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.

The 49th Mystic

49th mysticAuthor: Ted Dekker

Series: Beyond the Circle #1

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: May 15, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Fans of Dekker can rejoice as he brings us back into the circle and the world we grew to love with Thomas Hunter. A book well worth the wait and meant to be enjoyed by all that call themselves part of The Circle.

Many years ago, a gateway to another world was opened with Thomas Hunter. His death was supposed to sever that gateway for good. For years, no one crossed over until Rachelle Matthews from Eden, Utah crossed that gateway.  Rachelle has always been blind, but when she attempts a procedure to restore her sight she begins waking up in another reality and finds herself wondering which reality is real and which is a dream.  In the new reality, she wakes up with her sight and abilities beyond her wildest dreams.  There is an ancient prophecy that says she must find and recover five ancient seals that will have serious effects on both worlds.  Her success will mean peace for all or keep both worlds locked in darkness forever.

Anyone that has read Ted Dekker knows that his writing is like no other. He isn’t afraid to dive deeper than most with his stories and take you on an adventure you will never forget.  Fans of Dekker will without a doubt be familiar with his circle series and eager to pick up The 49th Mystic to see where the story continues.  I will say that if you haven’t read any of The Circle series, this book might be a little hard to understand at times.  Readers can still enjoy the story but the backstory from the previous books will be beneficial.  With all that being said, it is a wonderful story that I, along with others I’m sure, have waited years for.  Even though this is a continuation of the circle series, in a way it is its own story, something that makes it perfect for new readers of Dekker.

Written with characters that are tough but also relatable, The 49th Mystic has everything readers will want.  There is a depth to the characters along with the storyline that will pull readers in and keep them until the very last page.  I decided to take my time reading and really engross myself in the story, Dekker’s writing requires close attention so that the reader can see different connections throughout the book.  Each chapter and each page contains minute details that drive the story forward and are not to be missed.  Each character is vital and every word the characters say and action they take will lead to where the story is going to take you here and in volume two.  It is almost cruel to make us wait even the few short months for the next one, but wait we will. Be ready to Dive Deep once more.  I recommend this book highly to fans of Dekker’s previous novels and even to newcomers of his work with an open mind to enjoy a new story unlike any they have ever encountered.

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

The Golden Vial

The Golden VialAuthor: Thomas Locke

Series: Legends of the Realm #3

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: March 20, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

The battle for the realm continues brining in some new characters to freshen up the story.

Darkness has settled over the Three Valleys area, cutting off the towns from the outside world. Little by little the darkness squeezes the area in closer.  The townspeople have started to ignore the threat and accepted that it was always this way.  There is one that has not.  Dally’s entire family was killed by the dark force and she was left orphaned and taken in by the town mayor.  She hasn’t gotten along well with people, but she has always had the ability to talk with the mayor’s dogs.  When Lady Shona arrives to combat the evil forces, she request the presence of Dally and her ability.  It is also discovered the Dally has the power of a great mage, but has never been taught.  She joins Lady Shona’s band of faithful followers on her quest to save the realm, with hopes to save Hyam as well.

This series has been my favorite fantasy series in quite some time and I have been looking forward to this book for well over two years. It went in a different direction than what I expected, but it is a transition novel to the next storyline.  Locke has done a really good job of weaving everything in the world together, which can be daunting when you have to create the world to begin with.  The descriptive nature of the scenery has continued so that it is easy to jump back into the realm at a moment’s notice.  The cast of characters continue to be a fun bunch to be around much of the time.  As the main character, Dally struggles with confidence much like Hyam did in the first book.  Given their similarities, I would not be surprised to find that they are related in some way in the future.

Undoubtedly, this series will not be for everyone; however, I recommend that you give it a try. Each book is serious, but has a lot of humor to keep it a little lighter.  This book is a great read for young adults and up.  If you haven’t read the first two, I recommended it as there is a lot of back story that needs to fill you in.

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

Reclaiming Shilo Snow

Reclaiming Shilo SnowAuthor: Mary Weber

Series: Shilo Snow #2

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Release Date: March 6, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

The perfect book for those that are into the gaming world including what it could turn into in the future. A little darker than the first but oh so good!

Seventeen-year-old Sofi Snow is one of the world’s greatest hackers alive. She has left our world to go to the alien planet Delon to find her brother Shilo who everyone believes is dead. She knows that isn’t true, she can feel it.  With the help of Ambassador Miguel, they seek out the truth in finding her brother and also letting the people of Earth in on the secrets about the alien planet and what intentions it has for Earth.  However, this isn’t the first time she has been with the Delonese.  When she was younger, she and her brother were taken by them, but she has no memory of this time.  As the second installment in the Sofi Snow series, readers will see what is next for this brother and sister and how it will impact all of Earth and beyond.

