Blood Scion

Author: Deborah Falaye

Series: Blood Scion #1

Publisher: Harper Teen

Release Date: March 8, 2022

Rating: 4 out of 5.

An interesting debut that was brutal, bloody and full of action and complex characters.

Sloane lives with her grandfather after her mother disappeared. She has a deep secret inside that if revealed would be the end of her. She is a Scion, a descendant of the ancient Orisha gods. If her emotions run high, she can incinerate her enemies; so, keeping her powers hidden has kept her alive while the Lucis’, those that rule the country, hunt the scions down and kill them. On her fifteenth birthday, Sloan is drafted into the Lucis’ army and uses this as a way to get on the inside and destroy them from within before they hurt anyone else she cares about.

Blood Scion is one of those unique books that was a bit of a slow start with the world building but once it got me, I didn’t want to put the book down. This was definitely a dark book at times and not one for a young audience; even though it is marketed as a YA book I would keep this to the older teen market as much as possible with some of the more mature themes. Sloane is an interesting character and developed really well throughout the course of the book. I would love to see more from her in future novels in the series, so I got really excited when I found out this is a duology. The story does wrap up nicely at the end but is left open for more to come when the author decides to expand on this storyline. There were several characters that played smaller roles that I would like to see expansion on their character arc, each of these minor characters really helped pull the story together. While the premise overall was unique to me I did notice hints of other stories throughout, especially the Divergent series, just minor moments here and there that made me think of the other series. Overall, I would recommend this to older teen readers that enjoy a good fantasy read that has lots 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 Search for the Astral Dragon

Author: Bryan Davis

Publisher: Wander Press

Release Date: March 8, 2022

Rating: 4 out of 5.

A Young Adult novel that has themes of Star Wars and other science fiction novels that is full of action and adventure.

Search for the Astral Dragon follows a young girl, Megan, who is on a search across the planets to find her mother. While searching for her mother, Megan witnesses horrors throughout the planets causing her to join with a group of teens to fight and become a voice for those in need. Together they will race to help each other and those around them before it is too late.

I wanted to like this book, I really did, but I had a really hard time getting into it and staying engaged with the characters and story. I have read others by Bryan Davis and enjoyed them but for some reason couldn’t get into this one. Even though I had trouble getting into this one I do think it is a good one for young readers that are big into science fiction and fantasy type novels. Megan is an intriguing protagonist, if the story had been a little quicker picking up speed to get me engaged, I would have been more likely to keep reading. While it wasn’t the right fit for me, I do believe young readers will enjoy this clean read, which is something I think is important with so many books incorporating mature content while still aimed at a young audience.

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

Count the Night by Stars

Author: Michelle Shocklee

Publisher: Tyndale House

Release Date: March 8, 2022

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Terrific historical time-slip centered around the historic Maxwell House Hotel in Nashville!

Tennessee in 1897 was the place to be.  The state was celebrating its centennial anniversary and everyone came to Nashville to celebrate at the exposition.  Priscilla Nichol’s father was instrumental in bringing the railroad to Tennessee and took full charge of the exhibit, which brought their family to Nashville for the exposition.  While there, Priscilla befriends their young carriage driver Luca Moretti and his younger sister Gia.  But Nashville, like many large cities, has a dark side that people don’t want to talk about.  Priscilla learns that people that run in her family’s circles aren’t always the ones you should keep company with.

Almost seventy years later, Audrey Whitfield is helping her father run the Maxwell House Hotel in Nashville.  It’s not the crown gem that it once was, but it still has several residents as well as guests.  When Ms. Nichols, one of the longtime residents, has a stroke and is admitted to the hospital, Audrey begins going through her personal items and finds a scrapbook from the Centennial Exposition in 1897.  The more she goes through the scrapbook, the more she uncovers a mystery of the woman that she never really got to know.  Who was she?

