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.