Pudge and Prejudice

Author: A. K. Pittman

Publisher: Tyndale

Release Date: January 12, 2021

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Set in fictitious Northfield, Texas during 1984, this story takes readers on a journey similar to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice!

Elyse Nebbitt and her family have just moved to Northfield, Texas and she is faced with finding her place in a new school. Elyse has always had trouble fitting in, being overweight hasn’t helped either. Her beautiful older sister Jayne quickly fits in and starts dating Charlie Bingley, one of the stars of the football team.  While Elyse can’t help but being attracted to Charlie’s best friend, Billy Fitz, Elyse is too insecure in her own body to believe anything could develop in that relationship.  Her new friend, Lottie, helps Elyse to accept herself for who she is and what she can become.

Pudge and Prejudice was just a fun read. I enjoyed the way the characters were laid out with different personalities. There is someone in this book for everyone to relate to in one way or the other. Pudge is bigger, a little insecure at times, but overall a fun character to read about. The rest of her family and friends she meets in her new town make for a well-rounded cast of characters that will leave readers smiling and nodding their heads at the different antics they get into. Her sisters are very different than her in size and attitude at times and the romance aspects of the book progress at a rate that is very relatable for teen angst and drama, although I will say that the end relationships did make me wonder if it was something that would really happen or just playing out well for the sake of the story.

Charlie and Billy are brought into the story to meet the girls by helping the family move in and one thing leads to another as our story progresses. The pace of the story was perfect for teens and anyone wanting a quick read that doesn’t require a lot of deep thought. Overall, this was a fun enjoyable read that I recommend to young readers, probably more suited for girls than boys, but the sports aspect of the story would appeal to male readers.

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

Check out our Q & A with the author!

2020 Top YA Fiction

Merry Christmas all! And what a better present than to share some more top of the year recommendations! Today we are sharing our top picks for young adult fiction!

Twin Daggers by MarcyKate Connolly

With one of the best opening lines of a book this year, Twin Daggers had our emotions wreaking havoc through the whole book. Top notch suspense and fantastic character development made this an easy choice for top pick.

Read the full review.

Fractured Tide by Leslie Lutz

This was unlike any book we’ve read in a long time! Lutz crafted a fun, chilling, yet engaging tale that let us glued to the edge of our seats!

Read the full review.

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins

Although this book wasn’t for everybody, we thoroughly enjoyed getting to see President Snow’s back story. For someone we hated through the entire Hunger Games series, we actually felt sorry for the guy in his early life!

Read the full review.

Ignite the Sun by Hanna C. Howard

If you enjoy magic, romance, and adventure in your YA reads, this fantasy tale is for you. Howard wrote one of the perfect protagonists for this story that held our attention the whole way through.

Read the full review.

Chasing Helicity: Through the Storm by Ginger Zee

With her knowledge of science and weather, Ginger Zee has crafted yet another wonderful tale that will delight young and old readers alike. Helicity Dunlap and her adventurous spirit made us quickly fall back in love with her story!

Read the full review.

Midnight Sun

Author: Stephenie Meyer

Publisher: Little Brown Books

Release Date: August 4, 2020

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Twilight from Edward’s point of view, not much else needs to be said about this one. Fans of the series will not want to miss out on the phenomenon.

When Edward Cullen meets Bella Swan, his life is changed forever. Edward is seventeen, and he’s been seventeen for almost a hundred years after he was bitten and became a vampire. He and the rest of his family have chosen a ‘vegan’ life, meaning they only hunt animals and not humans. The scent of Bella is almost too much for him, her scent is like his own personal brand of heroin. Readers follow Edward as he meets, falls in love with and almost loses Bella when another vampire starts to hunt her. The story is familiar to anyone who has already read the series but being told from this perspective is new, intriguing and highly entertaining.

I, like so many others, have waited a very long time to get this book in my hands. I remember when I first heard about Stephanie Meyer writing this, it seemed almost too good to be true, another side to this story. Oh, how I longed to read it, but we all had to wait a very long time. 2020 has been the year none of us thought it would be and has caused a lot of heartache. One bright spot though has been being able to escape in the pages of books such as this. Not only do we get Edward’s point of view in this story, we also learn so much more about the rest of the Cullen’s through his head as he hears their thoughts and they interact. Reading Midnight Sun was just what I wanted it to be, an escape from reality into the pages of a familiar story. These stories are not the overall best ever written but I did see an improvement in this one as compared to her writing of almost 15 years ago and you can’t argue with the millions of teens and young women who have fallen in love with the series. There is something about the story that draws you in and keeps you glued to the edge of your seat until the very last page. Midnight Sun adds a different dimension to the characters and parts of the story we haven’t seen before. Instead of just seeing Edward as a brooding vampire that is aching for something he shouldn’t have, we get to see and hear what he is going through. In the first books of the series, I saw myself as more of Team Jacob; after reading this though I have to say I am leaning more towards Team Edward now. I loved escaping into the story for a few days and reliving all that I enjoyed about the original. I would recommend this to anyone who loved the original series and wants to get more out of it by hearing another point of view.