There is nothing quite like a good time slip and when both periods deal with historical fiction, you have a very happy reader.  Shocklee did a great job tying in major historical events to both timelines with the exposition in 1897 and the hotel fire in 1961.  Both storylines were very intriguing and I keep devouring each chapter to discover what was going to happen next.  It’s not often that I get that involved in both timelines, but they were interwoven so well that I just had to know what was going to happen!  I loved the character growth of both Audrey and Priscilla and really wanted to know more.  Great read for springtime!

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

Fires of Edo

Author: Susan Spann

Series: Shinobi Mystery #8

Publisher: Seventh Street Books

Release Date: February 15, 2022

Rating: 5 out of 5.

After almost three years, Hiro Hattori and Father Mateo have returned for another mystery!

Upon arriving in Edo to fulfill their task of alerting Iga operatives that they may be in danger of Lord Oda’s uprising, Hiro and Father Mateo get caught up in the fire brigade’s rush to extinguish a burning building before it can spread to other structures.  Head of the fire brigade is no other than Hiro’s childhood nemesis from Iga, but he must put feelings aside to warm him of the possible danger.  When the remains of a samurai are discovered in the fire, all attention is put on the shop owner who is responsible for the damage and the death.  As the penalty in Edo for a negligent fire is death, Father Mateo and Hiro agree to investigate and determine the true cause of the fire to hopefully spare an innocent man’s life.

I have loved this entire series and this installment is no different.  What makes these stories so great is the banter between the two main characters.  It’s just comical and makes the story move along so well, but the mysteries are always intriguing to keep the reader trying to guess at what the truth is.  With colorful supporting characters as always, Spann does a great job introducing new friends as you lose some along the way.  The ending made me feel like this could be the end for the series, but I sure hope not.  I’ve waited three years just for this one and I hope she manages to pen one or two more before it’s officially over.

Driving Force

Authors: Lynette Eason & Kate Angelo

Series: Elite Guardians

Publisher: Sunrise Publishing

Release Date: March 22, 2022

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The start of a new collection adding to the Elite Guardians series with a fresh author brings a fresh look at an already fantastic series!

The Elite Guardian’s newest member, Christina Sherman is in for a surprise with her newest client she is assigned to protect. Her client is bossy, headstrong, and to top it off, he is a highly trained military working dog called Boss. Special Forces Air Commando Grey Parker is his handler and has been training him to help find explosive materials that no other dog can track. That has made him and especially his dog a target. When Grey is scheduled to undergo a surgery to try and help him to walk again, he needs someone with the right clearance level to handle Boss while he is out of commission. Christina is supposed to keep Boss alive and well but ends up having to protect both he and Grey when they come under attack. What seems at a first to be a normal assignment ends up being more than Christina bargained for, and with more than their lives on the line, The Guardians are going to have to pull all their resources to get the job done.

I have enjoyed the Elite Guardians series by Lynette Eason and when I learned there would be a new set of authors exploring these characters and adding to the series, I was excited. While I was excited, I was also a little bit nervous, Eason has become one of my favorite romantic suspense authors and it is hard to fill those shoes. With Eason as her mentor, Kate Angelo has proven herself with Driving Force. The characters of Christina and Grey are engaging and charismatic in a way that shows the influence of Eason and that made Angelo a great author for this novel. Christina is a great protagonist; strong and full of passion no matter what obstacle she encounters she is going to give it her all. Even with all that said, she isn’t above showing fear in the face of great danger and still letting it work for her. The feelings she develops for Grey and the feelings he develops for her drive the story full speed ahead. I recommend this novel to fans of the Elite Guardians series and even if you haven’t read any of the series you could read this one and enjoy.

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

Along the Rio Grande

Author: Tracie Peterson

Series: Love on the Santa Fe #1

Publisher: Bethany House

Release Date: March 1, 2022

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Great start to a new series set in the aridness of New Mexico!

Susanna Jenkins recently lost her husband to the Spanish Flu, but she has no need to worry about financial means.  Meanwhile, her father has made some bad investments that left he and her mother financially ruined and even lost the estate that they have lived in for many years.  When her uncle refuses to just bail them out and instead gives them an opportunity to learn from their mistakes as managers of a new hotel in New Mexico, Susanna decides to accompany them at the request of her uncle.  Unfortunately, her parents can’t grasp the concept that everything shouldn’t just be given to them and much of the hotel’s operations fall to her.  Will her parents and younger brother ever be able to understand the lesson they are trying to be taught?

