Saturday, March 26, 2016

Trailer Trash by Marie Sexton

It’s 1986, and what should have been the greatest summer of Nate Bradford’s life goes sour when his parents suddenly divorce. Now, instead of spending his senior year in his hometown of Austin, Texas, he’s living with his father in Warren, Wyoming, population 2,833 (and Nate thinks that might be a generous estimate). There’s no swimming pool, no tennis team, no mall—not even any MTV. The entire school’s smaller than his graduating class back home, and in a town where the top teen pastimes are sex and drugs, Nate just doesn’t fit in.

Then Nate meets Cody Lawrence. Cody’s dirt-poor, from a broken family, and definitely lives on the wrong side of the tracks. Nate’s dad says Cody’s bad news. The other kids say he’s trash. But Nate knows Cody’s a good kid who’s been dealt a lousy hand. In fact, he’s beginning to think his feelings for Cody go beyond friendship.

Admitting he might be gay is hard enough, but between small-town prejudices and the growing AIDS epidemic dominating the headlines, a town like Warren, Wyoming, is no place for two young men to fall in love.

Warning: This book contains teenagers doing all the things we did as teenagers but which we now pretend teenagers never do.

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Riptide  Publishing

Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

Trailer Trash was like a time-warp, no doubt for all of us who are not the age of the characters. I was a small child in 1986, but I remember the dark way the world felt in that time period, as well as the products, bands, and the news of the time during that era. If those the age of the characters read this title today, it will be an enlightening experience versus how their world is now.

Trailer Trash shows the dynamic between those with no money and those with disposable money in rural America in 1986, and most of those rules still apply in 2016. A coming-of-age, boy from the wrong side of the tracks romance between the trailer trash boy and the preppy cop's son.

I'm a huge fan of Marie Sexton – the way she creates diverse, developed characters who seem plucked straight out of reality. The stories are always slow-burn, friendships built, with the pacing on the slower side of steady.

The world was a different, more intolerant place in 1986. Pre-internet, with the internet drawing all parts of the world into an accessible school of knowledge, rural folks especially could only understand what was in their small vacuum. Ignorance is not a lack of intelligence, but rather a lack of education in a specific area. Mix ignorance with a lack of compassion and fear, and violence erupts.

Cody and Nate's journey in Warren, Wyoming in 1986 is true-to-life, heartwarming, tragic, and a swift kick in reality to show how much the world has changed. Today, we're all so worried about being offended by everything, to the point we don’t realize how much has changed in my lifetime of 37 years – how much the world will change in another 37 years, hopefully for the better.

Just in my life, I was frustrated with Cody and his mother, wasting money on vice. When my mom isn't working, she's at the bar. With nothing to do around here, I sit around and chainsmoke, then go without food because we have no money." This illogical way of thinking is a plague on the ignorant. This is true-to-life on how the cycle continues, but no less frustrating to read.

When the boy would go to the cupboards, only finding peanut butter and no bread, but the mother was drinking a beer and smoking a cigarette, I wanted to shake Cody. I want to go outside of my home and shake all of those in my area who do this to this day. Cody was no better until he grew near the end, realizing how ridiculous it was to waste his money on cigarettes when it could be spent on resolving his problems instead of creating more.

My only major issue I take with Trailer Trash was the price of products. Today, buying major brands, I still don't breach $3.00 on a jar of spaghetti sauce, and I buy Bertolli. I also shop in thrift shops because I'm a bargain huntress. In 2016, much less 1986, a coat wouldn't take months' worth of saving up all of your earnings to buy a coat. Cody couldn't afford a coat, but he was able to pay a handful of bills and the rent, with most of the money saved up to buy said coat, until he had $10.00 left. Which he bought cigarettes with, while thinking he wanted to buy a pair of snow boots. In 1986, even 10 bucks would have been enough to buy a coat, or boots, and those gloves he said he couldn't afford, which would have been cheaper than one pack of cigs – the gloves. Now, I'm going by rural America prices, when in 1986 we were poorer than Trailer Trash and had a $40.00 a week limit on our grocery bill for 4 people. So 3 bucks for pasta sauce, when I don't pay that today, struck me as way off.

