Ali Cross

ali crossAuthor: James Patterson

Publisher: Jimmy Patterson Publishing

Release Date: November 25, 2019

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A fun way for fans of the Alex Cross series to introduce their kids to the detective and his family, including his son Ali, who wants to be just like his dad and solve mysteries.

Ali cross has a lot to live up to as the son of famed detective and FBI agent Alex Cross. Ali has watched as his father worked to solve some of the most difficult crimes that left everyone else stumped. When Ali’s best friend, Gabe, goes missing, he decides to see if he has what it takes to be in the family business and find out what happened to his best friend. At the same time Gabe goes missing, a string of burglaries in the neighborhood start up including Ali’s house. Everyone warns Ali not to get involved but he can’t keep from following his instincts to find out how the events are connected and what it means for his friend. He is on his own investigating while his father is dealing with his own problems at work. Ali must decide if his detective work is worth it or if following his instincts will put his family in more danger.

If you have ever read have ever read any James Patterson book, you know the way his stories usually play out. Each contains scenes of action and adventure but yet the story is somewhat predictable. Taking his writing style and putting it towards a children’s mystery has worked out well in this case. For most of my experiences with James Patterson books, I have felt he writes down to readers, it doesn’t take a lot of thought to identify the villain is or what is happening. For that reason, I haven’t read much of his writing in a long time but thought this was worth giving a try. I bought this book for my son to read since I have read and enjoyed some of the earlier Alex Cross books. Like most books for young adult books he chooses, I read this one before him and enjoyed it.

Ali is the perfect spin off for Alex Cross to get kids interested in a fun, interesting new series. Readers will notice that Ali doesn’t act or talk like a normal kid, but then again, he doesn’t have normal parents which can be attributed to his being more mature in his actions and the way he speaks to others. He does still fly off the handle as a kid would sometimes do and his interest in video games keeps him grounded as a kid. To me this is written just the way it should be for its intended audience. Young readers will have no trouble flying through the story and have fun figuring out the mystery within. I recommend this book to young readers that are ready for something a little harder than the shorter chapter books but not something that will be too difficult and intimidating for them to finish and enjoy.

Chasing Helicity: Through the Storm

Through the storm

Author: Ginger Zee

Series: Chasing Helicity #3

Publisher: Disney Hyperion

Release Date: April 21, 2020

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Ginger Zee hits it out of the park with the third installment in her Chasing Helicity series! Young readers will once again fall in love with Helicity Dunlap and her adventurous spirit.

After finding shelter in a Lighthouse on the Bolivar Peninsula in Texas during a hurricane, Helicity Dunlap is found alive with a dog she somehow managed to rescue during the storm. When she is released from the hospital, she and her mom, along with her friend Sam, make the drive back to Michigan while her dad stays to help her brother, Andy, get the support he needs for addiction. Once again, Helicity finds herself in the spotlight after the dog she rescued is on the news with its owner thanking Helicity for saving him. A local reporter wants to interview her about all she has been through and survived and the owner of the rescued dog wants to thank Helicity by bringing her to Albuquerque for the international Hot Air Balloon Festival. While at the festival, Helicity once again finds herself at the mercy of mother nature.

With all of her knowledge of science and weather, Ginger Zee is able to craft a wonderful story that young readers will find both entertaining and enlightening. Helicity is a fun, spunky kid that has a knack for finding herself in precarious situations. Most of the time it is her curiosity that gets her into trouble, but it is also what saves her. There is a great relationship between Helicity, her family, and friends that we see grow and mature as these books have progressed. There is something about Helicity that makes her the perfect protagonist as she is smart, creative, emotional, devoted to those she cares about, and not afraid to go out on an adventure to learn. She shows that it is cool to be into science and things most young kids might not be into.

I loved reading this series with my young son. I read the book before him just so we can discuss it after he has read it. He enjoyed all the weather information and the way the story played out. This is the perfect middle grade book that will have readers invested in the characters and what they are going through but also leaves out all the inappropriate material that is thrown into so many books today. I am thankful there are fun, entertaining and informative books out there that I can get to enjoy with my son and not worry about inappropriate material. I recommend this book to young readers that are interested in STEM and want a great read that will take them on an adventure.

Freaky in Fresno

FreakyAuthor: Laurie Boyle Crompton

Publisher: Blink YA Books

Release Date: February 11, 2020

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Teen girls will enjoy this book!

