Friday, September 6, 2019

I Dare You to Break Curfew by Eva Muñoz

To save humankind, Camron may have to fall in love.

Vampires are real, and they are called the Inshari. After Camron Masters breaks curfew the first time, he discovers them living beneath Braylin Academy. The second time he breaks curfew, he meets a mad scientist who convinces him to take part in an experiment in exchange for more information about the Inshari. A small pinprick later, Camron wakes up as one of them and finds himself bonded to the prince of his dreams—vampire or not, Troyan is dark, brooding, and oh so delicious. But there’s the enigmatic Zaire vying for his attention too. Or is Camron just a pawn in a centuries-old feud?

All Camron’s ever wanted was to live his own fairy tale. But there’s always a catch after meeting Prince Charming.

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Book 1
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Harmony Ink

Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

This review is by a mature adult. Do I believe a younger reader would be enthralled by the story and the characters? Absolutely yes. Do I believe I look too deeply into a novel? A resounding yes.

Cam attends a boarding school, where there is one rule... never remain on campus after curfew or risk automatic expulsion. The book starts with what exactly happens should a student remain on campus after dusk.

I Dare You to Break Curfew has a unique take on vampire culture, more flesh-eaters than blood-drinkers. Where an entire world is hidden on the grounds of a boarding school. These flesh-eaters are looking for a human to experiment on, as they slowly wither from a wasting disease.

The premise and the world-building did hit the sweet spot of highly inventive and original. However, the pacing was so rapid, I felt as if we journeyed from point A to D without B & C being explained. I was just as confused as Cam.

While I enjoyed the book, there were a few things that kept me from fully immersing myself in the storyline.

Cam's voice was inherently feminine, as well as his actions, thought processes, and behaviors. That's not a bad thing, just that I could sense the female voice of the writer beneath.

On the character front, no matter if they are adolescents by vampire terms, they still lived nearly a thousand years of days, so I was unsure why they still acted as teen humans. Time is what matures all beings, not chronological age dependent on species. So it was off-putting, how thousand-year-old vampires were essentially going to high school, yet also ready to take over the task of leading their people and developing a cure for their malady.

When it came to a betrothal, where the thousand-year-old vampire continuously attacked and bullied Cam, as if this would somehow buy Troyan's affections... I was confused.

Do teen girls act as if their crush is their hostage? Maybe.

Usually around age fourteen, we figure out, no matter our gender, the other party has a say in the matter. I mean, who would want to force someone to marry them? Held hostage for an eternity. Sociopathic much? But I see this theme repeatedly. I feel for teen girls, because they aren't the monsters literature paints them to be.

Would someone who lived a thousand years act in such an unhinged manner? No. No way. Calculating and manipulative? Oh, yes.

It just left a bad taste in my mouth, how one of the only female characters was created simply to be a vapid harpy, painting all women as if we have to force men to partner with us. Yes, I'm reading too much into this, but I see it in just about every book I read, no matter the genre or age-group.

Other than my feminist beef with how females were portrayed, I enjoyed the story for the most part, finding the novel to be unlike anything I've read before.

Where I was confused on the world building front... to slowly wither and die over a millennia seems like a better deal than to become human and perhaps die in a car accident a few days later, with no guarantee of living another fifty years at most. Also, losing all your enhanced abilities. But that's just me.

With that being said, I'm curious to see where the story goes next. I'm willing to read more by this author before I make a decision on whether or not we're a good fit, reading-wise.

Definitely recommend to readers looking for a new take on vampire culture, specifically those who don't look too deep into things or nitpick, like yours truly.

Young Adult age-range: 14+, featuring intimacy and violence.

Eva Muñoz loves dreaming of worlds filled with hot guys falling in love with each other. She believes that love is love is love and everyone has a right to find their person. Her love for writing began in high school. It was because her teacher complimented a story she had written that put her on the path she is on today. She would spin yarns on her father’s electric typewriter, bind the pages together, and bring the finished product to school for her classmate to pass around and swoon over. Little did she know at the time that writing would be a career she never knew she wanted.

