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.

No Place Like Here

No Place like Here

Author: Christina June

Publisher: Blink YA Books

Release Date: May 21, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

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

 After a year away at boarding school, Ashlyn Zanotti feels she has deserved a second chance to come home for her senior year of high school. As she prepares to head home and ask her parents for her second chance, she gets the news that her father is being sent to prison for tax evasion and her mother is going to rehab for exhaustion. With no one at home, Ashlyn is sent away to work with her cousin at a team building retreat center. Dreading the summer but knowing she has no other choice, Ashlyn decides to make the best of the situation which turns out to be more than she ever imagined. The center’s new manager is disorganized and makes more than her fair share of mistakes leaving Ashlyn with the difficult decision of staying quiet or standing up for what she knows is right.

 This book is the very thing that should be in all school libraries and recommended to young readers. I loved the way the story played out and the characters evolved. Ashlyn shows so much growth as a person having to deal with incredibly tough issues not only at her new job but with her family as well. Spending time with a cousin she barely knows is awkward enough but having others at camp find out about her father makes things even more difficult. Being a teenager at camp there brings about opportunities for a summer romance.  These moments played out both realistically and sweet. All of the relationships made sense, not once was I questioning why a character was acting a certain way, they all played their parts exactly as I felt they should. I disliked Deb, as was intended, she didn’t technically have a lot of page time but what she did have was memorable. June has a way of writing these characters that have no other choice but to get the readers hooked and become deeply emotionally involved with the outcome of each of the characters. I recommend this book to young readers looking for a good story to relate to and feel like they might be at summer camp with learning the life lessons along beside them. I also recommend this to adults that might need an insight into the emotions of the younger kids in their lives.

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

Into the Wind

Into the WindAuthor: Ginger Zee

Series: Chasing Helicity #2

Publisher: Disney Hyperion

Release Date: April 23, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

In the follow up to Chasing Helicity, Ginger Zee brings more action, adventure, and even a little romance that readers will not want to miss.

After the crazy adventures Helicity Dunlap has gone through, her parents think a change of scenery to recuperate from the turmoil. Helicity’s best friend Mia has gone to be with her Aunt in Texas and help with her bed and breakfast. Mia invites Helicity to come spend some time at the beach with her. Helicity enjoys roaming the beach, spending time with her friend, and trying her best to get past the trauma of the last few months. When her brother, Andy, shows up to surprise her she knows something is going on with him but doesn’t want to upset him by accusing him of something she can’t be sure of. After the tornado at home that injured Andy, he hasn’t been the same and Helicity feels responsible. She wanted to escape all of that by coming to Texas but that doesn’t seem possible. When she and her friends go out sailing and get caught in intense weather, Helicity once again finds herself in the eye of the storm.

Ginger Zee has done it again. I was very impressed with the first Chasing Helicity book and the second is just as good, if not better. I love the character of Helicity, she is strong but also willing to admit her faults and learn from her shortcomings. This book picks up pretty quick where the first left off and we see the trauma each of the characters has gone through and how it affects the actions they take moving forward. There are a lot of difficult issues tackled here and readers will be pleased with the way each is handled. The tension was tight with each chapter making the reading quick and enjoyable. I love when an author makes a story that is both enjoyable and something that will make engage young readers. I read a lot of young adult novels and so many of them are short on tension and full of fluff, but not this series. These novels will keep young readers turning the page and aching to learn more about the weather and what they need to know to stay safe when forces of nature come their way. I highly recommend this novel to young readers that love science, adventure, and maybe a smidge of romance sprinkled in.

Chasing Helicity

Chasing HelicityAuthor: Ginger Zee

Series: Chasing Helicity #1

Publisher: Disney Hyperion

Release Date: April 24, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

From Chief Meteorologist Ginger Zee comes a whirlwind of a tale from which young readers will love and learn. 

For as long as she can remember, Helicity has been in awe of the weather. Her name came from her grandmother who passed down her love for all things meteorological. With her brother about to leave for college and her own school work giving her problems, she tries to escape reality by focusing on the weather. One day Helicity is out riding her horse when a tornado hits her town. Her own family, along with most of the community, is devastated by the force of nature. Her father doesn’t understand how she can be fascinated by something so deadly, but Helicity only sees the beauty and knows the more she studies the weather the more help she can be to everyone by being prepared when the next natural disaster strikes.

When it comes to writing is it good to have a good knowledge of the material you are writing about. Ginger Zee comes in full steam ahead with Chasing Helicity and shows she truly is an expert in the field but can also make it interesting and entertaining for young readers. I walked away from reading this with a newfound interest in weather patterns and how to tell what the bad weather might bring. For her first YA novel Ginger Zee did a fantastic job of creating young characters that readers will fall in love with in a story that is thoroughly entertaining. I loved all the characters and the predicaments they found themselves in. Helicity is a strong female lead that isn’t scared to show she’s afraid but also wants to move beyond that fear to help those she cares about. Her family and her friends mean the world to her and when they all find themselves in trouble, Helicity feels her world spinning out of control and is at a loss for what to do until she turns to the one thing she knows, weather. Using her knowledge, she is able to help. I love how Ginger Zee uses Helicity to show it can be cool for young kids to know and have a love for science. The writing is quick without much to slow readers down. I honestly don’t think young readers will have any trouble following along with the science terminology, they might walk away having learned a few things about weather patterns and safety. While there is a slight bit of language I don’t believe it is anything worth staying away from for young readers. I highly recommend this book to young readers that are looking for a fun, entertaining adventure with characters they will easily fall in love with.

