A Brush with the Beast

A brush with the beastAuthor: Richard Sones

Publisher: Self-Published

Release Date: June 20, 2017

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

An epic battle between the ultimate good and evil spread across the globe and through the heart of humanity to show what could happen if we believe.

When Nick Gooseberry has tried every method available to rid himself of back pain, he turns to the only option he sees left, The Order, a secret society that promises him relief from pain and so much more. With the power of The Order behind him, Nick works his way up the ladder of success to ultimately rule the world.  In a small town in Texas, Sarah Johnson has been trying unsuccessfully to get away from her past.  She thinks her boss is trying to help her, instead he is setting her up to go back to prison. While back in prison, she turns to the Lord and finds a way to escape. She finds out she is pregnant and attracts the attention of the Beast who takes her away to the other side of the globe and now she has to survive an entirely new prison.  After watching the death of his parents, Fanak grows up to become a terrorist driven with a thirst for revenge and a plan to take down the United States. He thinks everything he is doing are his own thoughts without ever realizing he is at the mercy of the Beast like so many.

A Brush with the Beast is a book that had several things I enjoyed and several I didn’t.  It is not for a young audience, a little bit of mature language and other mature content. The story flips back and forth between several different viewpoints. Most of the time this doesn’t bother me but for some reason it didn’t work as well for me here. I enjoyed the storyline with Sarah but everything else left me wanting to get to the rest of her story.  While each story line was supposed to tie in and bring the story full circle, by the end I felt a good portion could have been shortened.  Not everything with Nick’s storyline added up either. Everything with Sarah was intriguing and I felt a good emotional connection to her and everything that was going on while in her point of view.  Overall it was still an enjoyable read. I recommend this for a mature audience wanting to read about end times and what might come.

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

Probing

ProbingAuthor: Bill Myers, Frank Peretti, Angela Hunt & Alton Gansky

Series: Harbingers Cycle 3

Publisher: Bethany House

Release Date: December 5, 2017

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Our ragtag team of heroes are back to tackle the newest evil lurking around every corner, and dimension.

The third installment of the Harbingers series picks things up where the team left off. Bill Myers starts things off with Leviathan, where our team has been invited to Hollywood for a taping of a new reality show, Live or Die: The Ultimate Reality.  Things get a little too tense when they realize how much control the dark side has over those involved. Frank Peretti continues the story taking us on an amazing adventure with The Mind Pirates. The team has to deal with an enchanted pirate earring and an evil scheme at sea. Part three, Hybrids by Angela Hunt, gets even more chilling as the team encounters two children with black eyes and a pregnant woman who is no longer pregnant with no recollection of what happened to her baby. Our story concludes with The Village from Alton Gansky, where the team is sent to the Blue Ridge Mountains to a town that is more mysterious than anything they have ever encountered.  And with this team, that is saying a lot.

If you are a fan of supernatural suspense you have probably heard of and read one or more of these authors. I don’t know whose idea it was to get them together in this way, but it works. Each book in the series gets better. You do have to enjoy the supernatural aspect to get into these books. While it is beneficial to have read both the previous installments, I wouldn’t say it is absolutely necessary. Each story is broken up with enough backstory that the reader can tell what is happening if they haven’t read the previous two.  Just like most of the works I have read by these authors, there is a lot written that we can’t explain and some of the events will make you scratch your head, but these characters tackle each situation they encounter and bring it to life for the reader. It is nice that there isn’t a lot of time between releases of each book; with each author only writing a quarter of the story, it doesn’t take them as long to get it out to the anxiously awaiting readers.  I do enjoy how each section is from a different character’s view point. Each author has done a fantastic job embodying their character and bringing in to life in a realistic manner. I don’t particularly care for a few of the characters, however it is in the way I’m not really supposed to care for them, which can actually make them more memorable and enjoyable.  I recommend this book to those readers who enjoy a supernatural suspense story by some of the best in the business. Putting these four together was a great idea and I can’t wait to see what they come up with next.

