Saturday, December 19, 2015

Carefully Everywhere Descending by L.B. Bedford

Audrey Anderson has one chance to escape poverty—excel academically and get into a good school. She’ll let nothing stand between her and her goal: not dating and certainly not snotty Scarlett West. The girls can’t stand each other, so why is Scarlett hanging around Audrey and getting under Audrey’s skin—in more ways than one?

Scarlett needs a tutor, and Audrey doesn’t want the job. She still resents Scarlett offering to pay Audrey to do her homework, but her compassionate best friend talks Audrey into giving Scarlett a second chance. The more time they spend together, the harder it becomes for Audrey to fight her growing attraction to the other young woman.

At the same time, Audrey’s interest in her new neighbor’s bizarre behavior gnaws at her, and she can’t leave the mystery alone. Her relentless curiosity might cost her everything.

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Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

I believe young adults would enjoy the story – I'm reading and reviewing from an adult standpoint.

Audrey is from a lower-income family, struggling to simply put food in their bellies. Their living situation is destitute, and added on top of that is the fact that Audrey's mother is bipolar.

"Show, not tell," is a writer's standard. In most instances, Audrey's uncomfortable life was told, not shown (sometimes at ad nauseam) and I wish this had been fleshed out more to develop Audrey's character instead of making her sound whiny in monologue and dialogue. But it did create the chip on her shoulder that pushed the storyline forward. This would have hit harder if the reader had been shown, not just heard about it, to truly get that punch to the gut sensation.

Determined to change her fate, Audrey is working her tail off in High School to ensure she makes it to college. Forward and a bit controlling, Audrey comes off as a good role model with her work ethic and moral compass but she's a bit short-sighted in the fact that what is right for her may not be right for her older brother. Know-it-all-ish, which can be grating on the reader, because how did a younger sister at her age have the life experience to know more than anyone else (true to how most teenagers think, I guess).

Drama keeps trying to pull her under as she fights to float back to the top, where the reader is hit with the woe-is-me tale of a girl who just doesn't seem to catch a break, which gets a bit old for someone of my 'advanced' age.

Audrey didn't freak out for falling for a girl. She had no doubts and rolled with it. There was no family drama on this front. Everyone was very understanding and tolerant. Not that they shouldn't have been, but in a LBGTQ novel you'd expect a few hiccups. In a way, this felt like a backseat issue, not in the foreground of the storyline even if it was a book about a girl crushing and falling in love with another girl.

Carefully Everywhere Descending's pacing is on the slow side, a story about first love, with the all the angst and drama you'd expect from a Young Adult novel. The romance is light. The crush and the economic state of Audrey take up most of the book. But then a side story thread kind of pops out of nowhere to add some depth to the story, but it just felt unfinished and like it was thrown in there and didn't fit the overall flow. It was bizarre, actually.

Genre: Young Adult | Young Adult romance (lesbian) | Coming-of-age | A bit of an unnecessary suspense/thriller thrown in at the end adding violence |

Age-range: 14+

L.B. Bedford is a librarian who loves the thrill of inhabiting a good story. She has more ideas for books than she does excuses for getting out of awkward social interactions. Since her last girlfriend, she has entered the harrowing and amusing world of online dating. This form of communication makes sense to her, since she is almost permanently online anyway.

On any given day, she will be reading, writing, running, learning to code, taming her sewing machine, playing the piano, or taking advantage of all the free online courses available in a multitude of subjects. She loves cooking, sushi, and trying to kick her pasta habit. A former cat owner, she has not yet made a commitment to her next cat, though she does have the name picked out (Thor: Cat of Thunder). She lives in the Washington, DC area, where she continues to plan for more cultural events than she ends up attending.

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Carefully Everywhere Descending by L.B. Bedford to read and review.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

A Killing Among Friends by Toni Morrow Wyatt

Sennie Lacefield has always felt safe at her family’s peaceful mountain lodge…

The only break in her tranquil life was the death of her boyfriend Patrick Devon, which left her heartbroken and unable to understand Patrick’s sullen, withdrawn brother Lonnie. But when her best friend Reatha Alcoker disappears, her sense of security is shattered. With the help of Reatha’s boyfriend Milo Durham, she launches a search for her friend.

