Saturday, January 13, 2018

Hickville Redemption by Mary Karlik

A 30 year old mystery…
A 15 year old sleuth.

Freshman Mackenzie Quinn wants nothing to do with the mysterious death of Cassidy Jones. But when her crush, Braden McGuire, declares he’s determined to uncover the truth, she is drawn into the cold case. The problem is her dad is the number one suspect. Things look pretty hopeless until her best friend, Travis Barns, loans her the secret diary of Cassidy Jones. His only stipulation is that she not share it with anybody else. But when her jealous boyfriend finds and exposes the diary, secrets come to life that could ruin MacKenzie’s whole family.

Can she find a way to clear her father’s name and atone for her own mistakes before it’s too late?

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Book 3
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Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

Mackenzie's best and only friend, Travis, likes her but is too scared to do anything about it. When Mackenzie starts dating Braden, and the two of them investigate the death 30 years prior of high school student Cassidy, who was Travis' aunt, things between them become difficult.

This story gives us angst and teenage drama in the here and now, and Cassidy's struggles as a teenager in the 80s.

There are unintended consequences when Travis gives Mackenzie his aunt's diary to read. I like that the mistakes and behaviour of these characters are age appropriate. They are young and just learning about life and they muck up as teens do. I thought this was pretty realistic.

Hickville Redemption is a really well done, engaging young adult romance and a mystery thrown in, and I devoured it happily. You don't need to read the previous Hickville High stories to enjoy this one, but the previous books are all worth reading too.

Age recommendation: 13+ years.

Also Available in the Hickville High Series

Book 1
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For reviews & more info, check out our Welcome to Hickville High post.

Book 2
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For reviews & more info, check out our Hickville Confessions post.

Following a career as a nursing instructor, award-winning author, Mary Karlik earned an MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University in Pennsylvania. A native Texan, Mary loves horses, dogs, cats, country music, and small town diners. Although she has recently relocated in northern New Mexico, her heart remains in the Lone Star state.

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Veronica reviewed her personal copy of Hickville Redemption (Hickville High #3) by Mary Karlik for this post.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Tower of Dawn by Sarah J. Maas

In the next installment of the New York Times bestselling Throne of Glass series, follow Chaol on his sweeping journey to a distant empire.

Chaol Westfall has always defined himself by his unwavering loyalty, his strength, and his position as the Captain of the Guard. But all of that has changed since the glass castle shattered, since his men were slaughtered, since the King of Adarlan spared him from a killing blow, but left his body broken.

His only shot at recovery lies with the legendary healers of the Torre Cesme in Antica—the stronghold of the southern continent's mighty empire. And with war looming over Dorian and Aelin back home, their survival might lie with Chaol and Nesryn convincing its rulers to ally with them.

But what they discover in Antica will change them both—and be more vital to saving Erilea than they could have imagined.

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Book 6
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Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

When I first heard that Chaol was going to have his own book, Tower of Dawn, I was mildly intrigued, but not certain it would captivate me the same way Aelin’s story has. I was wrong. Sarah J. Maas is such a phenomenal writer that I’m pretty sure she could write about a paper bag and I’d still somehow find myself obsessed. She makes me laugh, cry, and sometimes I do both at the same time when I’m reading her beautiful stories.

I loved being able to get a new look into Chaol’s character and deeper understanding of the Valg. I was immediately drawn into the story and I couldn’t put it down! It was a whole new perspective on a character I never imagined would somehow find himself to his own book, but a pleasant surprise in the end! Tower of Dawn had me ready to reread all the previous books in the Throne of Glass series because I just couldn’t let go of this world once I was back in it. I am now more than ready to finally see what happens when Aelin, Chaol, and Dorian reunite in book #7. Let the waiting begin! Also, if you’re in need of a fix while waiting for book #7, definitely check out Maas’ A Court of Thorns and Roses series!

FIVE STARS for Sarah J. Maas’ Tower of Dawn!

