Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Hiding Lies by Julie Cross

Fans of Veronica Mars or Ally Carter will love the snarky, whip-smart former con artist Eleanor, in this sequel to Chasing Truth.

At Holden Prep, dirty little secrets always have a way of coming to the surface.

Eleanor Ames has never been what she seems. Average high school student on the outside, but reformed con artist trying to break free of her past on the inside. When Eleanor receives startling news about someone from her previous criminal life, plans for a new operation coinciding with her school’s upcoming field trip quickly consume her.

But operations rarely go according to plan. And this is one her irresistible teen FBI agent boyfriend, Miles, would never approve of.

Now, more than just Ellie’s reputation is at stake. If she fails, it could be her life.

Add to Goodreads –

Book 2
Buy Links

Amazon US  ~  Amazon UK  ~  Amazon Au  ~  Amazon Ca
B&N  ~  iTunes  ~  Kobo
Entangled Publishing

Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

Avid Reader☆☆☆☆
M/F Thriller, Romance

This is the second book in this series and it doesn't disappoint. Miles, Ellie, and Dominic are all thrown into the story and you get to see them mature, develop their skills, and see their relationships grow.

Ellie is still reeling a little from the situation she found herself in at the end of book one. She wants to find a way to redeem her mom and put her dad where he belongs. When the opportunity presents itself, she'll need all of the people around her to pull off this con. You are given more background for Ellie and also get to meet a new family "cousin."

Miles and Ellie deepen their relationship all while trying to navigate their inherent conclusion to mistrust everyone. I liked that they were able to continue their relationship, despite being on opposite "sides."

Black and white don't belong in this story – it's all about shades of grey.

The character who surprised me the most was Dominic. He was a breath of fresh, humorous air. I liked how he was able to help Ellie do her job but kept things light and funny.

This story is full of twists and turns that you don't necessarily see coming. I can't wait to see what happens next.

It has been 18 months since book one in this series and I was excited to finally be getting my hands on book two.

Hiding Lies sees Miles in Turkey with his parents, and Eleanor going on a three week field trip to New York City. But the field trip is just an excuse for Eleanor to go undercover in her father’s current con, working with the FBI in the hopes of getting her mother’s prison sentence reduced.

This story is full on from start to finish. Between school, her friends, her boyfriend Miles, her family, the FBI, and the mob, Eleanor has so many balls in the air. The collision of the different parts of her life keep Eleanor on her toes and we get to see her in her element, putting her skills as a con artist to good use.

The story has a few good twists and turns but I kept waiting for everything to go pear shaped. I loved seeing Eleanor working all sides and trying to decipher right from wrong and good from bad, but it is a lot of presure on one high school student.

Hiding Lies is an excellent, fast-paced action/mystery with a bit of family drama and some good solid teen romance and I had a great time reading it. I hope we don’t have to wait another 18 months for book three.

5 Stars from a young adult perspective
3 Stars from an adult perspective
4 Stars overall

Hiding Lies is the second and possibly final installment in the Eleanor Ames series. I'd strongly suggest against reading this as a standalone. I read the first pre-release as well, so it has been a long while for me. If you haven't read the first in the series, I'd suggest reading books one and two back-to-back to get the optimal reading experience, as I struggled to remember the finer details after so long in between. If you enjoy rereading, and it's been a while since you read the first, I'd suggest a refresher.

This is a spoiler-free review, where I will avoid major plot points, as this is considered a mystery and suspense young adult series.

It was a slow start for me, not to say I wasn't enjoying said start – just that I was having difficulty remembering what had happened previously after reading 500 books in between. There was also a lot of threads going on, maybe two or three too many for young adults to grasp, giving a chaotic feel. So many things that there was no way there were enough hours in the day for Ellie and company to pull off what they were doing.

I'm thankful my logical personality was tucked away while I read, not rearing its ugly head until after I had finished the book. After all, this is fiction.

Ellie is a con artist who accidentally put her mother away in prison on their last job, 11 months ago. Now she's trying to right the wrongs (and that's all I can tell you to avoid spoilers. HA!).

Ellie is not too stupid to live. She's not a damsel in distress. Ellie is logical, putting her feelings to the wayside to get through what needs to be done. This is where the emotions of the novel truly hit me hard. I'm a sucker for a punch to the gut sensation, where rejection and betrayals really tug my heartstrings and connect me to the narrator.

Ellie is ashamed of her past, how she treated others as a means to an end. In actuality, as the pages go by, it's Ellie who is a means to an end, for everyone on the pages. No one is putting her first. No one is taking care of her. After all, she is a seventeen-year-old girl, and she should be someone's focus. No matter who is helping her, they have an agenda – they all lie to her. From the title to Ellie's inner monologue, one would assume it is Ellie hiding the lies... from my perspective, it's everyone hiding lies from her, as they ask things of her they shouldn't.

