Blood Scion

Author: Deborah Falaye

Series: Blood Scion #1

Publisher: Harper Teen

Release Date: March 8, 2022

Rating: 4 out of 5.

An interesting debut that was brutal, bloody and full of action and complex characters.

Sloane lives with her grandfather after her mother disappeared. She has a deep secret inside that if revealed would be the end of her. She is a Scion, a descendant of the ancient Orisha gods. If her emotions run high, she can incinerate her enemies; so, keeping her powers hidden has kept her alive while the Lucis’, those that rule the country, hunt the scions down and kill them. On her fifteenth birthday, Sloan is drafted into the Lucis’ army and uses this as a way to get on the inside and destroy them from within before they hurt anyone else she cares about.

Blood Scion is one of those unique books that was a bit of a slow start with the world building but once it got me, I didn’t want to put the book down. This was definitely a dark book at times and not one for a young audience; even though it is marketed as a YA book I would keep this to the older teen market as much as possible with some of the more mature themes. Sloane is an interesting character and developed really well throughout the course of the book. I would love to see more from her in future novels in the series, so I got really excited when I found out this is a duology. The story does wrap up nicely at the end but is left open for more to come when the author decides to expand on this storyline. There were several characters that played smaller roles that I would like to see expansion on their character arc, each of these minor characters really helped pull the story together. While the premise overall was unique to me I did notice hints of other stories throughout, especially the Divergent series, just minor moments here and there that made me think of the other series. Overall, I would recommend this to older teen readers that enjoy a good fantasy read that has lots of action and adventure.

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

The Search for the Astral Dragon

Author: Bryan Davis

Publisher: Wander Press

Release Date: March 8, 2022

Rating: 4 out of 5.

A Young Adult novel that has themes of Star Wars and other science fiction novels that is full of action and adventure.

Search for the Astral Dragon follows a young girl, Megan, who is on a search across the planets to find her mother. While searching for her mother, Megan witnesses horrors throughout the planets causing her to join with a group of teens to fight and become a voice for those in need. Together they will race to help each other and those around them before it is too late.

I wanted to like this book, I really did, but I had a really hard time getting into it and staying engaged with the characters and story. I have read others by Bryan Davis and enjoyed them but for some reason couldn’t get into this one. Even though I had trouble getting into this one I do think it is a good one for young readers that are big into science fiction and fantasy type novels. Megan is an intriguing protagonist, if the story had been a little quicker picking up speed to get me engaged, I would have been more likely to keep reading. While it wasn’t the right fit for me, I do believe young readers will enjoy this clean read, which is something I think is important with so many books incorporating mature content while still aimed at a young audience.

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

Kelcie Murphy and the Academy for the Unbreakable Arts

Author: Erika Lewis

Publisher: Starscape

Release Date: March 1, 2022

Rating: 5 out of 5.

A fun and engaging read for young readers looking for tales of magic, mystery and so much more.

Kelcie Murphy has always felt unwanted going from foster home to foster home and never knowing who her parents are or where she is from. While on a field trip with her school, she is attacked and ends up being transported to another world, a world at war. The Academy for Unbreakable Arts is the kind of place Kelcie has only dreamed of but never thought existed. She is now training with warriors and finding her hidden powers that will hopefully help her find her parents and her past. Kelcie learns that she is a Saiga, one of the most ancient beings in the Otherworld and one of the most powerful. Together with her new friends she will have to fight to save herself and her new school before it’s too late.

Kelcie Murphy starts out fast and doesn’t let up; this is the exact right kind of book I look forward to recommending to young readers looking for fantasy, magic, adventure and a great story. I loved the way Kelcie used all the hardships she went through to bring out the strength she needed to prove to herself and others she belonged. This is a story similar to Harry Potter; it is her 12th birthday when she finds out about a world beyond her own with magic, friends and her past she knew nothing about. There is a lot of world building throughout the entire book which sets things up for what I am hoping is many more books to come. The plot is fast paced and very interesting, I found myself breezing through the pages to find out how it would all end up. The relationships that Kelcie has with her friends and classmates add to the tension of the story with some not liking her from the beginning and some, like Niall, taking a liking to her and being a good companion. It is hard for her to believe she could have friends after being on her own most of her life, this new concept makes her everyday life so different than what she is used to. All these different dynamics made the story realistic in terms of how different kids act and treat others and moved the story along at a great speed. I highly enjoyed this story and recommend it to young readers looking for books on magic and full of adventure.