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

Author: Suzanne Collins

Publisher: Scholastic Press

Release Date: May 19, 2020

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Fans of The Hunger Games will not want to miss this prequel that will have readers view President Snow in a new way you never thought possible!

The Hunger Games is about to have its tenth game and eighteen-year-old Coriolanus Snow is getting ready to be one of the first mentors the games have ever had. His family has fallen on hard times and it is up to him to repair the powerful Snow name and prove they will come out on top. The odds are not in his favor as he is given the assignment of mentoring the female tribute from District 12, the lowest assignment he could have gotten. If he is able to help her succeed and win the games, he will no longer be looked down upon and be able to resume the high status his family has always held. If she fails so does he. It doesn’t take long though for him to develop feelings for her making his job that much harder.

Fans of The Hunger Games will not want to miss this newest addition. I picked it up knowing there was no way I would ever feel any empathy for President Snow, the villain of the first three books. Within the first few chapters, I forgot to look at him in that way and was wrapped up in this story and how a young Snow developed into the foul, loathsome dictator we know from the series. Suzanne Collins did an outstanding job turning this character around for us and making him be seen in a whole new light. So many little references to the trilogy are tied in here and each time I came to a page with these I would find myself smiling. We find out the origin of the song Katniss sings to Rue and the song she sings in MockingJay. These instances were some of my favorites. If you pay close attention to names throughout, you will be able to connect them to descendants later on in the story. So much is tied while it is its own story. If you’ve read The Hunger Games, you are probably like me in thinking there is no way you could every feel anything other than hatred for the character of Snow. Don’t be surprised when you walk away shaking your head at how wrong you were. The book read quickly and was thoroughly enjoyable. I recommend this one to all readers that have read The Hunger Games and want a look into the origin of Snow and so much more.

Fractured Tide

Author: Leslie Lutz

Publisher: Blink YA Fiction

Release Date: May 5, 2020

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Not at all what I expected, but in the best of ways! Leslie Lutz has crafted a fun, chilling and engaging tale that will leave readers glued to the edge of their seats.

After her father is sent to prison, Sia ends up helping her mother run their scuba diving tours business. Still a teenager, she has taken on more responsibility than most her age. Together they go out and explore the reef and find secrets in sunken crafts. On their latest dive things don’t go as planned, a mysterious creature emerges from the deep, their boat sinks and Sia washes up on the shore of a deserted island with even more mystery. When she finds the other survivors from the boat, it is the first good sign since they started out that morning. The island isn’t what it seems and Sia’s best hope for finding answers are at the center of the island where the most danger is also. With their last hope fading and Sia looking to save herself and the others, they make their way through the jungle to hopefully find a way off the island and back to their families.

This was unlike any book I have read in a long time. The science fiction element to it was interesting and kept the story flowing quickly and fluidly. Writing this from Sia’s diary was interesting and unique. For a little while I wasn’t sure what to think of all that Sia was being put through. Even at the end, I had to scratch my head at the way it all played out. Without giving anything away, I will say I am still satisfied with the ending even with the questions I have. That’s a rare combination, to be satisfied and still have questions, not something that happens often and only a very talented author can do that with their writing and please the reader. Sia’s relationship with each of the other characters is what made the story work. She is a great protagonist and the story wouldn’t be the same with anyone else in that role, but I really liked the interactions with Sia and Sarah, their relationship was real and genuine. There weren’t any fake niceties between the two of them and every aspect of why they acted the way they did towards each other made perfect sense with the story. I love when a story unfolds as it should and nothing feels forced.  I would recommend this book to readers that enjoy a well-crafted science fiction thriller that will give you goose bumps and knowing the next book you pick up won’t be near as good.  

The Hive Queen

Author: Robin Kirk

Series: Bond Trilogy #2

Publisher: Blue Crow Books

Release Date: August 29, 2020

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A dark apocalyptic thriller that will leave readers transported to a completely different world and a story like none they’ve ever read before.