She may have taken a circuitous path toward her passion for writing, but when she finally made that decision to stick with it after countless rejections, she never looked back. A degree in creative writing helps too. When she’s not at her favorite coffee shop thinking up new worlds and characters to explore, you can find Eva in a classroom teaching creative writing of all things. Talk about passion meets day job. Today she is molding impressionable minds the way her teacher once did for her.

Connect with Eva

Twitter  ~  Goodreads

Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of I Dare You to Break Curfew (Inshari Chronicles #1) by Eva Muñoz to read and review.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Storm and Fury by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Enter a world of gargoyle protectors, rising demons and one girl with an explosive secret.

Eighteen-year-old Trinity Marrow may be going blind, but she can see and communicate with ghosts and spirits. Her unique gift is part of a secret so dangerous that she’s been in hiding for years in an isolated compound fiercely guarded by Wardens—gargoyle shape-shifters who protect humankind from demons. If the demons discover the truth about Trinity, they’ll devour her, flesh and bone, to enhance their own powers.

When Wardens from another clan arrive with disturbing reports that something out there is killing both demons and Wardens, Trinity’s safe world implodes. Not the least because one of the outsiders is the most annoying and fascinating person she’s ever met. Zayne has secrets of his own that will upend her world yet again—but working together becomes imperative once demons breach the compound and Trinity’s secret comes to light. To save her family and maybe the world, she’ll have to put her trust in Zayne. But all bets are off as a supernatural war is unleashed…

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Book 1
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Inkyard Press – Harlequin

Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

I am a HUGE fan of Jennifer L. Armentrout (JLA) and I have read most of her books, which means I was of course so excited to get my hands on Storm Fury, the first book in The Harbinger series! Storm Fury (The Harbinger #1) by JLA is a spin off series from The Dark Elements series. I would highly recommend reading The Dark Elements series first before diving into Storm Fury. This book draws you in from the first page and I couldn’t put it down. JLA does not disappoint and I was completely hooked from start to finish.

Storm Fury picks up not too long after The Dark Elements series finishes but follows Zayne and Trinity’s story. Trinity can see and communicate with ghosts and spirits. Her special gift has kept her fiercely protected in an isolated compound hiding amongst the Wardens. The Wardens are shape-shifting gargoyles that protect humans from demons. If the demons knew about Trinity, they’d consume her to increase their powers. When Zayne and his clan arrive from D.C. to share disturbing reports demons and Wardens killings, and now Trinity’s safe spot has been turned upside down.

I just can’t get enough of all of JLA’s amazing characters. I mean, who ever imagined that gargoyles would be sexy? Then in walked Zayne in the Dark Element series and suddenly I’ve found a whole new shapeshifter to obsess over. I am so excited to read more about Zayne and Trinity’s story in The Harbinger series. Trinity is exactly the kind of kick-ass heroine I have come to expect from JLA! She’s fierce, strong, and loyal. Now, Zayne is such a fantastic character and totally swoon worthy, and honestly, I could continue to gush about him for the rest of this review, but that might be overkill.

All in all, a solid 5-STAR read for Jennifer L. Armentrout’s Storm Fury (The Harbinger #1). I can’t wait to get my hands on the next installment, and I’ll be attempting to patiently wait for it.

JENNIFER L. ARMENTROUT is the #1 international and #1 New York Times bestselling author of over 40 books, including the Wait for You, Lux series, the Dark Elements series, and Til Death. She is published with Tor, HarperCollins Avon and William Morrow, Entangled Teen and Brazen, Disney/Hyperion, Harlequin Teen and writes steamy and fun New Adult and Adult romance under the pen name J. Lynn. Jennifer is also the founder of Apollycon, a yearly reader event that brings in over 1400 readers and authors together each year. She currently lives in West Virginia with her husband and two dogs, Loki and Diesel.