Brief Chronicle of Another Stupid Heartbreak

Brief chronicle

Author: Adi Alsaid

Publisher: Inkyard Press

Release Date: April 30, 2019

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A story of young love and the heartache that comes along with life lessons of moving on and finding a brighter side to a rough time growing up.

 With high school over and the summer ahead, Lu Charles wants it to be the best summer ever.  Unfortunately, life has other plan when her boyfriend dumps her causing her to have serious writers block for her relationship column. If she doesn’t get past her block and find material for her column at the online magazine Misnomer, she will lose her scholarship for college.  Her best friend thinks she should use the pain of her breakup to fuel her writing, but the emotion is too raw to write about. As she is sulking, she overhears a couple in the park planning to break up before leaving for college. She thinks they could be just the material she needs to write about and get her out of her block.

 This was a fun little book that probably could have been slightly condensed. The angst that Lu felt just didn’t resonate well with me. Her dilemma and heartbreak were real but the way she handled the situation wasn’t the best. The few sections with her writing from her column didn’t interest me, which I felt should have been one of the most interesting parts. However, I did enjoy the relationship dynamic between her and Pete; I wish this part would have been played out much more to enhance the story. I also would have liked to have seen a little more dialogue throughout the story, the sections with dialogue did move quickly and kept me engaged. The story itself was a cute idea and is one I think will resonate with certain readers, if you are not a young adult fan or fan of heartbreak books, this will not be the one for you. I do feel that fans of Sex and the City and the Carrie Bradshaw types will enjoy this read and find the humor in it to be just right.

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

We Were Beautiful

We were beautifulAuthor: Heather Helper

Publisher: Blink YA Books

Release Date: April 2, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

An emotional novel that will make you want to laugh, cry, and reach through the pages to hug the characters tight as they go through their trials.

Mia Hopkins has had almost a year to deal with the car crash she was involved in that killed her older sister and left her face scarred. She has been told over and over that it will take time to heal and move on, but she doesn’t want to move on. The night of the accident is a blank to her; she can’t remember what happened that night and the little alcohol that was found in her blood doesn’t help matters. With her mother gone and not able to handle being around her and her father having to go away to work, Mia ends up going to spend the summer with her grandmother. Being in a new place and around new people, Mia tries to figure out how to move on and live the life she has left.

We Were Beautiful is 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. Mia is scarred, not just on her face but deep inside emotionally having to life with what happened, and worse not even remembering what happened. The worst part of it all is the way she feels abandoned by her family. Her mom leaving her is the worst part of all, she knows she is hard to look at but having her own mother turn on her is worse than the accident itself. Being forced to go live with her grandmother turns out to be just what she needs. I loved the way Hepler brings out the best and worst in these characters, showing readers their flaws and heartaches and how they go about moving forward with their lives. We all have hard times and scars we must live with, inside and out. This is the first book by Hepler I have read, and I was incredibly impressed with the way she brought these characters to life leading me to route for them, cheer with their victories and cry with their hardships. While there wasn’t much action the story itself moved quickly. The tension between the characters and what they are going through is plenty to keep the pages turning and the reader pleased. I recommend this to young adult readers that want a story that will teach them a lesson about forgiveness and moving on in the hard times.

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

To Best the Boys

best the boysAuthor: Mary Weber

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Release Date: March 19, 2019

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

YA with a strong female lead who tries to get ahead in a male driven society.

Every year in Pinsbury Port, a mysterious letter is sent out to all eligible-aged boys inviting them to compete for scholarship at the all-male Sternwick University. The poor and the rich alike look to see their name and how likely it is they will make it. Rhen Tellur opens to see if she can decide which substances the ink and parchment are created from. Even though Rhen is a girl, she wants to be a scientist like her father. She wants to help find a cure for the disease ravaging their town. When the disease hits home, she decides to compete for the scholarship. With the help of her cousin, she disguises herself to get the best of the boys competing and get the prize. Not everyone is willing to accept a girl in this competition and things turn dangerously deadly before things are over.

While this book started very slow for me, I think it is a good book for girls looking to find empowerment in their mind and academics, especially math and science. I had trouble connecting with the characters at the beginning and unfortunately that stuck with me through a lot of the story. I did enjoy the fact that we see a strong female leading not letting the men and their idea of what a woman should be limited to keep her from following her passion and helping others. Rhen, the main character, is strong and determined but also a little scared with what could happen if she isn’t able to accomplish what she sets out for. The story reminded me in a way of The Hunger Games but set in a much different time and location with characters that were big into girl power and advancing their status in a much different way. Once part way into the story, the plot picked up and the characters came to life in a way that kept the story going till the last page. I think if readers can make it past the first few chapters that were a struggle for me they will find an enjoyable read. I recommend this to young readers that are patient and willing to keep turning the page for a story they will enjoy.

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