Owen Turner is a boilermaker for the Santa Fe railroad.  You might say that the railroad is in his blood since his father was an engineer on the line until he died.  Owen tries to live his life right and walk with God, but he still has a lot of skeletons in the closet.  When he meets the new hotel managers, he is quickly drawn to Susanna, especially when he learns that she is now widowed.  When her brother comes to work at the railroad, he has a lot of trouble learning the craft and falls in with a group of friends that don’t help his behavior.  Can Owen open his hear to Susanna and help her brother at the same time?

Tracie Peterson writes such fun stories and for those of us who love steam trains as well, what could be better than a historical romance set amid the beginnings of the Santa Fe rail line?  I loved the setting (especially since I only live about 5 hours away) and the talk of local cuisine would always make me hungry.  Both Owen and Susanna were such lovable characters that you couldn’t help but hope that would end up together and not have a stumbling block.  Susanna’s parents, however, were nothing short of loathsome characters for most of the book.  With their attitudes throughout, I couldn’t believe that Susanna came from the same family.  But things have a way of working out in the end, especially when God is in charge.  I can’t wait to see what happens in the next installment.

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

Girl In Ice

Author: Erica Ferencik

Publisher: Scout Press

Release Date: March 1, 2022

Rating: 4 out of 5.

A chilling, thrilling and original story that wasn’t what I expected it to be but also a satisfying read!

Valerie Chesterfield has been studying as a linguist for years and is skilled in many languages, including several “dead” ones. She doesn’t get out much, especially after her twin brother died while stationed on a remote island off Greenland. When she gets a call from Wyatt, a researcher who worked with her brother asking for her help, she packs up and goes to try and help with a scientific impossibility. Wyatt has found a young girl frozen in the ice who thaws out alive, but he can’t understand her language and calls Val to try and help him understand this girl and what he has discovered. The girl doesn’t speak any language Val knows but is also sick and getting worse by the day. Their time to figure out what is wrong is running out and on top of that Val is looking for more answers about her brother’s death. With the artic temps and freezing wind, their time to save the girl and possibly themselves is running out.

To say this book was unlike any book I have ever read would be an understatement. This book was full of all kinds of twists and turns with cunning characters and an imaginative and innovative plot. At times I did find myself scratching my head wondering if what was happening could really occur, it was out in left field from what I normally read but kept my attention. With the setting being what it was and the story matter being so deep, it did get dark at times. One of the things the author did particularly well was description, not only of the desolate setting but also the sights, smells and other senses to make the readers feel as if they were in in the freezing cold with Val and the other characters. While the story flowed well and was interesting, I would have liked more information on the girl found in the ice, readers learn a little bit, but I would have enjoyed more. Several of the scenes were more for mature audiences along with language throughout the book. With that said, I believe this is a good book that readers looking for a unique mystery that is a quick read.

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

The Silent Sisters

Author: Robert Dugoni

Series: Charles Jenkins #3

Publisher: Thomas & Mercer

Release Date: February 22, 2022

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Another fantastic addition to the Charles Jenkins series full of all the fun, espionage action we have come to love from Dugoni!

After his last mission where he barely escaped Russia alive, Charles Jenkins thinks he can finally settle down with his family and put the spy game behind him. When the final two of the seven sisters, assets who have been deep undercover, have cut off communication and Charles is tasked with finding out if they have been turned, or in hiding. A job that becomes harder as he has been placed on the Russian kill list. Immediately after he arrives, his plans fall apart when he gets involved in the death of the son of one of Russia’s most powerful crime leaders. Now, he must watch every move he makes even more carefully and try to accomplish his assignment without getting caught and killed. All he wants is to make it back home to his family in one piece before his luck runs out.