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

Court

Author: Tracy Wolff

Series: Crave #4

Publisher: Entangled Teen

Release Date: February 1, 2022

Rating: 5 out of 5.

For what I once thought was going to be the end, it sure does a fantastic job setting up more to come for fans of this fantastic series. Even when I want to stop reading, I can’t put the book down! Too good!!!

Just when things started to calm down, everything falls apart again for Grace and her friends. Flint is about to lose it; Jaxon is changing by the day and Hudson is shutting himself off from Grace as they are about to face their biggest battle yet. To survive, they are going to need an army of their own, the Gargoyle Army. The only problem is they have been frozen in time for a thousand years. The group works together to battle the most dangerous villain around, but with every battle they take on, they are faced with more and more challenges and not everyone is going to make it out alive.

I must give Tracy Wolff a hand, it is hard to write a book over 700 pages and keep the reader interested and even aching for more after turning the last page. Plus, the woman must write like a fiend with the next two coming out later this year also, insert happy dance! This series came to my attention last year and I have been hooked since. If you are fan of teen fantasy, especially books such as Twilight, Hunger Games and even Harry Potter, you will love these. There is more language and other adult themes than I would prefer, especially being marketed to teens, but if you can look past those aspects while reading it will be a fun series for you.

Probably one of the aspects that impressed me the most is Wolff’s ability to create this world and characters in a way that made it so believable unlike many of today’s authors can come close to. In this fourth installment, readers see Grace in even more trouble and dealing with her feelings for Hudson; the way this relationship is written got me in all the right places. Grace is the perfect female protagonist with amazing secondary characters to keep the story moving at a remarkable pace. Again, to write a book over 700 pages and keep the reader’s interest shows her talent and she obviously listens to her fans and gives them what they want with this story and these characters. Readers do need to be aware of the mature themes throughout and subject matter that is not appropriate for younger readers in my opinion. For the older readers that enjoy this type of fantasy series don’t miss this one.

As Fast As Her

Author: Kendall Coyne

Publisher: Zonderkids

Release Date: January 18, 2022

Rating: 5 out of 5.

A fast story with an inspirational and powerful message for young readers. Even those not into hockey will get a lot out of this one!

US Olympian Kendall Coyne brings a message about never giving up on your dreams no matter what obstacles you might encounter, and she encountered many of them. When she was young, her brother was into hockey and as she got old enough to put on skates her parents put her in figure skating. It didn’t take for her to figure out hockey was where she needed to be even though there weren’t many girls playing. This would be a problem all throughout her time playing hockey, the inequality between the men playing and the women. One thing that set Kendall apart from the others was her speed, she was even able to keep up with the men in a national competition she almost won. Even though she was always told, “you’re not enough,” she started to believe it but not long enough to let it pull her in the wrong direction.

Throughout the pages of this book, readers will find inspiration and encouragement to stay the course and follow their dreams no matter how many people tell them they should give up or that they aren’t good enough. It is something that we all hear from time to time, and it can be easy to buy into the lies and let them hold us back from our full potential.

I started this book even though I am not a hockey fan and had honestly never heard of Kendall Coyne. This was an inspirational story from start to finish with great moments from her family and harsh moments with teammates and rivals. Throughout every moment and difficulty encountered, Kendall showed that it would have been easy to give up, but it wasn’t what she was meant to do. Not once did she give up and she finally made it to achieve her dreams and if we will believe in ourselves the way Kendall did over the years anything is possible.

In 27 Days

In 27 DaysAuthor: Alison Gervais

Publisher: Blink YA Books

Release Date: July 25, 2017

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A hard hitting, emotional roller coaster that will leave readers pulling at their heart-strings and wiping a tear from their eyes by the last page.