More girls disappear, and bodies begin turning up…

When one of the missing girls is found dead in a swamp with a symbol burned into her forehead, Sennie focuses on her growing list of suspects. She can’t count on help from the lazy, lecherous Sheriff Warford Cackley. She also has suspicions the sheriff’s son Rex and his nasty friend Ottis know more than they’re willing to share.

Someone is watching Sennie’s every move…

Refusing to believe Reatha is dead, Sennie and Milo continue their frantic search, and Sennie is plagued with threatening messages. When another girl’s body is discovered, she and Milo visit the site and find evidence that Reatha has also been there. Some aerial photographs might hold a vital clue…if they can find them in time.

As Sennie unravels a tangled web of secrets, arson, burglary, and murder, could it be that a desire to help Sennie has warped the mind of a murderer?

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Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

Girls are going missing in small town Arkansas, but no one seems to be doing much about it. I found this strange. When Sennie's best friend Reatha goes missing, she starts investigating on her own because it is assumed that she ran away to Little Rock.

I really liked the diversity of characters in the small town. The differences between the rich side of town and the poor side were good and we have a pool of suspects from both sides. Girls continue to go missing, other crimes are committed, and there was enough going on that I wasn't sure I knew who the guilty party was. A Killing Among Friends is a very good mystery. I'll definitely read books by this author again.

3.5 stars
Toni Morrow Wyatt is a new-to-me author.

A Killing Among Friends starts off strong, pulling the reader in and engaging them with good pacing and an easy flowing writing style. As an adult reading a novel geared more toward late teens, I had to suspend belief to fall into the story after solving the mystery early on. I tried to read the rest of the novel through the eyes of its intended audience, and I feel that a younger person would be engrossed and riveted to the unraveling of the mystery's plot.

The setting of the small Arkansas town lent to the overall dark and creepy feel of the storyline. But I do wish there was more of an indication of the era of which the story took place.

Recommended to those who love a who-done-it type mystery, where you're gritting your teeth as the narrator digs through clues to solve the mystery, but not for those who are quick to solving the mystery before the narrator does.

Genre: Mystery | Young Adult | Who-done-it |

As a child, Toni Morrow Wyatt’s family spent nearly every summer visiting relatives in a small, rural community in Arkansas. Finding magic in this place, it is the setting for many of her novels. Her love for southern fiction led to the writing of A Killing Among Friends and Return to Rocky Gap. Her work has appeared in From the Depths Literary Journal and Belle Reve Literary Journal. She writes an eclectic blog titled, A Pinch of Me, on Tumblr. She was previously an independent bookseller, owning and operating Kindred Books for seven years. She makes her home in a small North Carolina town with her husband and two children.

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of A Killing Among Friends by Toni Morrow Wyatt to read and review.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Nexis by A.L. Davroe

In the domed city of Evanescence, appearance is everything. A Natural Born amongst genetically-altered Aristocrats, all Ella ever wanted was to be like everyone else. Augmented, sparkling, and perfect. Then…the crash. Devastated by her father’s death and struggling with her new physical limitations, Ella is terrified to learn she is not just alone, but little more than a prisoner.

Her only escape is to lose herself in Nexis, the hugely popular virtual reality game her father created. In Nexis she meets Guster, a senior player who guides Ella through the strange and compelling new world she now inhabits. He offers Ella guidance, friendship…and something more. Something that allows her to forget about the “real” world, and makes her feel whole again.

But Nexis isn’t quite the game everyone thinks it is.

And it’s been waiting for Ella.

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Book 1
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Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

A long, long time ago, Erica (that's me) would become engrossed in a novel to the point she would feverishly read. After reading 1000s of books, and writing 20+, Erica lost that spark – the ability to immerse herself in a world without knowing what was going to happen next, to not see the threads her fellow author was weaving, which spoiled her reading experience. Erica has switched between genres, going far, far away from anything she would create, but to no avail.

Then came Nexis. A story so far removed from anything Erica had ever read before, she was ecstatic to be able to read the story as the author intended.

A.L. Davroe's world-building envisioned two separate universes: the domed cities offering protection from the almost inhabitable, war-ridden landscape, and a lifelike, virtual-reality MMORPG video game world the characters immerse themselves in. The descriptions in the book were perfectly written – not too much, but enough where I could imagine exactly how it looked.

Characterization: Still a junior/senior high school age, they are simultaneously selfish and selfless. Whereas the adults have had a lifetime to lock into their mindset, making them stubborn and unyielding. All of which is exactly how human nature would dictate.

