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.

Ms. Mulligan and the Enchanted Ice Cream

mulliganAuthor: Tiffany Elaine

Publisher: Ingramelliot Publishing

Release Date: February 18, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A fun mix of magic, young friends on an adventure, and evil trying to take them down at every turn makes for a great read!

After having a fun filled birthday with friends, Tabby Easterland wakes up to find she has been transformed into a twenty-five-year-old woman. She takes the identity of Ms. Mulligan and begins teaching at her own school.  With the help of her friends, Dolly and Kate, she goes on a search to figure out what happened to her and how she can get back to her twelve year old self.  The search leads her to find out about her long lost father and the fight against an evil set of sisters that just might have put the curse on Tabby and all those she cares about are in danger.

I wasn’t totally sure what to think about this book at first. After giving it a go, I realized how enchanting and enjoyable this was going to be.  Young readers will enjoy this book and find themselves wanting more.  The story flowed perfectly and had just the right amount of tension to drive the story forward but not so much that it would not be considered appropriate for a young audience.  Even though the girls found themselves facing trouble at every corner, they never give up showing that when times are hard they need to stick together to conquer their obstacles.  When looking at what all Tabby had to go through, you have to remind yourself while reading that even though she is in the body of a twenty-five year old, she is still a twelve year old and the emotions she must be experiencing must be overwhelming.  This is a character with a very strong will and one that girls will be able to look up to.  This book was nice since it was exactly what it was supposed to be for young readers, no language, and nothing inappropriate.  So many books for young readers today don’t adhere to this and put things in that shouldn’t be and that bothers me. I loved the way this story was wrapped up but still left open for more to come.  I for one can’t wait to see what the next in the series will have in store for readers.

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

StarPassage Book Three: Honor and Mercy

Star Passage 3Author: Clark Rich Burbidge

Publisher: Deep River Books

Release Date: June 21, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

The time travel and adventures are more explosive than ever in the third installment of the this exciting series.

After his adventures with the Star, Mike wants to help others around him struggling which may end up causing more trouble than any of them could foresee. The leader of the Trackers has made it to the present time and has plans to cause problems for all those involved in the Starpassages and more. The Tracker wants to use Mike’s new friend to bring the others down and take possession of the Star himself.  Now using the Star is a guessing game of danger and determining if it is worth the risk to travel becomes harder than ever.

The third book in the StarPassage series picks up right where the previous left off and takes us on more crazy adventures. The storyline continues as before with a back and forth between the Carsons’ and the Trackers giving us a view from each side.  In this installment, Burbidge dives deeper into the faith and Christianity than in the previous two books, but at no point does it get too preachy for the intended audience.  Young adults reading this are going to find this a fun read with the history lessons and the travel back and forth in time.  Not only is it an adventure but it is a chance to learn something fun for readers.  I was a little concerned that with all the travel back and forth and the changing of history we were going to see a ripple effect, and maybe that could work in to the next installment, but for die hard fantasy/science fiction fans they may have a small problem with that part of the story.  Overall this was a very enjoyable read and one I think kids 8-12 years of age will probably really enjoy.  I like the fact that it is a clean read and parents won’t have to worry about what their kids are reading and finding inappropriate material within. I can’t wait to get my hands on the next in the series.

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

StarPassage Book Two: Heroes and Martyrs

Star Passage 2Author: Clark Rich Burbidge

Publisher: Deep River Books

Release Date: July 27, 2017

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

With more time travel and adventure than the first, the next installment is sure to be an even bigger hit with readers.

The Carson family is back ready for another StarPassage adventure, this time with a new family. Brothers, bobby and Mike are having a hard time after an accident has left Mike in the hospital.  Bobby blames himself and is having trouble getting past what happened.  Together the brothers and the Carson’s travel first to D-Day and then to 9-11 to learn the lessons the star has for them and help others in the process.  During each time travel, they have to worry about the Trackers getting to them and the star, if that happens both the past and future could be in danger.

I have to say that the second book in the series is even better than the first. I felt like the action was ramped up causing me to feel more emotionally connected to the characters.  I really liked the way the author weaved the different time travel episodes together with the present and how the little changes affected each time period.  The addition of Bobby and Mike really helped the story.  For some reason, I felt like their relationship was more believable than Tim and Martie. Even in this book they have too good of a relationship, it just needs a little tension between the siblings to make the relationship connect and feel more real.  Overall this book was really enjoyable and I recommend it to readers that enjoy time travel mysteries with lots of action.

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

Reaper at the Gates

ReaperAuthor: Sabaa Tahir

Series: An Ember in the Ashes #3

Publisher: Razorbill

Release Date: June 12, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

The third book in this amazing series changes things up a bit keeping the main characters apart more than together but building for a follow up that is sure to be the very best yet.

As the threat of war within the empire grows, Helene Aquilla, the Blood Shrike, has even more to worry about than protecting her people. Her sister, the only family she has left is now Emperor Marcus’s wife and he uses her to control Helene.  Marcus is haunted by his past and with each passing day he grows more unstable.  Using his weakness, Keris Veturia, the Commandant, puts her plan of gaining control of the empire into action causing Helene one more thing to worry about.  While the empire grows unsteady, Laia of Serra is working to stop the Nightbringer.  He is not her only problem though, she is suddenly thrust into a fight she never wanted to be a part of and doesn’t know if she can help win.  Elias Veturius is now the Soul Catcher, caught in the land between the living and the dead.  He has to put aside the part of him that wants to be with Laia and help the souls pass peacefully. Otherwise, the souls will wreak havoc on the rest of the world.

For some reason, when I started this book I was under the assumption it was going to be the last in the series. As I was reading through, especially when I reached the final few chapters, I was having trouble believing the story would be wrapped up neatly.  I am happy to say that this book itself is tied up but leaves a beautiful opening for the next in the series.  I loved the way things progressed and the characters found themselves independent instead of relying on each other to be complete.  With Laia and Elias spending so much time apart, it really shows them growing into the character I feel they are meant to be, which flowed very naturally.  The very best part is something I can’t say because I don’t want to spoil anything. There is a reveal with one of the characters that once you realize what is happening, it will put a smile on your face and have you remembering parts in the first two books in a very different light.  In writing a YA book, there are so many aspects that are different than most books and Sabaa Tahir has found a way to really embrace her writing and find her audience.  There was a little bit more language than I would have liked to have seen for a YA, but overall it wasn’t bad and it could have been a whole lot worse.  The book goes back and forth between the viewpoints of Laia, Elias, and The Blood Shrike, which gives the reader a full understanding of the world and fully encompassing what is happening and how our characters react to each situation.  I recommend this book to Young readers and those that love a great dystopian read.