There are two points that lowered my reading enjoyment, hence the three stars from the adult perspective. I feel young adults won't notice, as they will be swept up in the swoon-worthy teen romance and the mystery and suspenseful action.

However, the adult in me did notice how things didn't make any sense when we got to the ending. Had I reviewed this immediately, my rating may have been higher, but after mulling the book over, nothing tied together in a lucid, logical, or even rational way. It made no sense whatsoever. Ellie's con family, the FBI renegade group, and the mafia, added with several governmental agencies, absolutely nothing tied them together, all the way to a rushed ending that tied the romance in a pretty bow.

Truthfully, I felt the author was going to pull another trigger, that would have been an ultimate betrayal, but decided against it when it came time to do it. Otherwise, everything was illogical and too coincidental how everything fell into place.

It also had the feel of an ending for the series, yet nothing was resolved.

"We're going to let the adults handle it."

I enjoyed being inside Ellie's mind, as I feel she was the most rational character of the bunch. The rest of the cast acted as if they too were teenagers, even when grown adults in high positions. That's where the book fell flat for me. Those in charge were all too bumbling, written so to allow teenagers to shine, which makes me fear for our country if that were the case.

Dominic was a shining star, more so than Miles. By the way, what happened to Oscar?

I have no idea if this is the conclusion, even though it had a feeling of finality. New breath could be breathed into it if the focus shifts to a new narrator, or if Ellie got away from everyone and started over. Ellie is an amazing narrator but being inside Dominic would be eye-opening.

I highly recommend to young adults. For the more detail-oriented adult, I'd suggest reading quickly, then not mulling over how things got from point A to point B, all the way to point Z.

Young Adult age-range: 14+ due to violence, kissing, and fade-to-black sexual situations.

Also Available in the Eleanor Ames Series

Book 1
Buy Links

Amazon US  ~  Amazon UK  ~  Amazon Au  ~  Amazon Ca
B&N  ~  iTunes  ~  Kobo

For reviews & more info, check out our Chasing Truth post.

Julie Cross is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of New Adult and Young Adult fiction, including the Tempest series, a young adult science fiction trilogy which includes Tempest, Vortex, Timestorm (St. Martin’s Press).

She’s also the author of Letters to Nowhere series, Whatever Life Throws at You, Third Degree, Halfway Perfect, and many more to come!

Julie lives in Central Illinois with her husband and three children. She’s a former gymnast, longtime gymnastics fan, coach, and former Gymnastics Program Director with the YMCA.

She’s a lover of books, devouring several novels a week, especially in the young adult and new adult genres.

Outside of her reading and writing credibility’s, Julie Cross is a committed–but not talented–long distance runner, creator of imaginary beach vacations, Midwest bipolar weather survivor, expired CPR certification card holder, as well as a ponytail and gym shoe addict.

Connect with Julie

Facebook  ~  Twitter  ~  Google+  ~  Website  ~  Goodreads


Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Hiding Lies (Eleanor Ames #2) by Julie Cross to read and review.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Risen by Cole Gibsen

Fans of Vampire Diaries and Twilight will be thirsting for this latest vampire addiction…

My aunt has been kidnapped by vampires, and it’s up to me to save her. Only… I had no idea vampires existed. None. Nada. I’m more of a reader than a fighter, and even though I’d been wishing to escape my boring existence in the middle of nowhere, I’d give anything to have it back now if it meant my aunt was safe.

Then there’s the vampire Sebastian, who seems slightly nicer than most of the bloodsuckers I’ve run into so far. Yes, he’s the hottest being I’ve ever come across, but there’s no way I can trust him. He swears he’s helping me get answers, but there’s more to his story. Now I’m a key pawn in a raging vampire war, and I need to pick the right ally.

But my chances of surviving this war are slim at best, when the side I choose might be the one that wants me dead the most.

Add to Goodreads –

Book 1
Buy Links

Amazon US  ~  Amazon UK  ~  Amazon Au  ~  Amazon Ca
B&N  ~  Google Play  ~  iTunes  ~  Kobo
Entangled Publishing

Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

Avid Reader☆☆☆
M/F Paranormal

So, this was an interesting read. There are a lot of gaps and strange conclusions drawn that made this much more difficult to relate to. I think that this author has read a lot of vampire books or seen a lot of vampire movies because the dialogue is very cheesy.

Charlize (Charlie) is very naïve in this book. Her aunt Rachel has kept her so sheltered that Charlie is screaming to get out. She wants to attend college away from her aunt. However, when people come to the house and kidnap her aunt, Charlie will have to figure out how to save Rachel.

This is where the story gets very strange. Sebastian is a vampire who is tasked with figuring out if someone is dead or alive for his queen. However, there is a weird connection between him and Charlie.