Connect with Jennifer

Facebook  ~  Twitter  ~  Instagram  ~  Website  ~  Goodreads

Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Storm and Fury (The Harbinger #1) by Jennifer L. Armentrout to read and review.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Breakout by A.M. Rose

Six days.

That’s the amount of time until Lezah’s execution.

She’ll die never knowing what got her locked up in that godforsaken prison in the first place. Her only chance of survival is to escape. Except the monitoring bracelet that digs into her wrist, the roaming AI, and the implant in her neck make freedom close to impossible.

Her best chance is to team up with the four other inmates who are determined to break out, even if one of them is beyond gorgeous annoying—oh, and in for murder. But he has a secret of his own. One that could break Lezah if she finds out, but could also set him free.

Figuring out how to work with him and the rest of this mismatched group of criminals is the only way Lezah will survive to see the outside world again.

But nothing in this prison is as it seems. And no one.

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Entangled Publishing

Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

A.M. Rose is a new-to-me author, and I'm curious to read more in the future. Breakout is not listed as the debut in a series, however, I hope there is more to come to answer many threads left untied.

Breakout starts with some confusion, because the narrator doesn't know where she is, why she's there, how she got there, with a large portion of her recent memory blank. Held prisoner, the world-building is futuristic, science fiction, a dystopian vibe.

Lezah is confined in a facility, and she has no idea why, only a countdown timer on her bracelet, counting down to what she assumes is her end. With only three days left, Lezah finds a way to attempt escape, along the way picking up four others.

Rapid pacing, nonstop action, Breakout has a Maze Runner and Hunger Games vibe, mixed with a sense of virtual reality of a live-action video game. There was an addictive, page-turner need for answers, which had me on the edge of my seat, but those answers were given as if the reader should just understand/know what the narrator does without it being on the pages.

Along the escape journey, Lezah's memory returns slowly, as she fits the pieces as to how she came to be imprisoned with these specific people. The returned memories are as murky once returned as they were when Lezah struggled to remember – piecemeal, barely fitting anything together.

While I feverishly read the novel, needing to know what happened next, I wanted answers to many questions. It felt as if plots didn't quite fit together, as Lezah rushed along, taking the reader on the journey with her.

At the end of the novel, I'm still not quite sure why everything that happened happened, with a quick resolution that was too easy. The easiest resolution I've ever read, to be honest. There needs to be a sequel to offer a real resolution/explanation. Lezah jumped from A, automatically assuming Q was the answer to whatever question was posed, yet the reader had no idea what B through P were to get to that Q conclusion.

While the pacing was rapid, which kept me engaged and entertained, it was at the detriment of the world-building, character building, and the who/what/where/why/how/when. Reminding me of a plot outline, where the writer is to fill in the gaps to enrich the experience.

With all that being said, I enjoyed the novel, definitely recommend to those who love this genre, and am looking forward to more from this author in the future.

Young Adult age-range: 12+, including profanity, kissing, and mild science fiction violence.

Breakout was an exciting, young adult, sci-fi read! My attention was grabbed from the beginning. We follow a young lady, imprisoned with no memory of committing a crime. Fear gripped me, but I had to know what was going on. This future world is a strange place, where computers walk amongst men and fear dominates all.

When Lezah and her cellmate agree that they need to breakout before their death-date of four days and one day respectively, I was totally on-board. The insanity that follows is best left unsaid, so you get the full impact!

So many questions arise with no resolution. Lezah doesn't really know who she is, she only remembers bits and pieces of her family. Her rag-tag group of escapees all have their own lives, but they seem to remember things. Are these people trustworthy? Are they good guys or bad?

I just couldn't put this down, I was on the edge of my seat throughout the story, and hope there will be a book two. I enjoyed the ending, but there are still questions that need answers. I will be adding A.M. Rose to my list of authors to read!

A.M. Rose holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication from San Diego State University, is a member of SCBWI, RWA, NJWR and YARWA. She participates in several writing groups and is co-founder of All Write by Us, an online YA writing/critique group.

Connect with A.M.