Cousins, Ricki and Lana, are as opposite as can be. Ricki is a lover of horror movies. Lana is consumed by her online persona, “Lookie Lana”, a makeup and glamour guru. Once close, the cousins grew apart as they found different interests and have developed a general dislike of each other. To help remedy this, their Aunt May gives them a pink convertible, just like the one their grandmother used to own. While fighting over who gets to take the car to their big night, the drive-in theater’s reopening for Ricki or Lana’s online personality festival, they receive an electrical jolt that causes them to switch bodies. While trying to find clues and keep things straight with their boyfriends, the two begin to redevelop their bond. Through a series of close calls in each other’s bodies, they fight to get back to normal before evening when they must go to their important events. The girls learn things about each other and themselves. Also disconnected, their mothers also are reunited by the girls’ switch.

Freaky in Fresno is yet another twist on the old “Freaky Friday” concept. Unfortunately for adults who have read the original and been through a few of the adaptations of the original story, this book comes across as incredibly cheesy and predictable. It’s hard to make a used concept new and fresh. That being said, for today’s teens, this book will be fun and enjoyable, especially for teenage girls. At time, it was a little difficult keeping up with the girls as they were not in their own body. There were some humorous moments as the girls fought for each other and in the end there was a positive message.

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

Warden of Eternity

wardensAuthor: Wardens of Eternity

Publisher: Blink YA Books

Release Date: January 21, 2020

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A slow start, but well worth sticking with until the final pages! The ending puts events in motion for a follow up I am dying to get my hands on!

For as long as she can remember, Ziva has been on her own. The only memory she has of her parents is of the day her mother abandoned her when she was three years old in New York City. It’s been fifteen years since they left her and Ziva is starting to discover she has powers she barely understands and no idea how to control them. The more she uses her powers, strange things begin to occur around her. When other worldly monsters start to attack her, others show up with powers like Ziva’s and explain the history she has missed out on growing up on her own. Sayer and Nasira have searched for Ziva and tell her that she is descended from Egyptian royalty and her magic has passed down from the time of the gods. They teach Ziva how to control her magic and give her the family she has looked for all her life. However, they are not the only ones that have been looking for Ziva and the magic she possesses. World War II is brewing around them and Ziva quickly finds herself at the center of a battle for power, uncertain who she can turn to for help and what it all could mean for her.

This book started a little slow and had a few bumps along the way but finished with twists and turns that I didn’t see coming. Ziva has to overcome struggle after struggle and she does so for the most part on her own. When she finds out there are others out there like her, she feels her spirits lifted for the first time in her life. The way she was portrayed helped me relate to her and wish for her to succeed. Not all the aspects of what happened to Ziva and how they got to the end point added up if a reader was paying close attention. Certain moments had me scratching my head trying to figure out how we got to the point we were at. The mythology and magic could have been fleshed out a little more instead of the reader having to try and figure out what the spells actually meant and how Ziva knew them. So much was left out I had trouble keeping up at times. I will say what saved this book for me was the ending. The last two chapters kept me glued to my seat unable to focus on anything else. I really hope there is more to come with this story, so many questions left unanswered and the relationships between the characters that I want to see further developed. I can’t wait to see what comes next. I recommend this book to young readers that are looking for a great story full of mythology, a little bit of history and plenty 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 Insurrection

InsurrectionAuthor: Chris Babu

Series: The Initiation #3

Publisher: Permuted Press

Release Date: February 18, 2020

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

As the series draws to a close, a new chapter begins!

Drayden, Catrice, Charlie, and Sidney are still shocked about learning the secrets of the Bureau and New America upon arriving in Boston. Now they must undertake the dangerous mission of returning to New America when they were never expected to survive. Even though they beat the Guardians to get to Boston, they are still an ever-present danger that is lurking outside the walls. They realize that they need leverage and decide that an acquaintance from their previous journey will hopefully provide the help. As the friends travel to New America, they begin to see that even though there are people outside the walls, people are connected in ways they didn’t know. One thing they do know is that they wickedness of the bureau must be stopped. A revolution is going to occur and they will have to be the catalyst to bring it forward.

I’ve enjoyed reading this series. There are a multitude of dystopian novels available now and it’s fun when a series finally piques my interest. Like many others, it is set in the United States after some apocalyptic event (in this case the aero flu known as the confluence) and depicts life after the event, usually in some type of totalitarian government arrangement disguised as democracy. What I enjoyed about this book was how a group of teenagers continued to outmaneuver a group that had controlled the masses for decades. And on top of that, they have regular teenage problems. Drayden continues to find himself in the love triangle between Catrice and Sidney, although this book finally gets that set straight. Feelings of insecurity bleed through the pages for each of the characters. And, of course, masks of some of the characters are revealed to show their true motives. Drayden must face his nemesis, both mentally and physically. In the end, I think many readers will enjoy the conclusion to the series.

This is the third and final in the series. I highly recommend that start at the beginning and not try to pick up this one first. There is also some foul language throughout that could have easily been left out or replaced with dystopian slang as is part of the case, but not fully.