The Weave has been destroyed as Fir and his brothers escape to the east to find a land of freedom. Fir searches for the Master of men, a fabled warrior who promises freedom to men from the Weave. On their way, they find more trouble than they thought possible. The Hive Queen, Odide, brings Fir and his brothers into her hive and quickly bespells him to betray his brothers and risk all their lives in the process and almost forget the love he had for Dinitra. Now he is faced with a choice, loyalty to his brothers, allegiance to the Hive Queen, or follow his heart and love for Dinitra. Between the Hive and the Master, Fir is faced with the hardest decisions he has ever had to make, and nothing has prepared him for what is yet to come.

For me, The Bond lacked world building and character connections. Just when I felt I was connecting to the characters by the end of the book, my main protagonist is changed in The Hive Queen and I have to start from the beginning to make the character connection and feeling myself firmly in this world. It isn’t something that was ever achieved for me. I lacked a real connection with Fir, I expected to pick up this book and continue with Dinitra, 12, and their story; instead, they aren’t even mentioned until the last third or so of the book. I was really hoping to connect and enjoy this story more, but unfortunately that wasn’t the case. While I think Science Fiction lovers will enjoy this story much more than I did, it isn’t a story for everyone. I know the first one was compared to The Hunger Games, and I can see that in a way, but not as deep as the connection could have been. I did enjoy the devious game the Hive Queen herself was playing throughout and the way Fir is able to reconnect with Dinitra, those were the redemptive qualities for me. Not enough to make me want to read again but I was able to finish the story.

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

The Bond

Author: Robin Kirk

Series: Bond Trilogy #1

Publisher: Goldenjay Books

Release Date: November 30, 2019

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A dark, apocalyptic thriller that will leave readers with questions but wanting more after the last page is turned.

In a world where males are obsolete and women are all that are known, females have been equipped with enhanced gifts engineered by a group called Sowers and the Weave. Dinitra waits to find out her purpose with the other girls when they turn sixteen. It doesn’t happen often, but sometimes the Sowers make mistakes. The Weave is under scrutiny and a group of resistance and rebels are planning to attack with their own breed of humans they created, including males. Dinitra gets her assignment and is sent far away to a group she never thought she would be with and finds out secrets of the Weave and herself that could change everything.

The Bond definitely did not start or end the way I expected. The start was slow and then didn’t seem to mesh with the middle or end very well. I had a hard time with this one, the world building wasn’t really there for me. This is set in an apocalyptic future and no matter how hard I tried, I could not envision what was happening. I needed about a hundred more pages of well-enhanced detail for who these people were, what has happened in history to lead to this point, and where the story is heading. Even though this is labeled a YA, I have a hard time recommending it for that age group because of some of the themes throughout. If I had a hard time following, I’m guessing young readers will as well. By the end, the story did pull me in a little more and I enjoyed the bond between Dinitra and 12, even if the set up to that point was little off. Dinitra did grow a tremendous amount as a protagonist from start to finish; at the beginning I saw her as weak, unskilled and pretty hopeless for what the set up was going for, but by the end she is one of the strongest around and able to better carry the story. I’m still a little unsure of where it is all headed but will follow up with the next in the series to see if I can better connect with the characters and the story. I do think this story will be enjoyable for lovers of Dystopian and Science Fiction.  If that is not one of your favorite genres, this one isn’t for you.

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

A Curse of Gold

Author: Annie Sullivan

Series: A Touch of Gold #2

Publisher: Blink YA Books

Release Date: September 22, 2020

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

When everything you touch turns to gold and your father has been cursed by a god, life can be hard. Princess Kora is back in the follow up to Annie Sullivan’s A Touch of Gold with more adventure, romance, action and adrenaline raced chapters to keep readers in suspense until the very end.

Kora thought that surviving the pirates who stole her treasure and returning it to the palace was going to be her biggest adventure, that is until she returns to the palace and finds life is not as simple as when she left. Her own people are afraid of her magical powers and threaten to overthrow her. Now Dionysus, the god who cursed her father, has put a death sentence out on Kora in order to take over her kingdom. There is no way she is going to willingly give up her kingdom, leading her to set out in search of Dionysus on the disappearing island of Jipper. Along the way she encounters challenges set to keep her from achieving her goal and saving not only her father but their kingdom as well. Going up against the greatest trickster ever is not something she wants to do, but with no other choice, Kora sets out to prove she is worth more than the gold her touch can produce.

