The Triumphant

The triumphantAuthor: Lesley Livingston

Series: The Valiant #3

Publisher: Razorbill

Release Date: February 12, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

The last book in the Valiant series wraps things up better than readers could have hoped for bringing the series full circle. Fans of the series will not want to miss out on this thrilling finale.

Fallon and her band of gladiatrix sisters have won their battle and reclaimed the Ludus Achillea, but it came at a price. Cai, Fallon’s love has lost his Decurion rank and is now having to serve as one of Caesar’s Gladiators for helping in the uprising. Fallon is fighting for his freedom and learns that Caesar’s enemies are planning revenge. These enemies assassinate Caesar and leave Fallon and the others with no one to protect them and on a mission to save Cleopatra, who could very easily be their next target. They must work together to free Cai and get Cleopatra out of the city before the bloodshed spreads.

I 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. Fallon has always felt behind her sister and trying to prove herself. In this final book in the series, readers see her come into her own and find a strength she didn’t know she had deep within herself. I love the way she is shown strong but also flawed and afraid at times. She relies on those around her to help her make the hard decisions and face the toughest of enemies. It took me a while to get through this because I had to make sure I didn’t miss anything. I needed soak in every word and detail to really get a connection with the characters and what is about to happen in the story. These stories really are the better stories that I take with me and remember long after I have turned the last page instead of looking back a year later and questioning if I actually read it or not. I would recommend that readers start with the first two in the series before reading this one, there is just too much back story that will keep this moving forward instead of seeming confusing. For readers that enjoy a great historical fiction with lots of action and strong female leads, I highly recommend The Triumphant, they won’t be disappointed.

Dark of the West

Dark of the West

Author: Joanna Hathaway

Series: Glass Alliance #1

Publisher: Tor Teen

Release Date: February 5, 2019

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Intricately written with a passionate voice, this new series transports you to a new world filled with hope, despair, and sacrifice.

 Athan Dakar is the youngest son of a military leader.  Although his father loves war and the chaos that comes with it, Athan could really care less.  His brothers have each been bred to lead the charges of his father’s plan, one by land and one by sea.  Athan’s path is for the air.  On the other side of the world, young Aurelia is the princess of a small kingdom.  Her brother is preparing to take over the kingdom from their mother, so Aurelia has had little interest in political matters until she learns of her possible marriage to an ambassador that repulses her.  Can either Athan or Aurelia be truly happy with life?

 All that changes when a lone bullet snuffs out the life of Athan’s mother.  His father is convinced that the plot was schemed by Aurelia’s mother and is determined to return the favor.  But he is master of the long game and waits for his chance.  When Athan and his father travel to Aurelia’s home, he is tasked with spying on her.  But he finds himself drawn to her in an ensuing forbidden romance that neither side can comprehend.  Both teenagers must find a way to be loyal to each other but also to their families, but can these two survive simultaneously?

 The language in this book was very passionate and flowed smoothly throughout the book.  I was hooked in the opening teaser and just wanted to dive right in, but first had to go read the events that set everything into motion.  The characters fleshed out quickly and came to life in an instant, especially Athan’s family.  The book is told somewhat between a revolution era novel and the great war.  It just feels like a little bit of both and transports the reader to a world unlike any other that I’ve had the pleasure of reading about.  This will definitely be a book unlike any you’ve read before.

 The only drawback that I see may be that off the length and overall complexity of the story being of interest to young readers.  Part of what made me enjoy the book so much was that it made me be engaged throughout the whole story and constantly think about different parts that I had read as I continued.  Several of today’s more popular young adult books are much shorter and the content is more cut and dry.  There was some occasional foul language, which is becoming more persistent in YA literature, but it did not detract from the story.

If you want something different the includes espionage, assassinations, romance, military battles, and politics, then you should grab a copy today.

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

Between Before and After

Between before and afterAuthor: Maureen Doyle McQuerry

Publisher: Blink YA Books

Release Date: February 5, 2019

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A past/present mash up story between a mother and daughter that shows the similarities through the differences in age and time.

Molly is fourteen years old and has the weight of the world on her shoulders. Her parent’s marriage is falling apart, and her mother is falling into a deep depression. She knows her mother has been keeping a big secret, which is part of her problems. Molly helps look after her brother Angus and when her Uncle Stephen shows up claiming to have been involved in a miracle curing a young boy, things get even more interesting. Elaine, Molly’s mother, realizes she can no longer hide behind her stories she has loved and must face the truth of what he life has become. Going between 1918 New York and 1955 California, Between Before and After shows how a family can overcome adversity and find new life even in the most trying of times.

