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.

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.