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

Top Young Adult Fiction For 2019

Next up on our top of the year list is YA fiction.  This is a very challenging category where authors have to hold the attention of both teens and adults alike.  There are plenty of choices available,  but only a few can make the cut!

The triumphant

 

  1. 1. The Triumphant by Lesley Livingston

We have loved this series since the first book came out. The female gladiators are strong, resilient and determined in every challenge they face. This is the perfect series for young girls looking for strong female leads that face the odds and learn from their mistakes and adversaries to come out on top.

Read the full review here.

 

 

 

We were beautiful

 

2. We Were Beautiful by Heather Helper

A powerful read with a message that is hard hitting and can help those struggling with deep emotional issues who are having trouble moving beyond.

Read the full review here.

 

 

 

 

 

No Place like Here

 

3. No Place Like Here by Christina June

An absolutely beautifully written coming of age story that will leave readers smiling long after turning the last page.

Read the full review here.

 

 

 

 

 

Silence between us

 

4. The Silence Between Us by Alison Gervais

A perfect young adult novel that teaches acceptance in a way that may not always appear to most of us.

Read the full review here.

 

 

 

 

 

Tiger queen

 

5. Tiger Queen by Annie Sullivan

The second book by Annie Sullivan and if she keeps this up, she will quickly be at the top of the pack of Young Adult authors.

Read the full review here.

Eve 2.0

EVE 2.0Author: Winter Lawrence

Publisher: Melange Books Fire & Ice YA

Release Date: August 14, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A virtual reality game becomes more than players bargained for when they are put into a coma and wake up inside the game. Video gamers and even those that don’t play will have a hard time turning this one off until the last page, nonstop thrills and action that flies off the page makes Eve 2.0 a must read.

Gwen has spent the last few years isolating herself from those around her and immersing herself in the world of video games. She is one of the best around and her boyfriend, Pete, whom she met playing games but has never actually met in person, can’t wait to try his dad’s newest game. This game has been under lock and key, but somehow Pete sneaks a copy for both of them to try. As soon as they put on the gear they find themselves stuck in a top-secret government simulator called Eve 2.0 with no way out until they complete the objectives put before them. With each minute they are stuck in the game, the A.I. learns from them making it harder and harder for them to defeat the game. In the game with them are Gwen’s ex-boyfriend Ryan and his little brother. Not only does Gwen have to face her ex and the feelings still lurking beneath the surface but also try to get them all out of the game alive.

I was hesitant to read this book at first, I am not big into video games and wasn’t sure if it was going to interest me. I am happy to say that even though I am not into video games I thoroughly enjoyed Eve 2.0. Gwen, Ryan and Pete had a perfect dynamic with each other and the way they had to interact in the game and work together to survive made me ache for them to come out the other side. The world in which they find themselves is described so perfectly I had no trouble picturing them in each game they turned up in. With the knowledge that Pete and Gwen have from their extensive play-time with these games they are able to believably make their way through each obstacle they encounter. I loved the dynamic between Gwen, Ryan and Pete, it was so natural they way they played off of each other and the tension, as well as the humor, was all perfectly placed to keep me engaged and entertained. I am thrilled that this is the first in a series and can’t wait to see how the story unfolds next. I recommend this to readers that enjoy gaming books but that is not a necessary requirement to enjoy the story, gamers and non-gamers will enjoy this thrill ride.

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

Tiger Queen

Tiger queenAuthor: Annie Sullivan

Publisher: Blink YA Books

Release Date: September 10, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

One of the best books I have read this year. Fast paced, action packed and full of adventure, romance, and tension at all the right moments.

Kateri has grown up thinking the Desert Boys killed her baby brother and mother, the queen. As the only living heir to the throne, she is forced to fight in the arena to prove herself. Every fight she wins puts her one step closer to ruling her people, but if she loses, she will have to marry her opponent and watch as he rules over the people her mother swore her to protect. When her final opponent ends up being her trainer, she knows there is no way she can win so she flees to the desert. If she can find the leader of the Desert Boys and get him to train her, she might have a chance to win in the arena. The more time she spends in the desert th,e more her perception is changed of her life with her father and all that she thought she knew. As she makes her way back into the arena, she has two doors to choose from, one leads to her happiness and the other a tiger.