Showing the AIDS crisis while it was running rampant through the US was a refreshing thing to read. Disturbing in how it made the bias and bigotry worse than ever, but a useful part of history those who didn't live through it need to learn. Reading the facts is different than watching beloved characters have AIDS thrown in their face as a mark against why their love was wrong. On the same token, with the ignorance and lack of information, even in the medical field, I could understand how a parent would be petrified.

Trailer Trash held a plethora of darker emotions, without much light. So I was thankful for a small piece of humor. Uptown gave me an endless stream of entertainment. As a rural girl, we also say I gotta go up town. But since I'm in the Northeast, it's said as two separate words, rather than one word. Or we say I'm going to town. Thanks for giving me a good chuckle and showing how areas have slight distinctions.

I recommend this book to fans of the MM romance genre, especially those who love slow-burn, reality-based, character-driven stories. I also recommend for young adults going through the coming out process, because it will highlight how those before them paved the way in their efforts to remove ignorance. They're not alone – they never were nor will they ever be, no matter how horrible it may feel in the moment. The world is a more tolerant place today, and we need to appreciate the time it wasn't while trying to eradicate it entirely.

I'd read Marie Sexton's grocery lists, so obviously I look forward to whatever she publishes next.

Young adult age-range: 14+ due to violence and sexual situations.

Nate moves with his father to the small town of Warren, Wyoming, the summer before senior year. He meets Cody and they become friends. Cody gives Nate the rundown of how things work in the town for kids their age. But Cody thinks that once school starts, Nate will learn things about Cody and their friendship will be over. The divide between the haves, who live on the wealthy side of town, and the have nots like Cody, who live in a trailer park, is huge and in Cody's mind, cannot be breached.

We follow Nate and Cody through their senior year of high school. Through friendship troubles, discovering feelings for each other, through tragedy, and ultimately, to end of their school year. I was particularly moved by Cody's home life. The absolute poverty in which he lives broke my heart.

Trailer Trash is dual point of view and I felt every emotion that these teens go through. It is an intense journey and at times there is such bleakness and despair I struggled to find the light and wondered how these boys were ever going to get out of this dying town. I spent so much of this book in tears, I was emotionally drained by the end and I have a major book hangover.

This is an amazing story. I connected with it in so many ways. Having grown up in the 80s and 90s, I loved looking back and remembering what it was like. I'm surprised at the similar issues faced by Cody growing up in small town Wyoming and my own experience growing up in the inner city in a country on the other side of the planet. The way the kids were in different cliques, how it was so important to make sure you were wearing the right brand of jeans or shoes, and the boredom that leads the teens to trouble, was all so familiar. Little details like playing cassettes and making a mix tape, the fact that it seemed like everyone smoked, having to go to the library to look up information rather than hitting Google, all added to the authenticity. I loved it all. Trailer Trash is a must read. It is outstanding.

Marie Sexton lives in Colorado. She’s a fan of just about anything that involves muscular young men piling on top of each other. In particular, she loves the Denver Broncos and enjoys going to the games with her husband. Her imaginary friends often tag along.

Marie has one daughter, two cats, and one dog, all of whom seem bent on destroying what remains of her sanity. She loves them anyway.

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Trailer Trash by Marie Sexton to read and review.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Clicked by Patrick Jones

Three years ago, Carson’s sister ran away. Now he’s found her—on a porn site.

High school senior, Carson Banks, is trying to find out what he wants to do with his life, wanting to move forward, though a part of him is firmly rooted in the day his life changed forever. The day his older sister Caitlin ran away, and disappeared. Then he finds her—on an internet porn site.

Deciding that finding Caitlin and bringing her home is the only thing he can do, Carson embarks on a quest that ends up changing him as much as Caitlin seems to have changed herself. Coping with the knowledge he can’t share with the rest of his family—yet—Carson writes thinly veiled autobiographical stories to help him better understand Caitlin, and why she left home.

And, while using every opportunity he has to find Caitlin and talk to her, Carson’s typical teenage life goes on. Girlfriend. Family. School. Friends. Things he did in the past that he’s not too proud of. It’s a busy senior year, but he’ll count it a win if he can convince Caitlin to come home–and figure out what exactly happened on the day that she left.

