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.