Storytelling: Nexis is far from a humorous read, but I found myself laughing in pure delight on several occasions. Adventuring and Questing. I've been playing video games since birth, so reading the characters being gifted armor from their enemies leaving the playing field, or scavenging for loot, to accepting a bounty on a dragon...

You're my side quest.

The gaming aspects, which were more than half of the book, truly delighted me. Detailed, thoroughly researched, and extremely engrossing. The concept sounds difficult to read and enjoy, but it heightened the story immensely. The detailing... the Freedom Quilt had me getting a bit choked up, to be honest, because of its origins in American History, and that is exactly the type of object you'd find hidden in an MMORPG/RPG game.

Romance: Ella is a seventeen-year-old girl, and she acts as such. Even a girl my age is prone to getting weak-kneed over a handsome face. I felt Ella a strong character, not at all boy-crazy, and I was even empathetic to her beginning moments of spoiled-brat-ness (under the circumstances (my age), I could understand both father and daughter's position). There is a romantic entanglement throughout the book, and by book's end, a mystery is still not revealed. UGH! I threw a temper tantrum when I finished, but, boy, did that make me want to dive right into the next book. (I know how annoying what I'm about to do truly is) “Author, when is the next in the series going to be released?”

Recommended: Young Adult girls and guys (especially gamers), adult gamers who will find this book delightful, and anyone willing to give this book a try. If you're not a gamer, have never played an RPG/MMORPG, aspects will most certainly confuse you. But, hey, you might decide to boot up your PC or a console after finishing the book to try out a game or two.

In all seriousness, Nexis has many plot threads woven together, keeping the reader on their toes all the way to the end of the book and beyond. I am waiting impatiently and with anticipation for the next in the series. The writer in me is already spinning my own web, trying to figure out how this author ticks, because I want to know the same question Elle asked.

Who played the game?

Genre: Science Fiction | Dystopian | Young Adult romance | MMORPG | Action/Mystery/Suspense |

Young Adult age-range: 12+: video game & in real life violence | sexual content with kissing shown and more activity perceived | Parental units, judge your child's maturity on this. But it's mild by comparison to most TV commercials and exactly like most video games.

A.L. Davroe grew up in Connecticut and, after traveling to many countries, many states, and many fantasy realms - sometimes even living in them - she has decided that Connecticut is a wonderful little state. She likes books, cats, chai tea lattes, and the word "chime." By day, A.L. makes cheese for a local artisan dairy and, by night, A.L. writes in various sub-genres of adult and YA fantasy, science fiction, horror, and romance, but most of her work tends to have a revisionist twist to it. You can follow her various forays into aesthetic merriment and misbegotten shenanigans on Facebook or Twitter and you can check out her current musical obsessions on her website.

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Nexis (Tricksters #1) by A.L. Davroe to read and review.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Dark Rising by Monica McGurk

Can One Person Upend a Prophecy as Old as Time?

Hope Carmichael is on the run. The only question is, from whom?

The mark on her neck has branded her as part of an ancient prophecy, the Bearer of the Key. But the Fallen Angels have misunderstood and think Hope is their long-awaited way to regain Heaven by force. Now Hope is chasing down the artifact that could open Heaven’s Gates, while seeking to destroy it before the Fallen catch up with her. Will the Triad crime ring track Hope and exact their punishment before she gets the chance? Is the ragtag band of angels surrounding her now there to protect her, or imprison her? And will Michael, the Archangel sworn to defend Heaven at all costs, be forced to deny his love for Hope and take her life, instead, so that the artifact won’t fall into enemy hands?

The epic narrative introduced in Dark Hope continues in Dark Rising as Hope crisscrosses some of the most ancient sites in Europe and plumbs the depths of history in search of the truth about the Key, herself, and love. Exploring themes of identity, fate, jealousy, trust, and forgiveness, Dark Rising’s mythological scope and moral urgency deepen as we come to understand the choices and consequences faced by a young woman determined to follow her heart and chart her own destiny.

