The Defiant

The DefiantAuthor: Lesley Livingston

Series: Valiant #2

Publisher: Razorbill

Release Date: January 23, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Girl power like none other! This book has everything you look for in an action packed female powerhouse of a story.

Fallon thought things would be different, better after becoming the Victorix and being the top female gladiator out there. And she was right, but not in the way she expected. She might have won Caesar’s love and admiration, but she also won the hate of his enemies and all those wanting to take her place.  Soon after winning, Fallon and her sister gladiators find themselves at war with another rival gladiator academy that want to take their place and put Fallon out of the competition for good.  Along with her life and those she cares for, Fallon faces the prospect of losing the man she is falling in love with, Roman Soldier Cai.  When the battle heats up and tensions rise, Fallon has to decide whom she can trust and those she finds trustworthy might be surprising.  With her sister in danger and a tribe of amazon warriors thrown in the mix, the battle is just beginning and the stakes are higher than ever.

This is one of those books that I have been anxiously waiting for since the last page of the first book, (and that was before I even knew there would be a second in the series). I loved everything about this book: the strong female leads, the action, the romance, the history, everything!  Fallon is just the right mix of a strong spirit and caring individual that you want to know her, be her friend, and see yourself as that character.  I loved the mix of action with seeing the girls having to find different ways of getting along in order to deal with the situations they are thrust into.  I love action books with strong female characters. However, that can also be a fine line to draw between the character being strong and not over the top. Fallon is definitely a leader and strong but I loved that she is shown with a few weaknesses making her relatable.  I also loved the way we got to see her and Sorcha interact a little more.  So many characters that even though they might have only had small parts made the story, it wouldn’t have developed into what it was without them.  Little bits of humor were sprinkled throughout keeping the story light and flowing at all time.

Livingston did an outstanding job with this sequel making it continue the story and add to it so beautifully the reader will be yearning for more. I’m not sure if there will be any more in the series. I can only hope there is because I would love to see more adventures from these characters.  I highly recommend this book to readers who love historical fiction with action packed scenes and characters they can route for till the bitter end.

Losing Brave

Losing BraveAuthor: Bailee Madison & Stefne Miller

Publisher: Blink YA

Release Date: January 30, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Such an intense, exciting, & suspenseful read that will leave readers with the feeling that no matter how good the next book they read is, it will have no chance of being as good.

Almost a year has passed since Payton Brave’s twin sister went missing and there are still no clues as to what happened. Payton fears she is losing her memories of Dylan and will do anything she can to hold on to that piece of her.  Even though she was with her sister when she disappeared, she has no memory of what happened.  Payton was always the popular one while Dylan didn’t care for things like that, now Payton is taking on Dylan’s characteristics and setting herself as an outsider in the only way she knows to keep her sister alive for herself.  She grows closer to her sister’s boyfriend, Cole and starts wondering how she will survive with the feelings building inside of her. As more girls similar in appearance to Dylan go missing, the case takes on a new life and Payton starts her own investigation to find out what happened to her sister and if she is in danger also.

As I was reading Losing Brave, I had two thoughts as to how the story might go.  And even though I figured out the chain of events before they unfolded, it didn’t bother me, which is a very unusual thing to happen. It didn’t make the story predictable, it just made the characters act as they should have and I was following along in sync with the characters.  I want to confess something, when I first saw this book and read about it I thought it looked interesting but almost didn’t read it. I thought Bailee Madison was just another actress trying to use her fame and name to get a book out there without knowing anything about writing or telling a story in this way.  Good grief am I happy I didn’t stay with that train of thought; this book was so good I feel certain it will make my best of the year list and it is only the beginning of January.  This story was especially good for me because I am an identical twin just like Payton and Dylan.  I remember doing some of the things they did that only twins can get away with and can see what happened in the story actually happening, and it is scary.  The back and forth between what was happening in the present and what happened when Dylan disappeared was played out well, just enough of the past to give the present timeline the credit it needed for everything to make sense. I recommend this book to teens, young adults, and adults alike that love a story full of twists, turns and characters that will dive deep within and tug at your heartstrings.

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

Top 5 YA Fiction

It’s that time of year again when we showcase our top picks for the year.  To kick off 2017’s list is Young Adult fiction.  With such great books out this year, it was almost impossible to narrow down, but here are six that we felt were the best!

the-valiant1. The Valiant by Lesley Livingston

One of the most powerful and exciting stories that we read all year, this book is a must read for YA lovers.  The history combined with the suspense made for a great opportunity to reach young readers.  This is the type of book that makes you dread you next book because it was just so good.