Between Before and After is a very interesting tale told in a unique way. The past/present mash up is becoming a very popular method of story delivery, but it is not usually told from more than two or three viewpoints. So, having multiple viewpoints can be a gamble, but it played out well in this scenario. In 1955 with Molly’s view-point, readers see very little of Elaine and what is going on in her head and how she is really involved with her family. She is much more removed than a normal mother figure would be. Reverting to 1918, readers get a glimpse into Elaine’s history, which makes everything in her present make much more sense. Molly and Elaine are the main characters, but the secondary characters are important and add greatly to the story. I especially liked Stephen and Mr. Seward. The last few chapters that were set in 1955 and the characters that were thrown together really brought everything full circle. I enjoyed the way that all played out; it made perfect sense and tied up the loose ends. At the end of some of the chapters, there were little snippets from Hansel and Gretel.  I understand how this tied into the story, but some readers may feel this takes away from the flow of the story and skip over these parts. I think shorter segments might have played out better and not have been as much of a distraction. Overall, I would recommend this book to young readers that enjoy historical novels with a great tie in between the timelines and viewpoints.

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

Pretty in Punxsutawney

Pretty in Punxsatawney_RD3Author: Laurie Boyle Crompton

Publisher: Blink YA Books

Release Date: January 15, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A great coming of age story that shows how important it is to not judge a book by its cover and find what’s beneath the surface.

Andie loves movies more than most anybody she knows. When she moves to Punxsutawney with her family right before the start of her senior year in high school, she gets caught in her very own version of Groundhog Day. Being the new kid in school is hard enough but having to live the first day at a new school over and over again is even worse. Andie gets stuck in a time loop reliving the first day of school with only her realizing the day is repeating. After watching Pretty in Pink and other classic teen romances, she becomes convinced she needs to meet her true love and get a kiss to break the curse. Each day she tries to infiltrate a new clique and finds the best in each of them she never would have seen or known otherwise. With each passing day, she learns more about her new friends but also loses hope she will end the time loop and be able to continue with her life.

Confession time, I have seen neither of the main movies it talks about here: Groundhog Day or Pretty in Pink. Even so, I knew what the stories are about and was able follow along without a problem. This was a very cute story that has a lot of heart to it. I loved the way Andie used each new day as a way to learn something and bring all that together in the end to help solve her problem instead of getting discouraged to the point she gave up altogether.  Even though I found certain parts of it predictable, it didn’t take away from making me want to keep turning the pages to find out what was going to happen. Andie’s relationship with her parents played out well, the more she continued in the time loop the more worried they became with her behavior and with good reason. I enjoyed the fact that this is a YA read that is clean and not anything I would have concern letting my children read. I recommend this book to young readers that want a fun romance with heart, and maybe even older readers looking for a little nostalgia.

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

 

The Expedition

the expeditionAuthor: Chris Babu

Series: The Initiation #2

Publisher: Permuted Press

Release Date: December 5, 2018

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

The initiation was child’s play compared to the new quest bestowed on the four champions!

Shortly after completing the initiation, Drayden, Catrice, Sidney, and Charlie are presented with a new quest: to travel to the City of Boston and represent New America in an attempt to seek aid.  New America is failing as battery life is coming to an end and wind turbines desperately need maintenance.  Food production has been shortened and people are now being randomly exiled so that the colony as a whole can survive.  Unfortunately, this shortens the time that Drayden has available to look into his mom’s exile.  Trying to bargain for more time or a change of expedition has only frustrated their superiors to the point they have been threatened with execution and their families exiled.  Fortunately, they have a team of elite guardians with them for protection on the way to Boston.  But once out of New America, things don’t go quite as the group had planned.  Could there be different missions between them and the guardians?  Will Boston even still exist?  Why hasn’t there been talk about their future once they return?

This book picks up right where the first one left off.  Four scared and confused teenagers with no idea what awaits them are thrown into yet another scenario of seemingly ensured failure.  We get to see how the world has developed post confluence outside of the New America walls and to say the least, humanity has gone back to being fairly primitive, but there are a few surprises along the way.  This installment focuses on the teens continued survival as well as a challenge against the guardians.  A consistent element was that of Drayden’s insecurity.  It smeared throughout all the pages of the book, especially his relationship with Catrice.  I would really like to know what is going through Catrice’s head most of the time but may never get to see that.  I would like to see the next installment with alternating points of view.