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

Ferocious

FerorciousAuthor: Paula Stokes

Series: Vicarious #2

Publisher: Tor Teen

Release Date: August 15, 2017

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Winter Kim is back and ready for revenge in this explosive follow up to Vicarious.

Winter Kim is on a mission. After her sister was murdered and the only ones she loves were taken from her, she finds out she has a brother she never knew about.  His life is in danger if she doesn’t travel to South Korea and confront Kyung, the man responsible for all the misery in her life.  Helping her along the way are her friends, Jesse and Sebastian.  Together they gain access to Kyung’s corporation and try to gather as much information as possible to get her brother to safety and get out alive herself.  Winter must decide if the revenge she is seeking is worth risking everything or will she be able to release the darkness within her.

The follow up to Vicarious picks up right where things lift off in the first one. Vicarious was very action packed and moved at a quick pace, Ferocious takes things down a notch and moves slower for several different reasons.  The main point of this story is the revenge Winter is seeking.  Revenge takes planning, planning takes time, which ended up making the story less action packed and slower.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; the set-up of what Winter was going to do was well laid out giving the characters more depth.  Even though I can’t call this as action packed as the first, there certainly were a lot of twists and turns that kept me guessing until the very end.  As far as I can tell, there isn’t another book to follow in the series.  I can see the story mostly wrapped up here but there are still a few threads that could be played out further if the author decided to pursue the storyline further.  I recommend this book to an older YA audience that enjoys thrillers with plenty to keep them guessing.  It is marketed as a YA but I don’t think a few of the themes would be appropriate for the younger YA audience.

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

Vicarious

VicariousAuthor: Paula Stokes

Publisher: Tor Teen

Release Date: August 16, 2016

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A total thrill ride with mind-bending twists and turns throughout that will leave the reader craving more.

The bond between sisters is a strong one, and almost none compared to that of Winter Kim and her sister Rose. They work for Rose’s ex-boyfriend, Gideon, who has them engaging in dangerous and exciting activities while he records their neural impulses making a Vicarious Sensory Experience for others he calls ViSEs.  Their adventures include shark diving, hooking up with celebrities at dance clubs, and any and all thrills anyone would want to experience safely for a price.  Winter’s world is turned upside down when her sister disappears and her murder is recorded on a ViSe and sent to Gideon.  Winter can’t do anything until she finds her sister’s killer and becomes consumed with revenge.  With each clue, she uncovers the story of what happened to her sister doesn’t add up and Winter starts to question everything she has known to trust and believe in.

I love a good YA book that keeps up with the direction the world is going and Vicarious is just that kind of book. Each chapter flows into the next bringing the story and the characters into more chaos that will leave the reader aching for more. The characters are strong and even though they go through challenges they learn from each and every obstacle they encounter and use that to push them forward.  There is a romance in the story but it is played out in a very different way than most books, which I really enjoyed.  This is classified as a YA/Teen book and it is good for that in most areas, the only problem I have is the occasional language and sexual scenes throughout.  I don’t like to see those in books marketed to a younger audience but feel like it wasn’t played up nearly as much as it could have been and for that I am thankful.  This is the kind of book that so many readers will be able to find something to enjoy.  I recommend this book to teens and adults that like a good thriller with a sci-fi undertone to it.

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

Arena

arenaAuthor: Holly Jennings

Series: Arena #1

Publisher: Ace

Release Date: November 1, 2016

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A unique story that takes a look at the gaming world and what out future of might just look like.

Kali Ling is one of the top gamers and is about to make history as the first female captain in the Virtual Gaming League’s RAGE tournament. RAGE is a competition where the top gamers in the world compete in a fight to the digital death.  Millions of people watch the fights and cheer for their favorite players.  The game and all its parts may be digital but that doesn’t mean the pain is, every player feels every killing blow.  When one of her teammates overdoses, Kali doesn’t know if she has what it takes to lead the team anymore.  As a new member is thrust into their mix in the middle of the tournament, the team has to find a way to come together in order to conquer their biggest battle yet.

