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.

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.


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.


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.