I think the author was trying to create a mystical relationship with romance, but it just wasn't very successful. While I liked figuring out who is going to belong to whom, the ultimate goal of this book should have been who will win the war.

While this wasn't the best of starts, I am wondering how this will end, so I think I would read a follow up.

Growing up, Cole Gibsen couldn’t decide what she loved more—dogs or books. Rather than choose, she decided to devote her life to both! Dog trainer (wrangler) by day and author by night, she’s the author of more than ten books with more on the way.

Connect with Cole

Facebook  ~  Twitter  ~  Google+  ~  Website  ~  Goodreads


Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Risen (Blood Eternal #1) by Cole Gibsen to read and review.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

The Big Bad Wolf by Jus Accardo

Kensey Deaton comes from an elite werewolf lineage, but just because her family is royalty, doesn't mean she'll fall in line like some perfect little princess. She has plans and they don't include an arranged marriage!

Slade McAlister has his own family drama. His Alpha father happens to be the most reviled wolf on the eastern seaboard, and it's a stigma he can't escape. So when his neighbor Kensey--the girl of his dreams and his nightmares--proposes a solution to solve *both* of their problems, he sees an opportunity he can’t ignore.

Kensey and Slade aren't only from opposite sides of the tracks, they're from opposite sides of the war. But if they can sell their 'relationship', they might just make it out of this with their freedom.

You know, as long as all that fake PDA doesn't turn into more...

Add to Goodreads –

Buy Links

Amazon US  ~  Amazon UK  ~  Amazon Au  ~  Amazon Ca
B&N  ~  Google Play  ~  iTunes  ~  Kobo
Entangled Publishing

Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

4 Teenage Angst Stars

The Big Bad Wolf is a standalone young adult paranormal novel featuring shifters. However, the paranormal aspects were underlying in the world-building. Not a complaint, just an explanation. Pack politics was the driving force, as well as a hefty dose of good ol' teenage angst.

Kensey and Slade are the children to two rival alphas. As a female, Kensey has no rights once she is mated, used simply for the worth of her bloodline and forging bonds between packs. Our hero and heroine are informed they have to mate, so they take matters in their own hands.

I read The Big Bad Wolf from cover-to-cover in one sitting. The novel featured a few of my favorite tropes. Fake relationship. Early childhood friends who had a falling out once hormones struck, adding a tension and a love-hate vibe. The good girl and the bad boy – "I'm not good enough for you" trope. Our parents don't want us to be together trope. Political gain.

All of these tropes melded into a yummy page-turner that had me emotionally invested and rooting for Kensey and Slade's happiness.

I highly recommend for readers who are seeking a novel featuring a paranormal twist, wanting to dive into a world where two kids find love against all odds. I look forward to reading more by this author in the future.

Young Adult age-range: 13+ due to kissing and violence.

JUS ACCARDO spent her childhood reading and learning to cook. Determined to follow in her grandfather’s footsteps as a chef, she applied and was accepted to the Culinary Institute of America. But at the last minute, she realized her true path lay with fiction, not food. Jus is the bestselling author of the popular Denazen series from Entangled publishing, as well as the Darker Agency series, and the New Adult series, The Eternal Balance. A native New Yorker, she lives in the middle of nowhere with her husband, three dogs, and sometimes guard bear, Oswald.

Connect with Jus

Facebook  ~  Twitter  ~  Website  ~  Goodreads
Google+  ~  Instagram


Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of The Big Bad Wolf by Jus Accardo to read and review.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Phoenix Fire by S.D. Grimm

After spending her life in foster care, Ava has finally found home. But all it takes is a chance encounter with hot nerd Wyatt Wilcox for it to unravel.

Now, things are starting to change. First, the flashes of memories slowly creeping in. Memories of other lives, lives that Wyatt is somehow in. Then, the healing. Any cut? Gone.

But when Cade and Nick show up, claiming to be her brothers, things get even weirder. They tell her she’s a Phoenix, sent to protect the world from monsters—monsters she never knew existed. It’s a little hard to accept. Especially when they tell her she has to end the life of a Phoenix turned rogue, or Cade will die.

With Wyatt’s increasingly suspicious behavior, Ava’s determined to figure out what he’s hiding. Unless she can discover Wyatt’s secret in time and complete her Phoenix training, she’ll lose the life, love, and family she never thought she could have.

Add to Goodreads –

Book 1
Buy Links

Amazon US  ~  Amazon UK  ~  Amazon Au  ~  Amazon Ca
B&N  ~  Google Play  ~  iTunes  ~  Kobo
Entangled Publishing

Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

I originally grabbed this one up just because of the name and I'm glad I did.

Despite a slow start, I did eventually get dragged into this one and didn't put it down until I finished. The concept of phoenixes was quite intriguing and different, so it definitely interested me.