Reader Advisory: This book contains scenes of male/female intimacy and non-graphic sexual situations. This book also contains references to teen pregnancy, content about or related to online pornography, the pornography industry, stripping and gun violence.

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Finch  Books

Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

4.5 stars.

Clicked hooked me from page one, with the easy flow of the author's words, to the quick pacing, to the addictive quality of the storytelling. As a budding writer, Carson's narration is witty and clever. As a teenage boy, his one-track mind toward getting laid was true-to-life.

Carson's family is struggling, both in a failing economy and by falling into the trap of labeling each of their children. The A-type oldest, who excels and succeeds at everything she does. The middle problem child who can't ever live up to her older sister, where she falls to drugs and her only currency is in her body and between her legs, vs between her older sister's ears. Lastly, Carson, the baby – after living through the legacy of the A-type and the problem child, the parents don't motivate, nor do they care what he does as long as he doesn't act out as the middle child did. The baby always knows there is nothing they can do to be good enough, nor bad enough to be noticed as anything but ordinary.

As both the baby and the writer, I was able to completely empathize with Carson, especially later on as he struggled to get recognition for his writing, merely because of a boy who wrote the sweet of life while Carson wrote the reality. Fantasy sells while the bitter sting of reality makes people take their own measure, which is why I write what I write and why I enjoyed this book so much.

I appreciated how real, flawed, yet highly intelligent Carson was written. He was compassionate yet envious, the perfect mix of his siblings. As the story unfolds through backstory and Carson writing Autumn's Fall, where Caitlin is Autumn and he is August, we learn how his middle sister is no longer in the family.

Surfing the naughty websites, as Carson says, if a boy says he doesn't look at porn, he's lying, he finds his big sister's picture in a thumbnail of a video. As the catalyst of the entire book, the reader is taken on Carson's journey as he tries to locate his sister, drag his feet through school, and find a girlfriend who will actually get him laid. His mis-knowledge of sex was an eye-opener, where I hope teen boys read this story to learn girls are not porn stars, nor is sex like the scripted, drugged-out version they see playing on their computer screens.

I adored Carson, flaws and all. There were a few minor issues I had with the storyline, but the realism, the moral lying beneath the surface, and the human nature splayed on the pages made Clicked a page-turner.

Young Adult age-range: 14+

Like many teenage boys, Carson spends a fair amount of time online and plenty of it looking at porn. Carson's life changes when he comes across porn featuring his sister. Caitlin left home after a huge fight with their parents and disappeared 3 years ago.

Finding Caitlin's picture leads to changes in Carson's life. He decides to track down the sister that he loves so much. In an effort to see if the past holds any clues to where his sister might be, Carson starts writing her story for his creative writing club. He also tries to find a job and lies to his parents and best friend about what he is up to.

Like most teenage boys, Carson wants a girlfriend and sex. He does get the girlfriend he is after and it becomes clear that his viewing of online porn heavily influences what he expects from his girlfriend, Gabby. Gabby, in return, influences Carson, pushing him to continue writing his sister's story even though he is getting criticism. She also teaches him that people deserve a second chance.

I really liked that none of the characters in this book were perfect. There are several different themes running through the story, second chances, living for your dream, and to work hard even if someone is better at something you love than you are. This is a great coming of age story.

Born in same hometown as Michael Moore, Christopher Paul Curtis and Jon Sczieska (Flint, Michigan), Jones started his writing career at age eight with an article for a New York City-based pro wrestling newsletter. Since that time he has published over two hundred book reviews, one hundred plus articles, fifty or so essays in reference works, nine professional books for teachers and librarians, seven young adult novels and two nonfiction books. His current focus is reluctant YA readers, with twenty titles published since 2013, four due in fall 2015 and another four in spring 2016. In spring 2016, he will also publish a nonfiction book for teens on the changing nature of teen incarceration.

Patrick teaches an online Young Adult Literature class at Metro State University in St Paul, MN. Assignments in this class are due on Tuesday mornings so he can watch professional wrestling on Monday nights. Some things change, some don’t.