Tiger Queen is the second book by Annie Sullivan and if she keeps this up, she will quickly be at the top of the pack of Young Adult authors. I loved her first book, but her second book is so much better. Tiger Queen has everything you want in a book, not just for YA, it is fast-paced, action packed, fun, and oh so much more. Kateri was the perfect protagonist, I connected with her from the very beginning. She is strong but also smart enough to know she is in over her head and must ask for help. When she leaves the palace and seeks out the help of the desert boys, the tension really picks up and I couldn’t wait to see what was going to happen. Each relationship had its own special dynamic that played to the characters strengths and weaknesses beautifully. I don’t want to give too much away but will say that there was a lot I didn’t see coming but smiled as it played out. Readers will fall in love with Kateri but also find themselves connecting with Cion, the leader of the Desert boys. While this is written as a standalone, I would absolutely love to see more of this story. So many of the characters have more story to be played out and I am aching to read more about the Tiger Queen and the people she rules over. I recommend this book to readers both young and old that love a fast-paced action packed read that they won’t be able to put down. There is no language that wouldn’t be appropriate for a younger audience and the violence is there but written so well young readers won’t have a problem with the story.

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

The Beginner’s Guide to Wining an Election

election

Author: Michael R. French

Publisher: Moot Point Productions

Release Date: November 20, 2018

Rating: 3 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A topic that might not seem interesting shows a different side to the world of high school politics.

 Being involved in high school politics is the last thing Brit Kitridge had on her mind. She wanted to finish high school, go to college and then onto med school. She has always loved history, especially her history teacher and looks to him for guidance. After he fuels her passion for politics, she joins the team of Matthew Boltanski, the school’s shoo-in for winning the election. He has a team of fourteen that has helped him win everything he has gone out for and now he wants to be Student Body President. Before she can do much for the team, she is accused of being a spy and trying to sabotage the team. It doesn’t take long for Brit to realize she wants to be the change in her school and sets out to beat Matthew at his own game and win the election herself. Winning is going to be harder than she imagined and the secrets she uncovers go deeper than anyone in school could have predicted.

 I would like to say I enjoyed this book, but I can’t. It started out far too slow, especially for a YA novel that should take off from page one. Not only did it start slow, but for me it was very unbelievable. Set a few years in the future isn’t enough to make the scenarios feel real for me. High school students being paid by a corporation to win elections in high school?  And the amounts paid? It was just too farfetched for me to buy. The rest of the storyline itself is good, a high school election with the underdog going out to try and make a difference for the school. I liked that along with the values that Brit stood for and tried to be a moral compass, even when she made mistakes she owned up to those mistakes. The author did a good job of portraying young adolescents in a difficult time, one of the best aspects of the novel. Several points in the book had language that I am not comfortable recommending to young readers. I don’t recommend this to YA readers with the language and slow start, but older readers might enjoy the story.

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

The Silence Between Us

Silence between usAuthor: Alison Gervais

Publisher: Blink YA Books

Release Date: August 13, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

At its core, The Silence Between Us is about learning to listen with more than just our ears.  Once we learn that, the space between us can close beautifully.

After losing her hearing in her early teens due to meningitis, Maya has had learned to adapt to the deaf world. Things get complicated though when her mom moves her and her brother to Colorado and Maya’s senior year is spent being the only deaf girl at a hearing school. Even though she is deaf, Maya has hopes of getting into the right college to help her get into the medical field. It doesn’t matter to her if she is the only one that feels she can accomplish this, she is determined to prove that the only thing she can’t do is hear. After arriving at Englemann High School Maya meets Beau Watson, student body president and one of the only students who attempts to learn sign language to communicate with Maya. With each passing day, Beau and Maya’s feelings for each other grow but staring them in the face are their differences. Even though Maya knows what it is like to hear, she has no desire to get a cochlear implant.  She is proud of being deaf and doesn’t want to change. Beau doesn’t understand why Maya wouldn’t want to hear again and Maya doesn’t know if she can be with someone that doesn’t accept her for who she is and always will be.

The Silence Between Us is a perfect young adult novel that teaches acceptance in a way that may not always appear to most of us. Hearing loss is not something that is easily noticeable, especially if the person doesn’t have a hearing aid or cochlear implant that is visible. I loved the way Alison Gervais made it relatable to anyone of us that could find ourselves in the situation Maya and Beau did. The writing is easy to follow with all the signing in all caps so the reader can differentiate between signs and other communications. Maya has had some hardships in her life, she has lost her hearing, her brother has cystic fibrosis, and now they have moved to a new town and she must attend a hearing school after years being at a deaf school. Maya is uneasy to trust any of the new friends she makes at her new school.  She appreciates the effort Beau makes to communicate in her language, but she can’t see them as ever being anything more than friends with her being deaf. She takes her only limitation and sets it up to be her failure until she is presented with the option of seeing it in a new light. I loved how every obstacle was a chance to look at things in a new way. Every reader will come away from reading this with a new-found respect for the deaf community. I highly recommend this book to young adults and even adults that want to learn a little bit about a different culture and how they can hear us, but we need to see them.

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