in our world and the world he still lives in. No one has gone between the worlds like he did until now.  Rachelle Matthews has somehow found a way into that other world just as Thomas Hunter did.  In this world, she learned she was the 49th mystic and is on a mission to find the five ancient seals before they can be destroyed by her enemies.  Having already found the first three seals, she now searches for the final two.  If she fails in her quest, the world will be plunged into darkness.  She is going up against a dark force, Vlad Smith, who has her locked in a dungeon and is about to turn both worlds upside down.  If she can find the Realm of Mystics and the final two seals without losing everything, she just might save both worlds.

If you are a fan of the circle series then this is one you will not want to miss. The 49th Mystic and Rise of the Mystics are a great pair to add to the circle series. I’ve always thought there was so much more story to tell from that series and am glad to see Dekker bringing fans beyond the circle.  It took me a little while to get through this book because you have to follow so closely to everything that is happening.  Dekker’s books have to be slowly absorbed and savored.  It’s not like fast food, it’s more like a five course meal that every bite is better than the last.  Each chapter brings about a part of the story fans will think back on to previous books and it will bring a smile to their face remembering all of the aspects of the circle they might have forgotten.  I don’t want to give anything away, but one part with Thomas Hunter will have fans cheering with delight.  Rachelle is still finding her strength and learning from those around her, just as we should follow the guidance of those that God puts in our lives.  To me this is a much better closeout to the series than Green, what we all thought was the final book in the series.  I’m sure Dekker could find a way to bring more from the story if he so chooses, but for me this was satisfactory and left me with a feeling of closure with all of the characters.  I recommend this book to fans of the circle series.  If you are new to reading Ted Dekker, this is not the one to start with as you will not have even a fraction of what you need to understand what is happening here.  For readers that are intrigued by the premise of Rise of the Mystics I recommend reading the circle series and then diving into The 49th Mystic and Rise of the Mystics, 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.

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.