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Book 2
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Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

The follow up novel to Dark Hope left me a confused mess. Though the theme of human trafficking is still prevalent in the story arc, the book focuses more on what Hope is the KEY to and how to find that answer. The Fallen have very little page time through the majority of this book. I really wanted to like Dark Rising and was hoping for so much more than what it delivered. In general, I felt as the author relied too heavily on formulaic writing throughout the book. It was as presented as though, yes this should happen and then this. This resulted in scenes and/or actions that went against what I had come to know the characters for. The idea of the series is great but the overall story fell flat. I debated between 2 and 3 stars because of this, but in the end the book was just such a letdown.

Recommended for ages 17+ due to sexual content and violence.

Also Available in the Archangel Prophecies Series

Book 1
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For reviews & more info, check out our Dark Hope post.

Monica McGurk loves nothing better than to craft thought-provoking, multilayered stories, showcasing strong girls and women overcoming big challenges.

Already a fan favorite, she received the 2013 TwiFic Fandom Undiscovered Gem award for Morning Star, her alternate ending to the Twilight series, written before the release of Breaking Dawn.

Her first novel in The Archangel Prophecies trilogy, Dark Hope, was published in 2014. Dark Rising is the second novel in this series. The final installment, Dark Before Dawn, is expected in 2016.

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Dark Rising (Archangel Prophecies #2) by Monica McGurk to read and review.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Dead Ringer by Jessie Rosen

From the moment Laura Rivers steps foot into Englewood High, she notices the stares—and they aren’t the typical once-overs every pretty new girl endures. The students seem confused and…spooked. Whispers echoing through the halls confirm that something is seriously off. “That new girl looks just like her,” they say.

It turns out Laura has a doppelgänger, and it isn't just anyone—it's Sarah Castro-Tanner, the girl who killed herself by jumping into the Navasink River one year ago.

Laura is determined not to let the gossip ruin her chances of making a fresh start. Thanks to her charming personality and California tan, she catches the eye of Englewood’s undisputed golden boy, Charlie Sanders, and it’s only a matter of time before they make their relationship official.

But something is making Charlie and his friends paranoid—and Laura soon discovers it has to do with Sarah Castro-Tanner.

What really happened to Sarah? Why is Charlie unraveling? And how does Laura Rivers fit into it all?

After all, she’s the dead ringer for a dead girl.

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Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

2.5 stars. Listed as 3 Stars because there are no half star allowances in the system.

Jessie Rosen has promise as a storyteller, but the execution wasn't spot-on. The flow of information was at a snail's pace, and everything HAD to be a mystery, even things that shouldn't have been because they didn't connect to anything else. Characterization should NEVER be a mystery. The who/how/what/where/why is what makes a story, and to give it out piecemeal is not a mystery but a flaw in the writing style that left me disinterested. You have to give the reader something to grip onto, something that engages them and keeps them interested. If they have to read 300+ pages to find out an answer to the smallest things, with it all being buried among the mundane, they may just give up and find another story to read. Or skim – like I eventually had to do in order to continue because I was bored by not knowing anything.

In a mystery, everything cannot be the mystery. It buries the real plot beneath the information that makes a story fluid and engaging.

I was prepared for an on-the-edge-of-my-seat type of read. Where your heart pounds with nervous energy. This is why I warn that only the actual young adults should read Dead Ringer, as the true adults will never hit that plateau. As with PLL (the television series), I was disappointed over the fact that things that are presented as a mystery, that should have connected, but never did. They were just loose ends not explained and forgotten, or completely disregarded as the author rewrites the history they built in the first place.

Dead Ringer begins with Laura moving to a new town, going to a new school, where she is the Dead Ringer for a dead girl – a girl who committed suicide nearly two years ago when she was only 14. Only, the thing is, Laura looks NOTHING like Sarah. Hair color/eye color, all opposites of Sarah. The face was ‘similar.’ So that is not what I'd call a Dead Ringer at all. In fact, siblings who actually do look alike, even twins, when their hair color isn't the same, they look nothing like each other. This plays into the storyline later on, and it actually defeats the purpose – the supposedly looking like a Dead Ringer, but not actually looking the same. (If you're reading this review after reading the book, do you see what I mean? Why bother?)