Sarah J. Maas is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Throne of Glass series and A Court of Thorns and Roses series, as well as a USA Today and international bestselling author. Sarah wrote the first incarnation of the Throne of Glass series when she was just sixteen, and it has now sold in thirty-five languages. A New York native, Sarah currently lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and dog.

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Jordan reviewed her personal copy of Tower of Dawn (Throne of Glass #6) by Sarah J. Maas for this post.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

The Sweetheart Sham by Danielle Ellison

In a small town like Culler, South Carolina, you guard your secrets like you guard your cobbler recipe: with your life. Georgia Ann Monroe knows a thing or two about secrets: she’s been guarding the truth that her best friend Will is gay for years now. But what happens when a little white lie to protect him gets her into a fake relationship... and then the boy of her dreams shows up?

Enter Beau Montgomery: Georgie’s first love, hotter than ever, and much too much of a southern gentleman to ever pursue someone else’s girl. There’s no way to come clean to Beau while still protecting Will. But bless their hearts, they live in Culler—where secrets always have a way of revealing themselves.

Disclaimer: This Entangled Teen Crush book contains a hilarious “fakeship,”a scorching-hot impossible relationship, and a heartwarming best-friendship that will make you want to call your best friend right here, right now.

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Book 1
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Entangled Publishing

Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

I enjoyed this story about small town Culler, SC and its close knit, very small population. Will and Beau are cousins and along with Georgia Ann, best friends. The three amigos all growing up together in a small town. But Will has a secret, so do Georgia Ann and Beau. Secrets that can put pressure on a new budding relationship or on someone not ready to disclose exactly who they are. Then you have the adults in town, experiencing divorce and deceit that rip Beau and Georgia apart when Beau's mom up and leaves town, taking Beau with her. That is, until the wedding of the century brings everyone back to town again to face old loves and old hurts.

I think this story really could have gone further into the love triangle aspect and still been a good young adult read. Will's mystery boy is revealed with very little fanfare and I wasn't even sure we knew who he was. The ending was sugary sweet and wrapped the book up nicely, but I guess as a jaded adult, I think it could have used just a little more drama. Still, a sweet and nicely written story of small town misconceptions and revelations.

3.5 Stars

The Sweetheart Sham will be sure to please young adults looking for a warm and fuzzy story, without too much angst, featuring second-chance-romance and a fake relationship tropes, as well as adding an LGBTQ twist. The southern setting was a nice change of pace, with the dialect and accent, gossipy townsfolk, and the mentality of the locale, giving a touch of down-home humor.

Georgia Ann is a Southern Belle, a daughter of a founding family from Culler, South Carolina. There are social rules she must abide by, with gossip and pressure to do as those in the town wish from her. She’s licking her emotional wounds in private, suffering from the abrupt end of a relationship no one knew existed. Instead of worrying about herself, Georgia Ann focuses on her best friend, Will, by pressuring him to come out of the closet, while simultaneously becoming his beard within a fake relationship to hide his budding, real relationship with another in-the-closet boy.

Beau is Georgia Anne's one who got away, having left the area abruptly due to the divorce of his parents. Angsty, brooding, and wounded, young adults and those young at heart will surely swoon over Beau. After having been gone for quite some time, Beau returns home for the summer to attend his cousin's wedding.

Georgia Ann's mother is planning the wedding of the summer, with Georgia Ann having to be her helper. With her faux relationship with Will, and the return of his cousin, Beau (the secret one who got away), The Sweetheart Sham has all the juicy, sweet, and charming elements sure to please readers.

I'm on the fence with the writing style, unsure it it's a good fit. I'm curious to read the next book in this series, to see whether or not it was the writing style, my mood, or the subject matter. I do recommend, but suggest downloading the sample to determine if the writing style suits with your reading tastes.