If you enjoy this style of book, then you will likely enjoy this one as well.  There is some mild language throughout, but nothing that is not expected in today’s society.

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

The Initiation

the initiationAuthor: Chris Babu

Series: The Initiation #1

Publisher: Permuted Press

Release Date: February 27, 2018

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Fans of The Hunger Games will be excited about this new series!

Despite the warnings, doctors continued to over prescribe antibiotics.  Once the greatest medical advancement, now an adverse effect has been created.  Bacteria continued to develop until antibiotics no longer provided any effect.  This created superbugs, which in turn created the confluence, an epidemic that begin to wipe out civilization.  In an effort to save humanity, Manhattan Island was walled off from the rest of the world and set into a quarantine.  As people planned for equality and lives free from power, wealth, and corruption. New America was born and divided into four cells.  Most people live in the Dorms sector, which has been getting the shaft from the other sectors as of late, but for an unknown reason.  New American is failing.

Drayden is a 16-year-old math whiz who is about to graduate and take a job in the dorms.  Suddenly his mom is exiled from New America for conspiracy.  He knows something isn’t right about this and the only way to find out is to enter a contest known as The Initiation.  A series of puzzles and tests await him in the abandoned subways as he travels from the Dorms to the Palace.  If he survives, his remaining family can move into the Palace with him and he will be able to find the truth about his mom’s exile.  If he fails, he faces exile himself, or possibly death.

Dystopian literature is the fastest growing reading genre today and several new books hit the market every week.  It’s difficult to weed through what might be worth reading and what is better left on the shelf.  This book took a little bit to set up, but once it did, it really took off.  It takes on the familiar trait of kids that are living in the least respected quadrant of ruined America that have the opportunity to make a better life for themselves.  In this case, it’s an event called the Initiation and requires them to pass several different challenges to move forward.  The character development was done very well.  Drayden was instantly likeable.  Alex was the perfect antagonist that you loved to hate.  The other characters pretty well fit in where you would expect, with a few flaws possibly.

If you enjoy this style of book, then you will likely enjoy this one as well.  There is some mild language throughout, but nothing that is not expected in today’s society.

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

Top YA Fiction

Our next category focuses on a younger audience, but each of these pics can easily be enjoyed by all.

Losing Brave1. Losing Brave by Bailee Madison

This was such an intense, exciting, and suspenseful read that we believe anyone who reads this will be left with the feeling that the next book they pick up will have no chance of being as good as this one.

Read the full review here.

 

 

 

 

 

The Defiant2. The Defiant by Lesley Livingston

Girl power like none other!  This book has everything readers look fir in an action packed female powerhouse of a story!

Read the full review here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reaper3. A Reaper at the Gates by Sabaa Tahir

The third book in this amazing series shifts gears a bit by keeping the main characters separated from each other but builds for a follow up book that we believe will be the very best yet!

Read the full review here.

 

 

 

 

 

A touch of gold4. A Touch of Gold by Annie Sullivan

A new spin on the old tale of King Midas that is filled with fun and adventure that is sure to keep readers deeply intrigued by the richness of the story!

Read the full review here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hope in the Holler5. Hope in the Holler by Lisa Lewis Tyre

Tyre has found a remarkable voice in crafting books that makes reading fun for younger audiences.  We hope to see her books in education curriculum soon.

Read the full review here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Everywhere You Want to Be6. Everywhere You Want to Be by Christina June

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

Read the full review here.

The Color of Lies

the color of liesAuthor: CJ Lyons

Publisher: Blink YA Books

Release Date: November 6, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A great YA thriller with heart!

Ella Cleary has never been like everyone else. She has grown up with a special medical condition called synesthesia, a scrambling of the senses that gives Ella the ability to see colors that show people’s true emotions. Others have it affect other senses. This ability has always helped her when judging and reacting to others until she meets a guy she can’t read. Alec comes into her life unexpectedly and drops a bombshell in her lap telling her the truth about her parents’ deaths. She had always thought they died in an accidental fire, but it turns out it was no accident at all and the real truth of what happened has never been discovered. Finding out this truth makes Ella wonder whom she can trust and if everything she has believed has been a lie. The only way that Ella can discover the truth about her past and what really happened to her parents is to find a killer.