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Clicked by Patrick Jones to read and review.

Friday, March 18, 2016

A Thousand Boy Kisses by Tillie Cole Blog Tour

One kiss lasts a moment.
But a thousand kisses can last a lifetime.

One boy.
One girl.
A bond that is forged in an instant and cherished for a decade.
A bond that neither time nor distance can break.
A bond that will last forever.
Or so they believe.
When seventeen-year-old Rune Kristiansen returns from his native Norway to the sleepy town of Blossom Grove, Georgia, where he befriended Poppy Litchfield as a child, he has just one thing on his mind. Why did the girl who was one half of his soul, who promised to wait faithfully for his return, cut him off without a word of explanation?
Rune’s heart was broken two years ago when Poppy fell silent. When he discovers the truth, he finds that the greatest heartache is yet to come.

Standalone Young Adult Tearjerker Romance.
For ages 14 and up.

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Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

I am pleased to report that Kleenex® Cool Touch Facial Tissues are worth every penny. I have used ten tissues over the course of reading A Thousand Boy Kisses – which is 20% of the box – and while my eyes are puffy from crying a thousand girl tears, my nose is not rubbed raw. Seriously, Cole should contact Kleenex® for an endorsement deal, especially as I know this is a book I will read again and use just as many tissues the second time around. That’s just how moving the story is. At the very least, the author should buy stock in tissues because if she writes another book like this, sales will increase exponentially. Because Cole delivered on her promise of a Young Adult Tearjerker Romance with A Thousand Boy Kisses.

This is a story as old as time. Boy meets girl. Boy falls in love with girl. Boy vows to give girl the happily ever after she deserves. As you read the story, it’s clear that very few are as deserving of a happily ever after as Poppy Litchfield. While their happily ever after didn’t last as long as they hoped for, Rune Kristiansen gave Poppy all of his love and a thousand very special boy kisses – “as special as special can be” – and it all began with a handshake between two five-year-old children who decided to be best friends on the day they met. I mean, what little girl wouldn’t want her very own Viking? And my tears made their first appearance in chapter one, when Poppy’s mawmaw, as a final goodbye, gives her an adventure to collect a thousand boy kisses – but only the most special of kisses – to remind her that she was loved. Poppy may have only been eight at the time, but she understood that her grandmother was telling her goodbye and the importance of the task given to her. But my tears were soon swept away by a huge grin as Rune vowed to give Poppy her thousand boy kisses because, after all, she was his Poppy. When the story then jumps ahead seven years, we find that our 15-year-old duo is still attached at the hip and that Rune is as devoted to giving Poppy her thousand boy kisses as the day he made the vow, much to the dismay of the female student body. But don’t get too comfortable folks because Cole promised a tear jerker and she delivers on that promise time and time and time again, beginning with Rune’s father being sent back to Oslo for work for at least two to three years, and the young couple finds that time and other circumstances keep them from staying in touch. When the Kristiansen’s time in Oslo is up, the Rune that returns to Georgia is not the same boy that Poppy loved and she blames herself for it. And thus begins the second half of the young couple’s journey.

This is where the review gets sticky folks because I need to communicate a bit of a warning without revealing any spoilers. I had my suspicions about why Poppy cut Rune out of her life and I was so very wrong about them – but boy do I wish I’d been right because the truth is much harder to deal with. So hard, in fact, that it took me two days to read the book because I had to take a break from the emotional turmoil it put me through. With that said, while it is accurate to categorize A Thousand Boy Kisses as a young adult romance, I would recommend it for older and mature teens because of the subject matter. This is a sweet romance, so parents do not need to be concerned about anything sexual. Rather, A Thousand Boy Kisses deals with mortality at all ages. However, the emphasis of the book is on living life to the fullest, no matter how long or short it is. Making every moment count and being happy with the life you lead. Through Poppy and Rune’s romance, we experience young love, heartache, fierce love, heartbreak, happiness, loss, and pure love. I was impressed by Cole’s writing ability after reading the Hades Hangmen series, but this book left me in complete and total awe of her talent. A Thousand Boy Kisses has made it to my Top 10 Reads of 2016. Cole broke my heart and put it back together more than once during this book and I cannot wait to read more of her writing.