When Archer Morales commits suicide, his classmate Hadley Jamison is surprised by how much it affects her. She knew him from freshman English class, but that’s about it.  He was the kind of guy that pretty much kept to himself.  Hadley decides to attend Archer’s funeral for some closure.  As she is leaving the funeral, she runs into a man who calls himself Death.  Death offers Hadley a deal; he will send her back in time twenty-seven days to try and stop Archer from killing himself.  It doesn’t take much to convince Hadley that this is something she must do.  She agrees but finds that it is not going to be an easy task.  Archer has kept himself isolated for several reasons, none of which he is especially eager to share with anyone.  As Hadley works to gain his confidence, strange accidents start to occur that keep Hadley and Archer farther from each other and make Hadley wonder if she is really ready to risk everything, including her own life, to accomplish her mission.

All I can say is WOW!. When I started In 27 Days, I had no idea where it would lead me.  It was one of the most raw, real, and amazing books I have read in a very long time.  The way these characters and their storyline laid out was unbelievable.  This is the kind of writing I would expect from someone with decades of experience.  Alison Gervais is an author that has the potential to take off and never look back at where her writing can take her and her readers.  The way the story of Hadley and Archer came together was absolutely beautiful.  I never once felt as if anything was forced or rushed between the characters or with their actions.  Out of all the books I have read this year, this is going quickly to the top of my list.  With the rampant amount of bullying going on in our society, this is a story that needs to be read by many.  I highly recommend this to all readers, especially anyone that might be struggling with feeling alone or how to help someone in that position.

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

Larger-Than-Life-Lara

laraAuthor: Dandi Daley Mackall

Publisher: Tyndale

Release Date: November 1, 2016

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

This book that should be read by all young kids! It that tackles a difficult topic in a beautiful way.

Laney Grafton is a ten-year-old writing a story about what happens when her class gets a new girl who isn’t like everyone else. When Lara shows up in class, it is obvious from looking at her that she will be the target of bullying.  She is larger than anyone these fourth graders have ever seen.  Instead of letting the bullying beat her down, Lara surprises everyone and smiles through it all.  Several of the kids go above and beyond with how harsh and cruel they are.  Throughout it all, Laney stays quiet since she is being left alone for once.  With crafty titles about storytelling and an overall extraordinary tale about a girl that is able to transform an entire class, Larger-Than-Life-Lara shows us the best and worst in every single one of us.

Bullying is such a horrible aspect of growing up that unfortunately almost everyone has to deal with at some point. Larger-Than-Life Lara tackles this subject in a unique way.  By telling the story from Laney’s point of view, we see how everyone is affected in many different ways.  This is a book that I think should be in all schools and read and discussed together.  Kids of all ages could get so much out of this book.  The way that Lara reacted to the treatment of the other kids shows how she is Larger than Life in more ways than just here size. We could all learn from all of the characters in this book, either in how to act or how not to treat someone.  At times, the writing style seems a little odd but since the narrator is a ten year old it worked out really well.  The book is short, less than 200 pages, making it an easy read.  I finished it in one day.  I hate to see the need for books like this, but it is needed now more than ever.  So many kids are bullied in one way or another and being over weight is probably one of the hardest to deal with.  Mackall did an excellent job setting up this story in a way that will make an impact with readers while also not being too lengthy and losing younger readers.  Overall this was an excellent read that I will be high recommend.

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

Storm

stormAuthor: Bonnie S. Calhoun

Series: Stone Braid Chronicles #3

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: November 1, 2016

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

With Glade gone and everyone out to get her, Selah is going to have her biggest challenge yet. All she has to do is stay alive long enough to complete her mission. 

