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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

Blood Rose Rebellion

Blood Rose RebellionAuthor: Rosalyn Eves

Series: Blood Rose Rebellion #1

Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers

Release Date: March 28, 2017

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

An enchanted tale of romance, magic, and family drama that brings the tension to new levels.

Anna Arden is sixteen years old and has been shunned by her family and society for a blood defect. Her family is part of a powerful magic group called the Luminate.  However, she is Barren and unable to perform the simplest of spells.  Everything goes wrong for Anna when she breaks her sister’s debutante spell, without even realizing she is doing it, and becomes exiled by her family and sent with her grandmother to Hungary.  Things seem worse than ever when she finds that things are not as she thought.  She is living with her cousins and starts to discover that magic and those around her are not as she was led to believe.  A rebellion is quickly spreading across the country and Anna finds herself in the middle of the conflict with many believing she might be what they need if she will embrace her ability and help those she cares about.

Rosallyn Eves has woven a tale that will make you think of others out there but is its own story in many ways. There is magic and love that must be interwoven in order for the story to work, and it does work.  For me, the story took a little bit to get going, but once it did, I enjoyed it and couldn’t turn the pages fast enough.  Anna was her own kind of hero; she didn’t believe in herself until she realized everyone else was counting on her and she really could make a difference.  Being set in the past and in such a different location I would have liked to see a little more world building to set the story in motion.  The character development was done very well and was easy to connect with Anna and the others.  Overall it was a very enjoyable read and one I will recommend to readers that enjoy YA and mystical reads.

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


recruitsAuthor: Thomas Locke

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: February 14, 2017

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

An out of this world Fantasy adventure that will leave the reader aching for more!

Sean and Dillon Kirrel are twin brothers who have always enjoyed looking into the possibilities of other worlds. So much in fact, that they have sketched out what one might look like.  Shortly after they turn seventeen, they are approached by a man telling them he is interested in them for a potential job.  It turns out that he is looking to them for a unique gift they have, the ability to transition between worlds, including the one they have sketched and imagined.  He shows them how to transition between the different worlds and it is quickly clear that the twins are destined for great things in this world and beyond.

I haven’t read much science fiction, just not my go-to books, but the way Thomas Locke writes I think I might just have to add more to my pile. Recruits was a very interesting story.  For the most part, the story is set on Earth, and the times it is on another planet.  In this book, we don’t see enough of the planet to need a large amount of setup for the location.  And even though it talks about many different planets, it is mostly dealing with humans so you are not having to picture all kinds of different beings, except towards the end.  The writing was quick and clean without a lot of unnecessary information to slow down the story which I appreciated.

There were a few aspects that did leave me scratching my head. The twins are basically on their own at seventeen.  Their parent’s lack of involvement is explained but I didn’t totally buy it.  Additionally, the ending tied up all the loose ends and all but I didn’t feel it left it open well enough with suspense for the next in the series.  It also felt like there wasn’t enough closure and explanation; it was almost like, BAM finished.  The attack at the end could have been played out with a little more explanation.  Overall it was a very enjoyable read and fans of Science fiction and Fantasy are sure to love it.

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

The Gates of Hell

the-gates-of-hellAuthor: Michael Livingston

Series: The Shards of Heaven #2

Publisher: Tor

Release Date: November 15, 2016

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Livingston’s second shard novel is even better than the first!

Time has moved on. Augustus Caesar has had his triumph over Cleopatra and Mark Anthony.  Their daughter Cleopatra Selene has been wed to Juba II as a show of triumph for Juba, even though he wants nothing to do with his adopted brother Octavian.  Fortunately, Selene and Juba fall in love with each other making their union a blessed one.  However, prior to the wedding, in an effort to thwart Octavian, Selene convinced Tiberius to sneak her into the Temple of the Vestal Virgins to recover a statue that had been taken, but she was actually after a shard from heaven.  Once she touched it, she managed to use its power, but ended up creating many questions from Tiberius.  Together can she and Juba manage to stay away from using this power to destroy Rome?

Meanwhile in Alexandria, Lucius Vorenus has returned to seek out his old friend Didymus to discuss the possibility that the Ark of the Covenant is losing its power. After the meeting, he is targeted by a group of people who overhead about who he is and what he has.  The attempt fails and he is reunited with an old friend that the thought dead.  Together they travel to the Island of Elephantine where the Ark is currently being housed and protected by Caesarian and Hannah.  When they learn of the breach, they decide that it may be best to move the Ark.  Unfortunately, Kush decides to attack Rome at this time and burn the Island of Elephantine.  Can they manage to get away with the Ark before it is too late?

If you enjoyed the first novel in the series, then you will love the continuation. This book really dives more into Selene and Juba’s relationship and the potential power that the two of them have with the shards they have collected.  Octavian has also taken on more of a melancholy role, but his stepson Tiberius reprises the role of villain throughout portions of the story.  I was very excited to read this novel and I couldn’t find time to stop until I had it finished.

The book follows four main story lines: Selene and Juba, Vorenus, Caesarian and Hannah, and Thysallus. Each is somehow connected to the shards and/or the Ark (which is technically a shard as well).  One of the things I love most about this series is how Livingston is blending history as well as fantasy.  There are times that I have to go back and read up on a particular event to see how it parallels to the book.  Granted, I also love the fantasy part as well.  Without the shards of heaven, it would just be a good story.  With the shards, it is a great story!

There is some mild language in one or two places as well as a rape scene. I would recommend this book for mature YA readers up to adults.

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