Every time I pick up a new Robert Dugoni book, I know I am going to be in for a fantastic read. The Charles Jenkins books would normally not be ones I pick up being set in Russia, not what pulls me in usually, but when Robert Dugoni writes it all bets are off and I’m in for the duration of the story. Charles is a character that is full of strength, determination, and will to live and return to his family. He is written in a way that readers will be able to relate to him and want to cheer him on to achieve his mission and return to his family. Each character in this book has a place and purpose; even with several different storylines and many characters it was easy to follow with Dugoni’s smooth writing.

The world of espionage is fun to read about with different settings and people the characters encounter, but it can also be confusing depending on how well it is written. If you pick up a Robert Dugoni novel, doesn’t matter if it is one of the Charles Jenkins novels or one of his Tracy Crosswhite novels, you know you are going to be in for a story that is well written with characters that will pull you in and keep you intrigued by what they are going through and sucked into a really great story. There are some mature themes throughout this book, but it is written so well it never bothered me or took away from the story. I recommend this to those that enjoy thrillers and mysteries, but you will need to have read the first two in the series to get the most out of this one.

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

Kelcie Murphy and the Academy for the Unbreakable Arts

Author: Erika Lewis

Publisher: Starscape

Release Date: March 1, 2022

Rating: 5 out of 5.

A fun and engaging read for young readers looking for tales of magic, mystery and so much more.

Kelcie Murphy has always felt unwanted going from foster home to foster home and never knowing who her parents are or where she is from. While on a field trip with her school, she is attacked and ends up being transported to another world, a world at war. The Academy for Unbreakable Arts is the kind of place Kelcie has only dreamed of but never thought existed. She is now training with warriors and finding her hidden powers that will hopefully help her find her parents and her past. Kelcie learns that she is a Saiga, one of the most ancient beings in the Otherworld and one of the most powerful. Together with her new friends she will have to fight to save herself and her new school before it’s too late.

Kelcie Murphy starts out fast and doesn’t let up; this is the exact right kind of book I look forward to recommending to young readers looking for fantasy, magic, adventure and a great story. I loved the way Kelcie used all the hardships she went through to bring out the strength she needed to prove to herself and others she belonged. This is a story similar to Harry Potter; it is her 12th birthday when she finds out about a world beyond her own with magic, friends and her past she knew nothing about. There is a lot of world building throughout the entire book which sets things up for what I am hoping is many more books to come. The plot is fast paced and very interesting, I found myself breezing through the pages to find out how it would all end up. The relationships that Kelcie has with her friends and classmates add to the tension of the story with some not liking her from the beginning and some, like Niall, taking a liking to her and being a good companion. It is hard for her to believe she could have friends after being on her own most of her life, this new concept makes her everyday life so different than what she is used to. All these different dynamics made the story realistic in terms of how different kids act and treat others and moved the story along at a great speed. I highly enjoyed this story and recommend it to young readers looking for books on magic and full of adventure.

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

Never Give Up

Author: Bear Grylls

Publisher: National Geographic

Release Date: March 1, 2022

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Fans of Man vs Wild will not want to miss this book!

Bear Grylls is known by many for his adventures in the hit television show Man vs. Wild.  His grit, tenacity, and ability to get out of a sticky situation resonated with many while others were just shocked at what he was willing to put his body through.  In his previous book, Bear told his life story and mostly omitted the many adventures he had on the small screen because he wanted people to know who he was as a person.  After popular demand, he has documented the best of the best (and worst) of these adventures into another book to share with the world.  Focused largely on the television series, viewers and readers alike will continue to be awestruck and shocked at what all he went through to bring his world into your living room.

I’ll admit, I never really got caught up in the hype of the show Man vs. Wild, but I have watched a few episodes and heard Bear Grylls talk about some of his adventures, so I had some background before diving into this book. But even if I hadn’t, this would have been such a fun read!  It goes through many of the most extreme things that he had to do and it’s amazing that he lived through all of it.  It is also interesting to read about how the show was filmed and what they had to do to make it work, especially when the crew were dropping like flies.  He sprinkles in a lot of great life lessons through this and breaks it up with several chapters so that it is not a daunting read.  Probably going to be one of my favorite biographies for the year.  There is some language as well as some pretty gross things, so take caution before you jump in!

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