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.

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.