I need to voice something that rubbed me slightly wrong with the LGBTQ theme. I understood Will's reluctance to come out in a small southern town, especially with the pressure of being a founding family's son. While I appreciated Georgia Ann supporting Will in his decisions, I felt her pressuring him to come out was in poor taste. For the first few chapters, she was so hyper-focused, turning most inner monologue and dialogue shared with Will, into her warning him/threatening him/making him promise to come out/thinking about how she wished Will would just come out already. While this plays into the overall premise of the story, with such sensitive subject matter, I felt Will's story should have been voiced only by Will – not as if Georgia Ann had ownership in Will's journey. While I'm thrilled the LGBTQ community is popping up in mainstream fiction, Will's coming out story belongs solely to Will. Just my two cents from a member of said community.

Young adult age-range: 12+

Danielle Ellison is a nomad, always on the lookout for an adventure and the next story. In addition to writing, she’s the founder and coordinator of the NoVa TEEN Book Festival. When she’s not busy with books, she’s probably watching her favorite shows, drinking coffee, or fighting her nomadic urges. She is newly settled in Oklahoma (for now) with her cat, Simon, but you can always find her on Twitter.

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of The Sweetheart Sham (Southern Charmed #1) by Danielle Ellison to read and review.

Monday, December 4, 2017

The Heartbreak Cure by Amanda Ashby

How to get over a heartbreak:

Step one: Eat your body weight in brownies.

Step two: Throw yourself into your dreams of becoming a famous writer.

Step three: Beg your (hottie) ex-neighbor to act as your fake boyfriend.

Step four: Skip step three unless you’re ready for some serious fallout.

After being dumped and humiliated over the summer, Cat Turner does what any sane girl would do. She asks bad boy Alex Locke to be her fake boyfriend and show the world (and her editor at the school newspaper) that she's fine. Problem is, the more time she spends with Alex, the more she risks getting her heart broken. For real this time.

Disclaimer: This Entangled Teen Crush book contains a swoony bad boy who will melt your heart, brownies, and witty banter. One, two, or all three might prove addictive...

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Entangled Publishing

Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

4-5 stars from a young adult perspective – teens will swoon over Alex.
3-4 stars from those young at heart, due to predictability.
3.5 stars overall.

Cat is suffering from heartbreak – a hot boy from school used Goodreads, of all places, to learn about her and figure out a way to hook her emotionally, since the physically was a given, all to win a bet. Cat learns a valuable lesson, and young readers will too. This ends badly for Cat, leaving her humiliated more so than heartbroken. Meanwhile, the douche-noodle jock is seen as a hero, hilarious instead of seen as rotten for his actions. Cat's an avid reader and aspiring writer, daughter to a single young mother who is an eccentric artist.

Alex used to be Cat's best friend and neighbor. The brooding loaner, supposedly bad boy, has always had a crush on Cat, and swoops in to save the day, like the unlikely hero he truly is. Alex has problems, having an elderly grandmother in a home as his guardian, but having to work and pay his own way while only 17, all the while trying his hardest to gain a scholarship to college and get out of the town that looks down upon him.

...and a faux relationship is born to prove Cat has moved on, with the one boy she can count on unconditionally.

I won't ruin the plot from there. Young adults will swoon over Alex. Cat is a solid heroine to learn from during the journey. This friends-to-crushes novel is sugary sweet and gives the warmest of fuzzies. The grown adult in me found it a bit too sweet and predicable, but enjoyed it nonetheless.

I highly recommend to actual young adults, and leave it up to the young at heart to decide if the book is right for them. I look forward to reading more by Amanda Ashby in the future.

Young Adult age-range: 12+ for this sweet romance.

Amanda Ashby was born in Australia but now lives in New Zealand where she writes romance, young adult and middle grade books. She also works in a library, owns far too many vintage tablecloths and likes to delight her family by constantly rearranging the furniture. She has a degree in English and Journalism from the University of Queensland and is married with two children. Her debut book was nominated for a Romantic Times Reviewers Choice award, and her first young adult book was listed by the New York Public Library╩╝s Stuff for the Teen Age.  Because she’s mysterious she also writes middle grade books under the name, Catherine Holt and hopes that all this writing won’t interfere with her Netflix schedule.