A super-fast start, little bit of a dip in the middle, and super strong finish with lots of action, tension and a few nail-biting moments best sums up A Curse of Gold. It was a great follow up to A Touch of Gold, but I think my biggest problem was it had been a long time since reading the first so I didn’t remember a few key points and wasn’t able to connect with the characters as fast as if I had just finished the first. I do think that readers will find Kora the perfect strong female protagonist. She was by far my favorite character, although I will admit I did like Triton much more than anticipated. While Kora will be a character that readers will connect and empathize with Triton will surprise readers with his character arc and how he is written. It can be tricky to write about Greek gods and mythology; readers that are big into the Greek myths might have a problem with the way some of the characters are portrayed but if you let the imagination run free with the story, I think you will find it most enjoyable. Scenes with dialogue moved quickly, but when it switched to more narration, the story stalled for me at times and I found myself yearning to find more action and move the story along quicker, which occurred through the middle of the book than any other points. I recommend this to YA readers, especially if they are into mythology and even older readers that enjoy these types of stories.

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

Devastation Class

Authors: Glen Zipper & Elaine Mongeon

Publisher: Blink YA Books

Release Date: September 8, 2020

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A story packed with self-discovery, action, tension, and great characters!  Young readers will enjoy flying through this action-packed story!

Set in the distant future, Earth’s Alliance forces have gone through a nine-year war with the vicious alien Kastazi race. The battle was hard fought and even though Earth won, things are not the same. The Alliance Devastation Class starship California heads out on a scientific exploration mission with a small crew of both officers and civilian students along with a small group of military cadets to see what is left in the universe. The cadets use this mission to prove their worth, especially JD Marshall and Viv Nixon, who both have high ranking parents in the alliance and know they are being watched closely. Their mission does not go as planned as they are ambushed with a second wave of Kastazi forcing JD and Viv to lead a mutiny and take over their ship when those in charge freeze at the most critical moments. They use all their skill and knowledge but quickly run out of options and activate the ship’s blink Reactor, a new technology that is supposed to send them a safe distance away. However, it takes them to a future even more dangerous than what they left.

While there was a quite a bit I didn’t totally understand in this book, there was also a lot I really did enjoy. The characters are engaging and fun to follow on their journey, the story is fun, exciting and a new adventure than most of what I have read before. The story does go back and forth between several different viewpoints, but it is done in a way that is easy to follow, broken up by chapters with the character’s name at the top of the chapter for whose view point readers are about to follow. Just when you think the story is wrapping up, another surprise shows up and ramps up the action. One thing is for sure, there was never a lack of tension that propelled the story forward. I loved the dynamic between JD and Viv, so much there that I can’t wait to see explored further. This is the first in a new series and I foresee it being a trilogy, this first part was wrapped up nicely while also leaving it on a pretty good cliffhanger for the reader to be itching for more. I will be grabbing the second as soon as it comes out to see what happens with these characters. I recommend this to readers that enjoy science fiction and characters that are fun and easy to follow.

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

Twin Daggers

Author: MarcyKate Connolly

Publisher: Blink YA Books

Release Date: August 25, 2020

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

One of the best YA books I have read in a long time! The suspense was top notch, my emotions were all over the place with the characters, and I continually held my breath to see how things would turn out. Some books deserve more than five stars, and this is one of them!

Aissa and her twin sister Zandria have spent their lives living a lie. They pretend to be normal Technocrats going to school and getting ready to learn the roles they will have in their new apprenticeships. However, at night they plot how they will take down the Technocrats and help resurrect their people, the Magi from hiding.  Aissa is given a new mission; she is to find and kidnap the heir to the Technocrat throne.  Rumor has it the heir is one of the Heartless, a person born with no heart and survives only by using mechanical replacements. When Zandria is captured by the Technocrats and taken away, Aissa has to work everything in her power to help get her sister back, including asking from help from a young Technocrat researcher she has become close to and may be the secret to finding a cure for the Heartless.

“Aissa’s life is a web of carefully constructed lies.”  One of the best opening sentences I’ve read this year. MarcyKate Connolly has crafted a fun, entertaining, heart-pounding, suspenseful read that I feel certain will be read again and again. This was my first book to read by Connolly and it is safe to say I was not disappointed. I absolutely love a great YA book; I am a big fan of The Hunger Games and the like and would easily say this book rates up with those for me. From the very beginning, readers will be pulled in with intrigue and wondering what these characters are going to have to face. It didn’t take very long at all for me to find a connection with Aissa and stick with her through the journey. The fact that she is a twin made the emotions run that much higher when her sister is captured, and she is trying to save her by herself. I’m a twin and I’ll tell you, that emotional connection is huge. Throughout the whole book every different relationship Aissa found herself in, whether with her parents, her sister, Aro, Remy, readers see a connection and each one feels absolutely real and nothing is forced. This is written as the first in a series and I am itching to get my hands on the next. That is the hard thing about finding a new author and book you love so much; you have to wait for the next to come out and it can sometimes be agonizing. I would recommend this to readers that love young adult dystopian novels with characters they can embrace and route for and a story that will pull them in from the first page and not let go. I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.