Facebook  ~  Twitter  ~  Website  ~  Goodreads

Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Breakout by A.M. Rose to read and review.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Kingsbane by Claire Legrand

In this sequel to the instant New York Times bestseller Furyborn!

Two queens, separated by a thousand years, connected by secrets and lies, must continue their fight amid deadly plots and unthinkable betrayals that will test their strength—and their hearts.

Rielle Dardenne has been anointed Sun Queen, but her trials are far from over. The Gate keeping the angels at bay is falling. To repair it, Rielle must collect the seven hidden castings of the saints. Meanwhile, to help her prince and love Audric protect Celdaria, Rielle must spy on the angel Corien—but his promises of freedom and power may prove too tempting to resist.

Centuries later, Eliana Ferracora grapples with her new reality: She is the Sun Queen, humanity's long-awaited savior. But fear of corruption—fear of becoming another Rielle—keeps Eliana's power dangerous and unpredictable. Hunted by all, racing against time to save her dying friend Navi, Eliana must decide how to wear a crown she never wanted—by embracing her mother's power, or rejecting it forever.

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Book 2
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B&N  ~  Google Play  ~  Kobo

Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

I'm not going to lie, I was like a kid at Christmas when Kingsbane showed up on my Kindle! The Empirium series has totally taken me by surprise and I'm completely impressed by the story Claire Legrand has woven. The second book in the series has picked up where Furyborn left off. War is coming... The Emperor is coming!

We continue to follow the life and events of two women, connected by some circumstances. Only one can be the Sun Queen while the other the Blood Queen. By this book we know who is who, but we don't know WHY or HOW they choose their paths. Wonder no more...

Did I mention this is such a difficult review to write? I refuse to spoil anything, but I will say I am emotionally invested in all of these characters – the good, the bad, the ugly. Every single one of them have worked their way into my head. I am exhilarated yet anxious to find out what happens. Even though I know the general ending, I need to see how everything plays out. What exactly is victory? Who can possibly say they won?


Also Available in the Empirium Series

Book 1
Buy Links

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B&N  ~  Google Play  ~  iTunes  ~  Kobo

For reviews & more info, check out our Furyborn post.

Claire Legrand used to be a musician until she realized she couldn’t stop thinking about the stories in her head. Now she is a writer and librarian living in central New Jersey (although her heart will always live in her home state of Texas).

Her first novel is The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls, one of the New York Public Library’s 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing in 2012. She is also the author of The Year of Shadows, a ghost story for middle grade readers; and Winterspell, a young adult re-telling of The Nutcracker. Some Kind of Happiness, her middle grade novel about mental illness, family secrets, and the power of storytelling, is a 2017 Edgar Award Nominee. Claire’s latest novel, Foxheart, is a classic fantasy-adventure and a 2016 Junior Library Guild selection. She is one of the four authors behind The Cabinet of Curiosities, an anthology of dark middle grade short fiction that was a Junior Library Guild selection, a Bank Street Best Book, and among the New York Public Library’s 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing in 2014.

Connect with Claire

Twitter  ~  Instagram  ~  Website  ~  Goodreads

Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Kingsbane (Empirium #2) by Claire Legrand to read and review.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Ask Me Anything by Molly E. Lee

I should’ve kept my mouth shut.

But Wilmont Academy’s been living in the Dark Ages when it comes to sex ed, and someone had to take matters into her own hands. Well, I’m a kickass coder, so I created a totally anonymous, totally untraceable blog where teens can come to get real, honest, nothing-is-off-limits sex advice.

And holy hell, the site went viral overnight. Who knew this school was so hard up.

Except now the school administration is trying to shut me down, and they’ve forced Dean—my coding crush, aka the hottest guy in school—to try to uncover who I am. If he discovers my secret, I’ll lose him forever. And thousands of teens who need real advice won’t have anyone to turn to.

Ask me anything… except how to make things right.

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Entangled Publishing

Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

Trying to be as spoiler-free as possible. Ultra-conservative private school is run by a power-hungry principal, who employs extortion to get what he wants from his students, in order to continue on with his reign.