Bear in mind, the incident happens at 14. At 16, the children have no parental supervision and have endless amounts of money, are geniuses, and behave like 50 yo egomaniacs. This is why I said younger readers would suspend believe, whereas I couldn't. 14-year-old hackers exist, but not in a vacuum. They have to have means, know-how, and helpers. Just like the major plot hole in PLL, A could NOT be everywhere, and Sasha couldn't know what she knew from surfing her programs twice a day – once in the morning and once in the evening. Not possible. Another major player was able to do things that are illegal from age 14 – 16 (things well-connected adults could never achieve), when they would have had to use legal paperwork to be where they were. (Like today, an 18 yo boy found out he was kidnapped when he was 5 when his college submission paperwork didn't add up). NO WAY could anything that happened in Dead Ringer even be plausible. Yes, it's fiction.

Nothing connected, added up, and some things were downright contradictory. Things from the beginning of the book, the narrator was unreliable, even when dealing with their own private thoughts. Making the entire story a huge lie. It wasn't a mystery, to me – it was shoddy writing. Young adults won't notice, adults will. So I'm not faulting the author, I'm saying adults may be disappointed by how glaring it will become.

In the end, none of it was remotely possible, no matter how much suspension of belief the reader uses. 3 stars because a young adult will probably get a kick out of the story...


If I would have edited this book, I would have told the author to write the entire thing from Charlie's POV, so the big reveal of the mystery wouldn't have been a contradiction – or an outright lie. With Charlie showing what had happened before the book even hit the 1/3 mark, and the mystery slowly unraveling from there to show who is whom and why. The narrative by one character negated the entire story. When you're inside a character's head, they cannot keep something so major hidden, causing readers to no longer trust the author.

Age range: 12+. Parents, this is a murder/suicide mystery who-done-it, so be forewarned about violent content.

(A new addition to my reviews) With so many adults reading the YA genre, I felt it necessary to add on whether or not an adult would enjoy the novel. I'm on the fence with Dead Ringer on whether or not an adult would enjoy it. In my opinion, no. This is a Young Adult title that should only be read by Young Adults, as with anyone with life experience will begin to doubt everything you read on the pages.

Genre: Young Adult | Mystery/suspense |

NOTE: NOT a stand-alone. This is book #1 in a series, which does end in a cliffhanger. While there is nothing in the blurb or the series information that denotes this as not being a standalone. So, that, in and of itself, is a mystery to be solved by the reader by book's end.

Recommended for young adults who love a who-done-it mystery, similar to Pretty Little Liars and the Lying Game. As a huge Shepard fan, both in reading her books and watching the adaptations, I jumped at the chance to read Dead Ringer.

Jessie Rosen is a writer, producer, and performer. She grew up in New Jersey, attended Boston College in Massachusetts, and began her writing career in New York. Her live storytelling series Sunday Night Sex Talk has received national attention. She was named one of “The 25 Best Bloggers, 2013 Edition” by TIME magazine for her blog 20-Nothings, which was also named in “The 100 Best Websites for Women” and “The Top 10 Best Websites for Millennial Women” in 2013 by Forbes.

Rosen is the oldest of four girls, which gives her a special window into the minds of teenagers. She now lives in Los Angeles, where she’s working on film and television projects, as well as her next novel.

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Dead Ringer by Jessie Rosen to read and review.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Paint My Body Red by Heidi R. Kling

They think I'll be number seven. Unlucky number seven.

Dead teenager number seven. With the rash of suicides at my school, I've been shipped off to my dad's Wyoming ranch for “my own safety.” My mom worries I'll be next—another depressed teenager whose blood will end up on the train tracks. But she doesn't know my secrets...or what I did.

Everything has changed at the ranch since I was there last. The staff is gone, and there aren’t any visitors. The place is struggling, and ALS is destroying my dad. The one bright spot in this mess is his new—and only—ranch hand, Jake. He’s gorgeous, cheerful, healthy and sane. Shadows don't haunt his eyes and eat away at him in the night.

But the ranch and Jake can't save me from the darkness inside, or the knowledge of what I've done. This time, it's up to me to save myself...

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Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

I wasn't sure what to expect when I began Paint My Body Red. I enjoyed the storyline – the location. Going against the norm, a girl who was born in Wyoming, raised in California, returns to her roots for a few months before she ventures to college on the East coast. Paige says goodbye to the demons of her past while giving her final goodbyes to her father, all the while reconnecting with the land and finding love where she least expected it.

My emotions ran the gamut from smiling to bawling my eyes out, and then back again in a roller coaster ride of emotions. I don't wish to ruin it by giving a play-by-play. But I will say there was no insta-love, no cheesy eye-roll-worthy teenage girl obsessed with boys inner monologue. No overplayed and overused tropes of jealousy and miscommunications to take the place of real storytelling. Fluid, the book flowed as reality.