I have mixed emotions about this book. The story itself was good, a bit predictable at times but enjoyable.  The drug usage, foul language and sex was a bit over done.  The images put forth by the author really made me picture the story playing out in my mind as I read it.  The romances, all of them, felt forced for the most part.  By the end a small percentage of the romances felt right and will be interesting to see where they go in the next story.  Kali and her team go through a lot in finding the right dynamic and in the end I enjoyed the way they found a way to fully work together as a team.  The theme of teamwork throughout was depicted well and something that everyone can take away as a useful lesson.

The ages of the main characters seem to be early twenties, could be a little younger, and so this book could be counted as a YA. If so, I don’t feel comfortable recommending to that target audience with the sex and language.  If it is an older audience, I think the book will be a very enjoyable read for those that especially enjoy the gaming world and virtual reality.

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

Unraveling

UnravelingAuthor: Sara Ella

Series: Unblemished #2

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Release Date: July 11, 2017

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

The second installment in the Unblemished trilogy is a great read that will leave you aching for more.

Eliyana Ember has always wanted her world to be a fairy tale. After a defeating her grandfather and saving the second Reflection, El starts to only trust what she can see and touch.  The Kiss of Infinity she once shared is nothing but a memory and now that she is becoming queen she doesn’t know if she is prepared to deal with any of it.  The Verity is cast within her soul and therefore leaves Joshua by her side ready to rule her birth land.  Even with all she has, she feels something is missing.  The Callings, she and others have had as magical powers, begin to fail and El wonders if her connection to Ky Rhyen is somehow involved.  Light and dark cannot coexist and El needs to find the answers before the Callings disappear altogether.

This book is outstanding, as long as you have read the first. If you come into this having as a standalone or don’t have Unblemished fresh in your mind, you will likely have difficulties.  There is so much that is set up in the first book that is relevant to Unraveling in order for everything to make sense that it is very important to have the first firmly in your mind when starting this one.  The characters develop much more fully here along with the world.  This is very different from our own, but also similar in many, many ways.  I enjoyed the introduction of new characters and the interaction they had with already established characters.  One of the best aspects is it is a very clean book without losing the intensity of the story, a very rare trait to be found today.  Other than making sure you have read the first book, I can’t think of anything negative to say about this book.  I can’t wait to see what the third installment has in store.

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

Wilders

WildersAuthor: Brenda Cooper

Series: Project Earth #1

Publisher: PYR

Release Date: June 13, 2017

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Another dystopian novel that is a bit more unique than you might think.

Coryn Williams has grown up in the metropolis of Seacouver, Washington. A town that has been developed under a weather dome.  This is a new generation of smart city that is completely connected with each person and tells them when they need certain items or when to go to the doctor.  But the city is not for everyone, many suffer from it.  Coryn’s parents each took their life and her older sister must get out of the city before it drives her to the same fate, so she sets of to work for a rewilding foundation that is reestablishing the ecosystem that humans have destroyed.

Three years later, Coryn is set to graduate from school and must head into a career. Instead she decides to do the unthinkable; voluntarily go outside of the dome to find her sister.  But will her sister want to see her?  And will the city let her back in?

Dystopian novels are rapidly becoming a dime a dozen. It’s hard to find something new and fresh that doesn’t build upon an already realized idea.  However, Cooper definitely piqued my interests with this one.  I’ve done a lot of research into smart cities and how they currently interact versus how they are planning to connect in the future with the internet of things.  This book easily brings my fears into place with the amount of data that the city knows and how the city can protect itself.

Coryn was an interesting character. She was very independent (and stubborn) and set out to find her sister with no thoughts of what could happen to her.  But she got more than what she bargained for once she found her.  I’m curious if the storms were a result of the damaged ecosphere, but that may come in a future book.

There is some occasional harsh language for a YA novel, which is why I took it down to 4 stars. Even so, it is a really good read.

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