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.

The Evaporation of Sofi Snow

Sofi SnowAuthor: Mary Weber

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Release Date: June 6, 2017

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

If you were to combine The Hunger Games, Divergent, and The Host you would be looking at The Evaporation of Sofi Snow.  So much going on it will easily leave you wanting more.

It has been eleven years since the alien race, Delonese, and their ice-planet arrived in Earth’s atmosphere. Since that time, Sofi Snow has had vivid dreams of the aliens.  Earth is now ruled by corporations instead of governments and Sofi and her brother have been forced by these corporations to participate in fantasy fighting.  Sofi is the gamer while her brother, Shilo, is in the arena.  During one of the games a bomb explodes in the arena killing many, including Shilo, or at least that is what everyone but Sofi believe.  She has dreams he is alive and is certain he has been taken by the Delonese.  She must get to the planet and find her brother; the only problem is the only ones allowed are the ambassadors.  Sofi convinces, Miguel, the youngest ambassador who she was close to once, to take her with him to the planet.  Miguel has found himself in trouble as he is being blackmailed to make sure a certain corporation is blamed for the attack.  Together Sofi and Miguel find more trouble, deceit, and unthinkable things than they could have imagined.

Patience. That is the word that comes to mind when describing this book. If you are not patient with what is happening and willing to give it time, at least more than what you would an average book, you are not going to enjoy it.  I really thought I might not finish this one but am very glad I did.  The beginning was slow to get going, very confusing with the set up, and the world the characters found themselves in.  I am not a gamer, which is probably a good target audience for this one, and I think that slowed me down at the beginning. Once I was about halfway through, it didn’t matter that I am not into video games because the story took off in a direction that didn’t have very much to do with the games.  At this point, I was very happy I decided to stick with the book.  The story was engaging and the characters kept me guessing as to what was about to happen with them.  The ending left it wide open for a sequel, which I am anxiously looking forward to.  It is refreshing to see a YA sci-fi thriller out there that kids can really enjoy.  There were several points that I give the author credit for surprising me with the twists and turns I didn’t see coming.  I recommend this book to YA readers that are looking for a thrill ride in the gaming world and so, so much more.

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

Eye of the Storm

Eye of the StormAuthor: Frank Cavallo

Publisher: Create Space

Release Date: August 11, 2016

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

An interesting Sci/Fi novel that will take the reader to another world full of danger and mythical creatures.

Eric Slade is a retired Navy SEAL that now works in remote parts of the world making documentaries. When he is hired by Dr. Anna Fayne for a new mission, he thinks it will be just another day at the office for him. When the two, along with the rest of their team, are caught up in a mysterious storm and sent through a rift in space/time, they end up stranded in a strange lost world.  Eventually they are the only two still alive and are desperate to survive and find a way back home from the savage land they now find themselves in.

This book is one I thought I would really like. I enjoy fantasy novels and this one sounded very interesting.  Unfortunately for me, Eye of the Storm went farther to the sci/fi aspect than fantasy for my liking.  I believe that lovers of science fiction will thoroughly enjoy this book though.  The story was good, but when getting into the science fiction and mythical terminology I found myself lost more often than not trying to figure out how to say something or what it was even talking about.  I think a glossary at the front might help readers as a reference for some of the harder words and what they refer to.  There is a little bit of everything in the story: action, romance, adventure, danger and science beyond our world.  Some of the characters were more relatable than others, I think that was the way the scenes were set up more than everything.  There was a lot of potential here but it fell flat for me.  I do recommend this to readers that love science fiction novels with a little bit of fantasy and romance sprinkled in the mix.

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