Paige: a strong female lead. A good role model. Neither whiny nor perfect. Flaws forged the character into someone who acted and reacted most certainly human. As an eighteen-year-old, Paige doesn't fall into the trap of being bossy/TSTL/know-it-all/helpless yet does-it-all. Anti-cliché. The girl was a well-rounded character with traits that followed human nature.

Adult readers may find Paige's earlier actions hard to swallow, but one must remember what it felt like to be newly 18. In my 30s, I'm just now able to recognize things I would have been too blind to see in my late teens. Be empathetic while reading this very tough subject matter.

The parents were flawed as well – all the side characters were, but not overtly so. Even those who could have been vilified were painted with an empathetic brush. There was no right or wrong, only consequences and life lessons worth learning.

My only partial negative, I had difficulty engaging with the book in the beginning. Not the Now sections. Then was difficult for me to grasp at first. The flow was a bit jarring, the Now | Then | Now | Then in short bursts, sometimes only a half a page in a time-frame. I was never confused as to what was happening when. But by the middle of the story, the flow eventually evened out and became fluid.

I enjoyed Heidi R. Kling's voice, storytelling, even with the dark subject matter. I'd recommend it to those who need a highly emotional read, but be forewarned to keep the tissues handy. Anyone who needs a warm, cuddly read, please come back when you're emotionally ready.

Would I read more by this author? I intend to see what other stories Kling has written.

Suggested Young Adult age-range: mature 14 – 16 due to dark content, suicide, grief/mourning, and sexual content. More told than shown, but that didn't dampen the impact of the moral. Parents, gauge your child's maturity level, but I do believe it's an appropriate and necessary read to broaden all minds.

Genre: Young adult | Coming of Age | High School Graduate transitioning to college | Dark subject matter | Slight mystery/suspense feel | Realistic Romance | More heart-warming than heart-breaking |

Heidi Kling writes contemporary novels about young women in fantastic situations and fantasy novels set in our contemporary world. Her bestselling Spellspinners series is a popular serial series leading with Witch's Brew about estranged but destined witches and warlocks. The Gleaning, Devil's Frost and Beautiful Monster are out now with more adventures to follow. Her beloved debut contemporary, Sea, set in the aftermath of the tsunami, was a Summer 2010 IndieNext Pick, Northern California Book of the Year finalist, Gateway Readers Choice Award winner and Scholastic Readers Pick.

Her forthcoming contemporary novel, Paint My Body Red, is a mysterious romance about a haunted girl escaping the pressures of the Silicon Valley after her involvement in a series of "contagious" teen suicides at her prestigious high school. As she learns to face the past while dealing with her father's dilapidated Jackson Hole, Wyoming ranch and withering health, she leans on magnetic ranch hand Jake. Paint My Body Red launches with Entangled Teen Fall, 2015.

After earning her MFA in Writing for Children from the New School, she returned to the Bay Area where she lives with her husband, two children and the fluffiest accidental puppy mix ever, Sailor Lily, just over the coastal mountains from the sea.

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Paint My Body Red by Heidi R. Kling to read and review.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Dark Heart of Magic by Jennifer Estep

Something Wicked This Way Comes...

As a thief, I stick to the shadows as much as possible. But when the head of the Sinclair Family picks me to compete in the Tournament of Blades, there's no escaping the spotlight—or the danger.

Even though he's my competition, Devon Sinclair thinks I have the best shot at winning what's supposed to be a friendly contest. But when the competitors start having mysterious "accidents," it looks like someone will do anything to win—no matter who they hurt.

As if I didn't have enough to worry about, mobster Victor Draconi is plotting against Devon and the rest of my friends, and someone's going around Cloudburst Falls murdering monsters. One thing's for sure. Sometimes, humans can be more monstrous than anything else...

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Book 2
Releases October 27th

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Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

5 adventurous stars.
I’d asked to review this title, being a huge fan of Jennifer Estep, and didn’t think I’d get approved. I was new to this series, so I purchased the first book and devoured it in one sitting. It hit all the elements of a great Young Adult Urban Fantasy title, perfect for the young at heart reader that I am.