Not all books in a series have to be read in order but this one most definitely does. If you haven’t read The Evaporation of Sofi Snow or don’t remember the story very well it will be difficult to connect to this one.  With that being said, if you have read it, get ready to pick up where it left off and see how the rest of the story unfolds.  The characters continue their journey and we seem them grow closer to each other as the story unfolds.  There is sacrifice and betrayal and all the things that make a good story great.  I loved how Weber continued with the multiple viewpoints to give readers a deeper sense of what was happening in the story instead of sticking with one POV and having to figure some of it out without really seeing it unfold.  There were times in the story that I felt confused and thought I needed to go back to clear something up but within a few pages it all seemed to work itself out for me.  Readers that love YA/Dystopian novels and have a passion for gaming will not want to miss this one.

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

Shattered Minds

Shattered MindsAuthor: Laura Lam

Publisher: Tor

Release Date: June 20, 2017

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Techno thriller, Scifi, Steampunk, and high paced twists and turns that will make the pages fly!

Being one of the best biohackers in Pacifica lead Carina to work for Sudice, a cutting edge company that experimented on brains. After the company took things too far, she decided it was too disturbing when she found herself enjoying the pain she was inflicting on her patients. Once she thought about murder and she knew things were going too far. She quit the company and started taking the drug they had been administering to their patients that put them in a dream world where they could carry out their fantasies without hurting anyone in the real world.  This drug, Zeal, helped her deal with these feelings as well as lead her to an old coworker who has been secretly working with a rebel group to take Sudice down.  Carina has to make a choice whether to follow this lead or leave it all behind.

Shattered Minds is the kind of novel you have to pay close attention to with the alternating point of views throughout.  That can be confusing at times but works for the benefit of the reader here, giving more to the story than if it had stayed with a single point of view.  There are moments of romance throughout but for the most part they are on the backburner for the action.  The techno talk can be intimidating at times making it hard to follow the story for someone who isn’t very technologically savvy.  I really am not sure what all to say about this book.  The concept is very different and yet very intriguing.  I would recommend this to fans of science fiction and dystopian novels with a techno futuristic feel to it.

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

The Defiant

The DefiantAuthor: Lesley Livingston

Series: Valiant #2

Publisher: Razorbill

Release Date: January 23, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Girl power like none other! This book has everything you look for in an action packed female powerhouse of a story.

Fallon thought things would be different, better after becoming the Victorix and being the top female gladiator out there. And she was right, but not in the way she expected. She might have won Caesar’s love and admiration, but she also won the hate of his enemies and all those wanting to take her place.  Soon after winning, Fallon and her sister gladiators find themselves at war with another rival gladiator academy that want to take their place and put Fallon out of the competition for good.  Along with her life and those she cares for, Fallon faces the prospect of losing the man she is falling in love with, Roman Soldier Cai.  When the battle heats up and tensions rise, Fallon has to decide whom she can trust and those she finds trustworthy might be surprising.  With her sister in danger and a tribe of amazon warriors thrown in the mix, the battle is just beginning and the stakes are higher than ever.

This is one of those books that I have been anxiously waiting for since the last page of the first book, (and that was before I even knew there would be a second in the series). I loved everything about this book: the strong female leads, the action, the romance, the history, everything!  Fallon is just the right mix of a strong spirit and caring individual that you want to know her, be her friend, and see yourself as that character.  I loved the mix of action with seeing the girls having to find different ways of getting along in order to deal with the situations they are thrust into.  I love action books with strong female characters. However, that can also be a fine line to draw between the character being strong and not over the top. Fallon is definitely a leader and strong but I loved that she is shown with a few weaknesses making her relatable.  I also loved the way we got to see her and Sorcha interact a little more.  So many characters that even though they might have only had small parts made the story, it wouldn’t have developed into what it was without them.  Little bits of humor were sprinkled throughout keeping the story light and flowing at all time.

Livingston did an outstanding job with this sequel making it continue the story and add to it so beautifully the reader will be yearning for more. I’m not sure if there will be any more in the series. I can only hope there is because I would love to see more adventures from these characters.  I highly recommend this book to readers who love historical fiction with action packed scenes and characters they can route for till the bitter end.