Read the full review here.

 

 

 

 

In 27 Days2. In 27 Days by Alison Gervais

One of the most emotional reads of the year that deals with today’s bullying issues head on.  This story was so original that we couldn’t put it down.

Read the full review here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ferorcious

3. Ferocious by Paula Stokes

Nothing like a good vengeance story to keep the pages turning.  Tor Teen has found a winner with this series and a new fan as well.

Read the full review here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It Started With Goodbye

4. It Started with Goodbye by Christina June

A compelling read that really helps us to focus on finding the positive in all of our outcomes.  This book had the best character development of any that we read all year.

Read the full review here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Secret Sky

5. Toward a Secret Sky by Heather Maclean

A deliciously intriguing story that can’t help but be devoured. An adventure that needs to be read again and again just to let it all sink in.  There better be another book to follow because we want more.

Read the full review here.

 

 

 

 

 

unfolding

6. Unfolding by Jonathan Friesen

A unique story that twists and turns faster than the EF5 tornado that has hit the town more than once. With characters that are easily relatable, even if they are considered weird and different by many, the story is easy to follow and hard to put down.

Read the full review here.

The Delusion

The DelusionAuthor: Laura Gallier

Publisher: Tyndale House

Release Date: October 3, 2017

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

When a small town becomes the center of a supernatural battle between good and evil, one young man must face the worst to find the best in everyone.

Owen Edmonds has moved to Masonville, Texas in the middle of his senior year where almost a dozen students have committed suicide. The school and town are becoming the center of a media frenzy and the battle for souls is just getting started.  In the woods one night, Owen has his own near-death experience which causes him to see the people around him differently. Almost everyone is wearing shackles and being followed by what Owen calls Creepers. It takes a while for Owen to reach the conclusion that he is not imagining what he sees but that everyone else is blind to it. Knowing everyone he knows and cares about is in danger, Owen must do everything in his power to warn them and stop the evil beings from taking their souls.

When I started reading this book I was having a hard time with insomnia. Reading this while going through insomnia or something similar is not something I would recommend. A book about someone with delusions while experiencing my own because of lack of sleep made for a difficult start to the book. I found myself not wanting to continue because so much of it hit a cord with me. That’s not a bad thing, everything was portrayed so well it made it hard to want to read and be able to relate with what I was going through. It is difficult for me to believe this is the author’s debut novel. The story flowed smoothly with the characters making a connection that pulled me deep into the book. I didn’t realize when starting that this was going to be the beginning of a series and after reading the last page I am thirsting for more. The good vs. evil is something we all deal with, maybe not in the ways described in the book, but we all have our demons we have to face, even if we don’t want to admit it. This is a book that I think many will enjoy, especially those who enjoy the works of Ted Dekker and others that write supernatural thrillers.

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

Renegades

renegadesAuthor: Thomas Locke

Series: Recruits #2

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: November 7, 2017

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Another fantasy novel that is just out of this world!

Sean and Dillon Kirrel are twin brothers with special abilities. They can transmit their bodies between different worlds and also move their spirits without their bodies to talk to one another.  They have helped prevent an alien invasion, but now that the fun is over, they have to return to their own blend of monotony.  Sean must return to school to learn civic lessons for his future political career within the realm.  Dillon goes back to military training, but also finds this a little boring now without real action.  Top that off that both boys have recently broken up with their girlfriends and you’ve got some serious issues.  But when Dillion’s ex, Carey, contacts them after her cousin has been abducted to another realm, they realize this is just the thing they need.  That is until they both get arrested for an unsanctioned transit.  Will they be able to get themselves out of this one and save Carey’s cousin?

Back to the shape shifting worlds from the mind of Thomas Locke with some of our favorite characters introduced earlier this year. Just when you think things couldn’t get more different, Locke throws a wrench into the works and you find yourself amazed with the newness of the places you’ve already been.  Sean and Dillon are back and their typical teenage boy selves with some advances in powers.  I hated to see the relationships end, but what can you do?  And doesn’t Professor Kaviti just rub you the wrong way throughout the book?

I highly recommend reading the first book Recruits before jumping into this one so that you can get the full back story.  But for a fun sci-fi series, give this one a try.

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.