The Golden Vial

The Golden VialAuthor: Thomas Locke

Series: Legends of the Realm #3

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: March 20, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

The battle for the realm continues brining in some new characters to freshen up the story.

Darkness has settled over the Three Valleys area, cutting off the towns from the outside world. Little by little the darkness squeezes the area in closer.  The townspeople have started to ignore the threat and accepted that it was always this way.  There is one that has not.  Dally’s entire family was killed by the dark force and she was left orphaned and taken in by the town mayor.  She hasn’t gotten along well with people, but she has always had the ability to talk with the mayor’s dogs.  When Lady Shona arrives to combat the evil forces, she request the presence of Dally and her ability.  It is also discovered the Dally has the power of a great mage, but has never been taught.  She joins Lady Shona’s band of faithful followers on her quest to save the realm, with hopes to save Hyam as well.

This series has been my favorite fantasy series in quite some time and I have been looking forward to this book for well over two years. It went in a different direction than what I expected, but it is a transition novel to the next storyline.  Locke has done a really good job of weaving everything in the world together, which can be daunting when you have to create the world to begin with.  The descriptive nature of the scenery has continued so that it is easy to jump back into the realm at a moment’s notice.  The cast of characters continue to be a fun bunch to be around much of the time.  As the main character, Dally struggles with confidence much like Hyam did in the first book.  Given their similarities, I would not be surprised to find that they are related in some way in the future.

Undoubtedly, this series will not be for everyone; however, I recommend that you give it a try. Each book is serious, but has a lot of humor to keep it a little lighter.  This book is a great read for young adults and up.  If you haven’t read the first two, I recommended it as there is a lot of back story that needs to fill you in.

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

Everywhere You Want to Be

Everywhere You Want to BeAuthor: Christina June

Publisher: Blink YA Books

Release Date: May 1, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Labeled as a retelling of Red Riding Hood, Everywhere You Want to Be goes deeper with life lessons that hit home and should be taken to heart.

After a serious injury takes Matilda Castillo away from her dream of becoming a dancer for a year, she is afraid all hope of achieving her dream is lost. But when a once in a lifetime chance comes her way, she jumps at it.  She has been offered the opportunity to spend the summer in New York and perform.  She has already made a commitment to go to Georgetown in the fall and doesn’t want to disappoint her mother but also knows she can’t pass up the chance to finally chase down her dream.  Her grandmother has given her a pair of bright red sunglasses as good luck and she uses them to help her launch herself into her new career.  Day one finds her making herself a target as the one to beat and Sabrina Wolfrik is intent on doing everything she can to stop her competition.  Matilda also has a second chance at love when the boy she lost her chance with is in the city for the summer and willing to give them another shot.  Not only is Tilly’s future with dance on the line, but also much more, and she is going to give her all to make her dreams come true.

For me, the best thing about this novel was the lessons taught. I loved how June brought bullying into light but in such a different way than would be expected.  Tilly was able to show that even though it might be hard, being the bigger, better person always pays off in the end. She had some tough choices to make but showed how it can still be done.  Her interactions with Charlotte and Paolo were well played out, as well as the dynamic between her and her family.  The teenage years are hard with many life decisions that need to be made and learning to deal with what comes your way can be very difficult.  I loved the way the story line with Sabrina played out.  Very different than I would have first expected, but still very natural.  I recommend this book especially for teenage readers, they will gain a lot from what is written on the pages.

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

Reclaiming Shilo Snow

Reclaiming Shilo SnowAuthor: Mary Weber

Series: Shilo Snow #2

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Release Date: March 6, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

The perfect book for those that are into the gaming world including what it could turn into in the future. A little darker than the first but oh so good!

Seventeen-year-old Sofi Snow is one of the world’s greatest hackers alive. She has left our world to go to the alien planet Delon to find her brother Shilo who everyone believes is dead. She knows that isn’t true, she can feel it.  With the help of Ambassador Miguel, they seek out the truth in finding her brother and also letting the people of Earth in on the secrets about the alien planet and what intentions it has for Earth.  However, this isn’t the first time she has been with the Delonese.  When she was younger, she and her brother were taken by them, but she has no memory of this time.  As the second installment in the Sofi Snow series, readers will see what is next for this brother and sister and how it will impact all of Earth and beyond.

Not all books in a series have to be read in order but this one most definitely does. If you haven’t read The Evaporation of Sofi Snow or don’t remember the story very well it will be difficult to connect to this one.  With that being said, if you have read it, get ready to pick up where it left off and see how the rest of the story unfolds.  The characters continue their journey and we seem them grow closer to each other as the story unfolds.  There is sacrifice and betrayal and all the things that make a good story great.  I loved how Weber continued with the multiple viewpoints to give readers a deeper sense of what was happening in the story instead of sticking with one POV and having to figure some of it out without really seeing it unfold.  There were times in the story that I felt confused and thought I needed to go back to clear something up but within a few pages it all seemed to work itself out for me.  Readers that love YA/Dystopian novels and have a passion for gaming will not want to miss this one.

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

Olivia Twist

Olivia TwistAuthor: Lorie Langdon

Publisher: Blink YA Books

Release Date: March 6, 2018

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A fun, quirky, retelling of the classic by Charles Dickens that will be appealing to a new generation.

Olivia Brownlow spent a portion of her childhood living on the street pretending to be a boy while stealing on the streets of London in order to survive. When one of her thefts goes bad and she is caught, she lucks out by her uncle taking her in and treating her how to be a lady in high society.  Unfortunately, it is hard to leave behind the only life she has ever known.  Just when she thinks she has turned a corner, a face from the past comes back into her life.  Jack MacCarron has become the adopted nephew of one of London’s riches families.  Jack used to be on the street as well and was known as the Artful Dodger.  His new aunt is using him and his skills to gain enough wealth to stay in high standing.  When Jack finds out that Olivia is using her skills as well to help the local orphans, he decides that together they may be able to do enough good to outweigh the bad of their pasts.

I so enjoyed the last book Langdon wrote and was really looking forward to this retelling. It has been several years since the last time I read Oliver Twist so this seemed like an entirely new story to me.  In fact, after I read this, I had to go back and read Oliver Twist again to see what the similarities were, which happened to be more of a slight alternation rather than full retelling.  The dynamic between Olivia and Jack was played out really well, along with that of Olivia and most of those she interacted with.  The romance played out really well and didn’t seem forced, which is always a nice today in today’s novels.  The writing was very well done and told in an exciting way, but it may not click for all audiences (what book ever does).  I think many people will enjoy Olivia Twist, especially those that are fans of the original Dickens novel.  I recommend this for fans of the original and anyone who enjoys a good historical fiction novel.

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

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.