With book #1 receiving a solid 5 star rating from yours truly, I was filled with trepidation to begin book #2. Simply because of this thing called the first book curse: where the first book is the best book ever and the second book falls short. Or the first book is meh but it’s a slow build, making book #2 spectacular. Trepidation because it fell into the former category of the first book curse. Whew, am I relieved that wasn’t the case.

Starting off with a bang, Lila is battling with a monster – a troll. With the one she is sworn to protect, Devon, and his sidekick, Felix. After which, they meet up with their nemesis & his sister – Felix’s Juliette – plus a new character is introduced. It sets the pacing, engaging readers who are curious about the tournaments mentioned in said conversation.

This series, including this book, has action, monsters, magic, a tourist-filled West Virginia town, and incredible world-building that is as intriguing as it is original.

Lila is a strong female, young yet not dumb. She’s the perfectly flawed role model. Not too perfect where she doesn’t seem real, never making a mistake. But she also can take care of herself, never falling into the trappings of a YA TSTL character. She’s also not overbearing in the arrogance department – not a know-it-all. Lila is an all-around intriguing character that will entertain both boy and girl young adults, and those like me who believe books have no age-range.

There are violent moments, but this is an Urban Fantasy series, so you’d be disappointed if there weren’t. There are a few threads of romance going on in this series. The ‘I can’t like you even though I do’ between Lila & Devon, and to be quite honest, that thread feels a bit forced – not fluid. Another thread is between Felix and Deah, Romeo & Juliette. Then the newcomer is thrown in the mix.

There is a little bit of everything to entertain those young and old and in between. If Urban Fantasy is your genre, Jennifer Estep’s writing is solid, her world-building is consistent, and her storytelling is stellar.

Recommended for a mature 14+ due to violent content.

Also Available in the Black Blade Series

Book 1
Buy Links

Amazon US  ~  Amazon UK  ~  Amazon Au  ~  Amazon Ca

Jennifer Estep is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of urban fantasy and paranormal romance.

Her Elemental Assassin series follows the life and times of Gin “the Spider” Blanco, a barbecue restaurant owner who also happens to be an assassin with magical control over the elements of Ice and Stone.

The Mythos Academy series focuses on Gwen Frost, a 17-year-old Gypsy girl who has the ability to know an object’s history just by touching it. She studies at Mythos Academy, a school for the descendants of ancient warriors.

Her Bigtime paranormal romance books feature sexy superheroes, evil ubervillains, and smart, sassy gals looking for love.

Estep’s new Black Blade series is about 17-year-old thief Lila Merriweather, who has a Talent for sight, along with the ability to take magic others used against her to boost her own powers. She tries not to get involved with the Families who control much of the town, but ends up in the middle of a potential turf war.

Connect with Jennifer

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Dark Heart of Magic (Black Blade #2) by Jennifer Estep to read and review.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Salem’s Vengeance by Aaron Galvin

Sixteen-year-old Sarah Kelly never expected to meet the Devil’s daughter. She only sought innocent dancing in the moonlight, not a coven entranced by their dark priestess.

When her friends partake of a powder meant to conjure spirits – and the results go horribly awry – Sarah is forced to make a choice. To keep their secret risks her own damnation, but to condemn them may invoke the accusing remnants of Salem to rise again.

Add to Goodreads

Book 1
Buy Links

Amazon US  ~  Amazon UK  ~  Amazon Au  ~  Amazon Ca

Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

A fresh approach to a well-known American story, Salem witchcraft. This book is slow on the pickup but draws you in still with the insights into the characters and keeps you guessing. Once the action starts it pretty much doesn’t stop. I am looking forward to reading more in this series. And to see what direction he takes the characters in. This is a period set story and I appreciate that he kept the characters true to how they would have behaved back then.

I would recommend this book for 14 plus. There is some sexual content.

Aaron Galvin first cut his chops writing stand-up comedy routines at age thirteen. His early works paid off years later when he co-wrote and executive produced the award-winning indie feature film, Wedding Bells & Shotgun Shells.

He is also an accomplished actor. Aaron has worked in everything from Hollywood blockbusters, (Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight, and Clint Eastwood's Flags of Our Fathers), to starring in dozens of indie films and commercials.

Aaron is a native Hoosier, graduate of Ball State University, and a proud member of SCBWI. He currently lives in Southern California with his wife and children.

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Salem’s Vengeance (Vengeance Trilogy #1) by Aaron Galvin to read and review.