Ava, Cade, and Nick are Phoenix siblings, eternally fighting through time to save their race. The catch, they come back as children and have to grow into their teens before remembering anything, even each other. Each life has become more precious as their enemies gain in strength and none know just how long they have or if they can defeat them.

Overall, this was an interesting read. I am looking forward to future books and seeing where the author takes this. It has great potential for sure. I would recommend it to those interested in lighter fantasy like myself.

Young Adult Age Recommendation: 13+

S. D. Grimm’s first love in writing is young adult fantasy and science fiction. She is represented by Julie Gwinn of the Seymour Agency and author of Scarlet Moon. She currently has four books under contract, including the remainder of her YA fantasy series Children of the Blood Moon. When she’s not writing or editing, Sarah enjoys reading (of course!), practicing kickboxing and Brazilian jiu jitsu, training dogs, and binge-watching shows with great characters. Her office is anywhere she can curl up with her laptop and at least one large-sized dog.

Connect with S.D.

Facebook  ~  Twitter  ~  Instagram  ~  Goodreads


Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Phoenix Fire (Phoenix Cycle #1) by S.D. Grimm to read and review.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

By a Charm and a Curse by Jaime Questell

A kiss is never just a kiss.

Le Grand’s Carnival Fantastic isn’t like other traveling circuses. It’s bound by a charm, held together by a centuries-old curse, that protects its members from ever growing older or getting hurt. Emmaline King is drawn to the circus like a moth to a flame… and unwittingly recruited into its folds by a mysterious teen boy whose kiss is as cold as ice.

Forced to travel through Texas as the new Girl in the Box, Emmaline is completely trapped. Breaking the curse seems like her only chance at freedom, but with no curse, there’s no charm, either—dooming everyone who calls the Carnival Fantastic home. Including the boy she’s afraid she’s falling for.

Everything—including his life—could end with just one kiss.

Add to Goodreads –

Buy Links

Amazon US  ~  Amazon UK  ~  Amazon Au  ~  Amazon Ca
B&N  ~  Google Play  ~  iTunes  ~  Kobo
Entangled Publishing

Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

I'm going to preface my review by saying I didn't even read the blurb before beginning By a Charm and a Curse, so I was pleasantly surprised by the content, especially with this being Jaime Questell's debut novel. I read the book cover-to-cover in one sitting.

This was an original take on the carnival setting, and the title fits the novel perfectly, summing up how the carnival functions – by a charm and a curse.

Emma returned to stay with her father, while her mother is helping a village in an underdeveloped country. Emma misses her mother, feels the divide of distance and time with her old friends in this town – it's as if they fell out of knowing each other, growing apart.

Emma's thoughts are swirling as she and her friend, Juliet, go to the carnival, in a town that normally only has football and Wal-Mart as entertainment. Emma struggles to connect with her friend and find the good about being at her dad's home, and this leaves her as the perfect target for the Boy in the Box.

The story unfolds in Emma and Ben's narration, seeing a wide view from the get-go. I had no idea what was going to happen next, how Emma would be drawn into their world. I actually felt a wave of panic for Emma as she goes through her ordeal, then the desolation of her circumstances. This portion felt very real, and I applaud the author for eliciting so many emotions from me.

Emma's thrust into a world where she cannot trust anyone, yet she is a the glue that holds the carnival together – the curse to their charm.

There is a side cast of characters who were intriguing, in a wide array of personalities, from sympathetic to apathetic, many taking Emma's sacrifice for granted. There are bullies, mothers with their own agendas, supportive friends, and many middle of the road folks, making up a diverse carnival feel.

Without giving the plot away, as I went into this novel blind, as I think I enjoyed it more due to that, the charm isn't functioning properly...

Emma was a strong character. Ben was a comfort, the warmth Emma needed to survive what she was going through. Both Emma and Ben are good people, yet managed to sound equally unique in their narration, showing their world through different lenses.

The world-building and plot are the focus, with an underlying romantic thread, which has its own limitations, as well as several subtle romantic entanglements by the side cast of characters. This delicate balance is perfect for the reader who looks for the romance, as well as the reader who is more plot-focused.

I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this novel, and highly recommend it to both teens and grown adults who are looking for something unique.

Young Adult age-range: 13+.

JAIME QUESTELL grew up in Houston, Texas, where she escaped the heat and humidity by diving into stacks of Baby Sitter’s Club and Sweet Valley High books. She has been a book seller (fair warning: book lovers who become book sellers will give half their paychecks right back to their employers), a professional knitter, a semi-professional baker, and now works as a graphic designer in addition to writing.

Connect with Jaime

Facebook  ~  Twitter  ~  Instagram  ~  Website  ~  Goodreads


Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of By a Charm and a Curse by Jaime Questell to read and review.