Selah has worked tirelessly to reunite her family, but in the blink of an eye it is all about to be gone. Out of the mountain they are surrounded in a world full of volcanic ash hiding the dangers beneath.  With each day that passes, she finds herself growing weaker.  Her abilities are diminishing as are the number of people trying to get her growing.  Being a novarium is a heavy burden, not only in her abilities but also in the knowledge that many have given their lives to save her.  Together they all work to continue the search in finding the Third Protocol to complete their mission.  Their only clues consist of ancient artifacts and relying on Keepers to give her the clues to continue.  With each step, Selah and her team wonder if they have made a mistake in who they placed their trust and if they can actually accomplish what they set out to do before it is too late.

As the Stone Braide Chronicles comes to an end, I feel satisfied yet still wanting more. There could easily be another novel to continue this story but with it ending here it can still be thought of as complete.  I thought this entire series was well written and entertaining.   For several moments of the story I was kept on the edge of my seat waiting to see what the outcome would be for Selah and her crew.  When reading, I love to be on the edge of my seat and feel as if I am right there with the characters.  That happened throughout much of this novel.  Bonnie Calhoun has taken us, not necessarily to a new world, but to a new time in the world we know.  The landscape is familiar with cities and landmarks that most will be familiar with but not what has happened in that land over time.  Being able to provide those landmarks help me set myself in the place the story was working its way through.  The timing is another story.  I know it’s in the future but am still unsure how far into the future we are, even after this third in the series.

While I did have those positives, I have to be honest that there are a few negative aspects for me. The question of what the Sorrows are still bugs me.  I don’t feel that that along with some of the technology they used and what Landers and Novarium are were fleshed out as much as I would have preferred.  With that being said, I feel another story coming on, either a sequel or a novella from a few of the other characters point of view would be welcomed.

There is still some violence here but nothing gets too bloody that it would need to be kept away from squeamish readers. Overall I enjoyed this series very much and am sad to see it come to an end.

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

The Initiation

lock-and-keyAuthor: Ridley Pearson

Series: Lock and Key #1

Publisher: Harper Collins

Release Date: September 20, 2016

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Sherlock Holmes as you’ve never seen him before! A great introduction to the detective for a younger generation.

Sherlock Holmes is a well-known detective, but not as much is known about his youth. Here is a tale of how he begin his rivalry with his most famous enemy, James Moriarty, which is told from the viewpoint of James’s little sister, Moria.  James grows up to be a ruthless villain, but what happened to lead him down that path?  James is put into a boarding school where he winds up the roommate of a British know-it-all named Sherlock Holmes.  Moria attends the school as well and becomes closer to Sherlock, Lock as she calls him, than her brother.  Shortly after school starts, a treasured Bible that is supposedly the family bible of the Moriarty family goes missing causing James and Moria to be caught up in a school wide scandal.  The school imposes mandatory study hall and lockdown until the bible is found.  James has never known of his family to have such a bible here, but all of a sudden clues start turning up leading him on a search for what he thinks must be the bible.  Sherlock helps his roommate and finds that things are not at all what they first appear, leading them to the discovery of a secret society within the walls of the school. With danger around every corner and mysterious dealings afoot, nothing will be the same.

Ridley Pearson has developed a knack for developing stories for that are like none out there. He reimagined the Disney villains and heroes for young adults to read and enjoy, and now has taken on a new direction for us to see Sherlock Holmes that is entertaining, fun, and so enjoyable.  I have heard of Sherlock Holmes but the characters of James and Moira were new to me.  I loved the way Pearson told the story through Moira’s perspective.  It was different and gave a neat view of the story.  At first glance you are think the story took place long ago, that’s what comes to mind for me when I think of Sherlock Holmes.  Interestingly enough, it takes place in the present.  The kids are attending Baskerville academy, a school that doesn’t allow cell phones, making all clues and information a little more difficult for kids and all involved in to attain. At first you might think that Sherlock and even James are the brightest of the bunch, but don’t count Moria out too quickly.  She learns quickly from those around her and with Sherlock to teach her proper sleuthing techniques, she is sure to not be left out of all that is happening around her.  Pearson has become one of my favorite YA authors.  You can count on his stories to be entertaining with much to learn along the way.  With this being the start of a new series, I can’t wait to see what is to come.

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