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of The Heartbreak Cure by Amanda Ashby to read and review.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Swimming to Freedom by Robbie Michaels

Once, swimming was a labor of love for Brandon. Now it’s just a labor.

When Brandon’s competitive, domineering father decided to cash in on his son’s hobby, he sucked all the joy out of the sport for his son. Now Brandon’s father spends every ounce of his energy training Brandon for one purpose: Olympic gold and with it the chance to experience success vicariously through Brandon.

Brandon falling in love with Tyler, another swimmer, was not part of his father’s plan. Luckily the two young men have Joel in their corner, a straight ally who helps them find time alone. When Brandon’s father finds out about the relationship, his reaction is sadly predictable, and soon, Brandon’s new home is beneath a bridge. He finds peace swimming in the river, but feels fear as wild animals pass by his shelter during the night.

But once again, his happiness cannot last. Torrential storms are threatening to wash away his future—maybe for good this time.

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Harmony Ink

Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

This is an angsty story of a competitive swimmer desperate to find a life for himself beyond his father’s control. It is also the story of Brandon growing into himself and coming to terms with his sexuality.

Both Brandon and Tyler feel more like character outlines than actual characters. Even though Brandon tells this story, I don’t feel like I got to know much about his hopes, motivations, or emotions. He’s sweet and good and conflicted but he just never really came to life for me. Similarly, Tyler shows up in Brandon’s life as an instant boyfriend. We don’t see much romance or feel much chemistry between the two boys.

My favourite character is probably Joel – Brandon’s swim team friend. It’s Joel who first guesses Brandon’s orientation and Joel who does his best to make life easier for his friend. He’s funny and cocky and possibly the only character with any real personality in the story.

This is a heavy book. Brandon’s father is almost a caricature – he’s a pushy sports dad and he’s controlling, domineering, and homophobic. He’s a pretty roughly crafted villain and we don’t ever glimpse his humanity and we never get a real explanation for his behaviour.

This story feels like the old school young adult writing I remember from my own youth. It’s a topical story with fairly one-dimensional adults who are either bad or good and slightly bland teenagers who are keen to do ‘the right thing.’ The language is clean, Tyler and Brandon’s physical intimacy is completely off page, and the happy ending comes way too easily. For me, the simplicity of the story feels a bit patronising. There have been so many brilliant young adult books in the past few years where the boundaries between young adult and adult fiction are blurred and the teenage experience is written about in realistic shades of grey. As a result, I have pretty high expectations for contemporary m/m young adult writing and this book just didn’t work for me.

ROBBIE MICHAELS grew up in rural upstate New York, the same setting as the beginning of The Most Popular Guy trilogy, and now the Caught series. It was not always easy growing up in a tiny town thinking he was the only person who felt and thought what he was experiencing. He felt like a stranger in a very strange land for most of those years, always having to act a part, play a role, until he later met other gay folks and found out that he was not alone. He was teased and bullied when others suspected that he might be gay. His name is still carved in stone back there with the words “Is a Fag” chiseled in beneath it. But that was then, and this is now. Now he writes stories about the underdog coming out on top, stories about the kids that don’t fit into cookie cutter molds of what others expect, and stories of hope and promise.

He survived those days back in rural New York, and found that life does get better, even though at the time it sure didn’t seem possible. He wants first and foremost to tell others to hang on and to have hope for a better tomorrow. Grapple onto hope and don’t ever let go of it. Life is a wonderful, marvelous thing to be embraced and celebrated. Don’t ever give up. You are the only you there is, and you are not alone. There are many, many, many others like you out there and some day you will meet them and together you will change the world in a wonderful, positive way.

Connect with Robbie

Harmony Ink  ~  Website  ~  Goodreads

Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Swimming to Freedom by Robbie Michaels to read and review.