The Rule of One

"Steely-vented hummingbird (Amazilia saucerrottei), perched on verbena plant, Costa Rica, July"Authors: Ashley Saunders, Leslie Saunders

Publisher: Skyscape

Release Date: October 1, 2018

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

When telling the truth becomes more dangerous than telling a lie, a young girl’s life is turned upside down when her secret is exposed and she has to find the strength to fight for the truth.

In the future, the United States is not what it once was. A strict one child only policy has been enforced making everyone subject to the Rule of One.  Ava Goodwin is the daughter of the head of the Texas Family Planning Division, one of the highest positions in the country, and is therefore always under scrutiny.  This makes her secret even harder to keep, she has an identical twin sister, Mira.  The two have been living as one for the past eighteen years.  They have to keep every detail of their lives in order as they trade places day after day.  All is going fine until one day they are exposed and told to run by their father as he is taken into custody.  They are all labeled as traitors and the girls fugitives.  As they rush to find safety in a world out to get them, they find unlikely allies and an underground group favoring for the old America.

I thought the premise of this book sounded very interesting for several different reasons. First of all, I am a twin and wanted to see how the story would play out in that aspect.  Secondly, dystopian novels are all the rage right now and this one did a great job of world building in the future but keeping things relatable and easy to follow.  I enjoyed the back and forth between Ava and Mira, especially the way they came into their own as the book progressed.  Being a twin, I am aware more than most of the fact that it is easy to label twins as one person but each is their own individual and needs to be treated that way.  When times were tough, Ava and Mira were actually able to express themselves as individuals and we got to see them grow as characters.  A few of the minor characters could have been developed further and seemed too short and then abruptly ended.  The ending was just enough for this book, but left open for a follow up which I intend to read.  My one big critique would have to be the language, I know harsher language is becoming more common but I have a problem when it is in young adult novels.  The words were not strung out on every page but the few that were in the book were harsher than I would like to see in these novels for young readers.  Overall I would recommend this to a more mature audience and those that enjoy a good dystopian read.

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

Meet the Sky

Meet the SkyAuthor: McCall Hoyle

Publisher: Blink YA Books

Release Date: September 4, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A love story with so much heart it is nearly impossible for readers not to fall in love with the characters and cheer for them in the challenges they face.

After the accident that changed her life, Sophie has trouble trusting anyone or anything. When her sister, Meredith, is left a shell of her former self and her father walks out on them, Sophie feels the weight of world on her shoulders.  She spends most of her time trying to keep the family business running and working on getting into veterinary school.  When a hurricane threatens them and causes an evacuation, Sophie sees that some things are out of her control.  When her truck blows a tire trying to evacuate, she gets separated from her family and ends up with the last person she wants to be stuck on the island with, Finn Sanders.  She and Finn have a past and she would rather not spend time with him after he broke her heart.  Together they have to find safety from the storm and work past their differences to try and learn from each other how to live life to the fullest.

This is the kind of book that is perfect for young readers. It is just the right length with all the pertinent information and no fluff.  The story develops at just the right speed and doesn’t ever drag.  I especially liked the way Hoyle showed us the love for animals and how they can be affected in a natural disaster too.  The tension is brought to an intense level with the storm, not the threat of another person, and this makes it an even better story.  I enjoyed how we saw Sophie struggling at the beginning with family and the pain of her sister’s condition and then it transitioned on her having to get reconnected to her family in the midst of the horrible storm.  Each chapter showed a clear progression in not only the story but the characters and their growth, something that might seem difficult in such a short novel but was perfectly accomplished here.   I highly recommend this to young readers looking for a book that is full of fast paced action, drama and danger at every turn.

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.

A Touch of Gold

A touch of goldAuthor: Annie Sullivan

Publisher: Blink YA Books

Release Date: August 14, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Filled with fun, adventure and a tale that kept me deeply intrigued by the richness of the story!

We all know the story of King Midas and his golden touch, but there is more to the story than many have heard. After his golden touch almost killed his daughter, Kora, King Midas had the golden touch taken back from him.  Princess Kora still shows the effects of her father’s curse, her skin has a golden shine and she is rumored to have secret powers of her own.  Afraid to be out in public, she stays hidden away in the castle and keeps her skin covered from everyone.  One day, a young duke arrives and helps Kora see that there might be some in the world who won’t run in fear from her. Things turn frantic when a thief steals her father’s gold and Kora is the only person able to track him.  She can sense the gold and sails off on an adventure unlike any she has ever had to keep the kingdom from falling apart and her father from fading away.

This is the first book I have read by Annie Sullivan as well as the first about King Midas. I was very intrigued by the premise of this story and it did not disappoint.  Each chapter brought new characters and adventures that propelled the story ever forward.  Kora was stronger than she realized, it just took being in a different location with different people for her to test her limits and see what she was capable of.  I loved the way the characters naturally flowed together, regardless of if they were for or against Kora and her mission. Even the secondary characters made an impact and I felt connected to each and every one of them.  There is a good bit of romance throughout but that just adds to the tension when things are not going the way the characters would like.  This story is one I can truly say is driven forward with tension, what each character desires most is put in danger, and what that may be is different for each character making the story tight and true to its purpose.  Overall this was a very enjoyable read and I recommend it to readers who enjoy adventure, suspense, a little romance, and a fun look at a fantastical tale.

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.