The Color of Lies is such a new and unique book to me that I couldn’t put it down.  I loved the characters and the story arc. Ella and Alec have a great chemistry that leads the story down just the right path.  There is a little bit of back and forth in the story between the present time and what happened over a decade ago to Ella’s parents. Also, readers need to be aware of the flipping of point of views between Ella and Alec, they are at the top of each chapter to distinguish who’s point of view it is in so that greatly helps. For readers who have trouble following the switch, they may want to pay extra attention to follow along. For me this was a great way to move the story along and give the readers the most information to be fully involved in the story. One thing that surprised me was the fact that this book has much more prose than dialogue, something that usually slows a story down for me, not here, I was too intrigued with what was going to happen and didn’t really need the dialogue to speed things along. All of the supporting characters were significant to the story and added to it without taking away from the main characters and what they were trying to accomplish. Overall I would say this was a very enjoyable read and will recommend to both YA and adult readers who love a good mystery.

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

The Rule of One

"Steely-vented hummingbird (Amazilia saucerrottei), perched on verbena plant, Costa Rica, July"Authors: Ashley Saunders, Leslie Saunders

Publisher: Skyscape

Release Date: October 1, 2018

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

When telling the truth becomes more dangerous than telling a lie, a young girl’s life is turned upside down when her secret is exposed and she has to find the strength to fight for the truth.

In the future, the United States is not what it once was. A strict one child only policy has been enforced making everyone subject to the Rule of One.  Ava Goodwin is the daughter of the head of the Texas Family Planning Division, one of the highest positions in the country, and is therefore always under scrutiny.  This makes her secret even harder to keep, she has an identical twin sister, Mira.  The two have been living as one for the past eighteen years.  They have to keep every detail of their lives in order as they trade places day after day.  All is going fine until one day they are exposed and told to run by their father as he is taken into custody.  They are all labeled as traitors and the girls fugitives.  As they rush to find safety in a world out to get them, they find unlikely allies and an underground group favoring for the old America.

I thought the premise of this book sounded very interesting for several different reasons. First of all, I am a twin and wanted to see how the story would play out in that aspect.  Secondly, dystopian novels are all the rage right now and this one did a great job of world building in the future but keeping things relatable and easy to follow.  I enjoyed the back and forth between Ava and Mira, especially the way they came into their own as the book progressed.  Being a twin, I am aware more than most of the fact that it is easy to label twins as one person but each is their own individual and needs to be treated that way.  When times were tough, Ava and Mira were actually able to express themselves as individuals and we got to see them grow as characters.  A few of the minor characters could have been developed further and seemed too short and then abruptly ended.  The ending was just enough for this book, but left open for a follow up which I intend to read.  My one big critique would have to be the language, I know harsher language is becoming more common but I have a problem when it is in young adult novels.  The words were not strung out on every page but the few that were in the book were harsher than I would like to see in these novels for young readers.  Overall I would recommend this to a more mature audience and those that enjoy a good dystopian read.

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

Meet the Sky

Meet the SkyAuthor: McCall Hoyle

Publisher: Blink YA Books

Release Date: September 4, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A love story with so much heart it is nearly impossible for readers not to fall in love with the characters and cheer for them in the challenges they face.

After the accident that changed her life, Sophie has trouble trusting anyone or anything. When her sister, Meredith, is left a shell of her former self and her father walks out on them, Sophie feels the weight of world on her shoulders.  She spends most of her time trying to keep the family business running and working on getting into veterinary school.  When a hurricane threatens them and causes an evacuation, Sophie sees that some things are out of her control.  When her truck blows a tire trying to evacuate, she gets separated from her family and ends up with the last person she wants to be stuck on the island with, Finn Sanders.  She and Finn have a past and she would rather not spend time with him after he broke her heart.  Together they have to find safety from the storm and work past their differences to try and learn from each other how to live life to the fullest.

This is the kind of book that is perfect for young readers. It is just the right length with all the pertinent information and no fluff.  The story develops at just the right speed and doesn’t ever drag.  I especially liked the way Hoyle showed us the love for animals and how they can be affected in a natural disaster too.  The tension is brought to an intense level with the storm, not the threat of another person, and this makes it an even better story.  I enjoyed how we saw Sophie struggling at the beginning with family and the pain of her sister’s condition and then it transitioned on her having to get reconnected to her family in the midst of the horrible storm.  Each chapter showed a clear progression in not only the story but the characters and their growth, something that might seem difficult in such a short novel but was perfectly accomplished here.   I highly recommend this to young readers looking for a book that is full of fast paced action, drama and danger at every turn.

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