While the principal made a most excellent villain of the novel, I felt that the majority of the community being stuck in the 1960s era mindset wasn't entirely accurate. Yes, some would be upset about sex education (this wasn't the deep south or the bible belt, I don't believe), so while I'm positive there are those who still hang tight to those ideals, I believe they wouldn't be in the majority. I'll show my age – I grew up in a rural, dinky town with almost a dozen churches and only one stop light, back in the mid-1990s, and we had comprehensive sex-ed in 3rd, 6th, and 8th grade. My point, the principal and one or two parents, sure. The entire town enough to stage protests against an advice blog on the internet in 2019... no way. Not when you'd have to cut-off the town's supply of Wi-Fi and 4G to keep them indoctrinated. I could see if the parents wanted the school board to take down a site created by the school they felt inappropriate – otherwise, shrugs, it's the whole of the internet.

While I loved the purpose of the blog, the message of awareness and a safe and informative place to ask questions without judgement, I felt the pitch forks, torches, and tar were a bit over-the-top. The principal was the perfect amount of drama – the rest was just overkill.

Amber is our innocent heroine, Dean our hero, both top 'hackers' in the school, awaiting admission to MIT. They've been friends for years, but with how Amber dated a db for the entire previous school year, Dean assumed his attraction to Amber was unrequited.

The pair are uber intelligent, tenacious, and dedicated, both wanting to change the world, leaving one of them exposed to extortion. This is where I struggled... independently, Amber and Dean felt as if the male and female versions of each other, outside of a few background stories. Too similar. Perfect. While they had plenty of quick-witted banter, it felt dry to me, as if they were chatting back and forth with himself/herself. If not for prompts in the content, their voices were interchangeable during their points-of-view.

The teenage angst was delicious, where Dean and Amber were competing in their own little game of 'best hacker,' trying to out-do the other. I did find the drama of the villain principal bringing out more angst to pit them against one another yummy. (I just didn't believe there would have been protests. The BFF's mom angry over birth control sounded spot-on, and I felt that would help teens today. MOST of the parents being angry, as I said, that was just a step too far and took the entertainment value and believability down for me.)

Amber was struggling from an event with her ex, which I felt was written with compassion and accuracy. It hurts for me to admit how many of us have been in that situation. Normally I can breeze through flashbacks like that, but this one hit me hard, dragging up my own memories. Raw and real, this was the authenticity of the storyline. It's what kept me engaged, since this was used as a mystery to draw the plot forward, because as we were in Amber's head, she refused to share what happened until she had the flashback near the three-quarter mark. If it hadn't been for that, honestly, I might have tossed in the towel and not finished.

While I enjoyed the book overall, the pacing was on the slow side, many filler scenes, which slowed it down farther and made the book feel longer than its length. The abundance of coding information made our narrators feel like hackers, but it was too instructional, like a textbook, which made me lose interest as it went directly over my head. Amber's past event kept me engaged, then I felt I might as well finish the book off after I found out what had happened. I ate up the angst between Dean and Amber thanks to our villain. I felt the issues explored in Ask Me Anything were written with compassion and devoid of judgment, which will possibly help teen readers as they read the novel.

I do recommend Ask Me Anything, flaws and all.

Young Adult age-range: 14+ due to adult language and sexual content. The message of the novel is age-appropriate and I believe comforting and enlightening for readers; however, it depends on the maturity of the reader, not necessarily their age.

Molly E. Lee is an author best known for her debut novel Edge of Chaos, and as a mentor at Pitch Wars – a program which connects promising writers to established authors in the community. Molly writes New Adult and Young Adult contemporary featuring strong female heroines who are unafraid to challenge their male counterparts, yet still vulnerable enough to have love sneak up on them. In addition to being a military spouse and mother of two + one stubborn English Bulldog, Molly loves watching storms from her back porch at her Midwest home, and digging for treasures in antique stores.

Connect with Molly

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Ask Me Anything by Molly E. Lee to read and review.