Recommended for ages 14 and up – as long as they are mature enough to deal with the realities of life and death. I definitely recommend it for adult readers as well, but only when you’re up for a cathartic read and the puffy eyes that go with it.

Tillie Cole hails from a small town in the North-East of England. She grew up on a farm with her English mother, Scottish father and older sister and a multitude of rescue animals. As soon as she could, Tillie left her rural roots for the bright lights of the big city.

After graduating from Newcastle University with a BA Hons in Religious Studies, Tillie followed her Professional Rugby player husband around the world for a decade, becoming a teacher in between and thoroughly enjoyed teaching High School students Social Studies before putting pen to paper, and finishing her first novel.

Tillie has now settled in Austin, Texas, where she is finally able to sit down and write, throwing herself into fantasy worlds and the fabulous minds of her characters.

Tillie is both an independent and traditionally published author, and writes many genres including: Contemporary Romance, Dark Romance, Young Adult and New Adult novels.

When she is not writing, Tillie enjoys nothing more than curling up on her couch watching movies, drinking far too much coffee, while convincing herself that she really doesn’t need that extra square of chocolate.

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of A Thousand Boy Kisses by Tillie Cole to read and review for this tour.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Playing for the Other Team by Sage C. Holloway

Bryson just wants to make it through the last few weeks of high school alive. Graduation is on the horizon, his grades are decent, and his biggest worries are, in order, his baseball performance, his graduation gown color, and his weird hair. Everything seems on track – until two heavy realizations hit him right in the middle of his senior prom: He's gay, and he's in love.

Reserved artist Jasper turns him down at first, despite his feelings for Bry, but he offers help to ensure Bryson can start the next chapter in his life as the person he was always meant to be. However, Jasper struggles with his own demons. He has commitment issues and a past which won't let go of him, including a jealous ex-boyfriend who doesn't take kindly to his former flame being pursued by someone else. Soon, every day spells trouble for the gifted outsider, forcing him to rely on Bryson for support.

Bryson must pull together all of his resolve to navigate the minefield with Jasper. Together, they stand against bullies, homophobes, and graduation gowns that threaten to make them look like bananas. With luck, they might just make it out in one piece.

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Loose Id

Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

When I started Playing for the Other Team, it was 2 a.m. and I just finished a rare 4.5 star book. I meant to only read a few chapters to get my mind off the other storyline, only to find myself finished before sleep finally claimed me. Thoroughly addicted, page after page flew by without my notice.

Bryson is sweet, and Playing for the Other Team is his journey of realizing he's into guys, Jasper especially, and the steps of his coming out to his friends, family, and at school, all the while trudging through life lessons.

The novel was a quick, easy read, with fast-pacing and witty writing. The characters were both sweet yet flawed, and undeniably realistic. Flowing from the realization, to the want of Jasper, to the aftermath of coming out, I couldn't get enough.

Bryson & Jasper were great, as were their guy friends. But the girls... Girls. Sage C. Holloway wrote a gaggle of amazing female characters, and for that I can't be thankful enough. Instead as the villainesses as most MM authors portray girls/women, the ladies are the protectors and friends – the sympathizers. Each girl was individually characterized and awesome in her own right. But Jasper's little sister was one of the biggest sources of amusement written on the pages. As Jasper calls her – a tiny Liam Neeson. Do we need to make a dentist appointment?

At book's end, I wanted more but was thoroughly satisfied. I believe it will make a great comfort reread.

I need to admit this, when Playing for the Other Team was offered in our review group, I actually scrolled by due to the cover, but the author caught my notice. I had also read Spectacularly Broken, one of my favorites of the past year, and immediately signed up to read and review. With both Spectacularly Broken and Playing for the Other Team on my favorite list, I cannot wait to see what more Sage C. Holloway has in store.

Young Adult age-range: 14+ (older if not as emotionally mature, younger if they are) due to sexual content and situations.

Prom night. Everyone always expects the greatest moments to happen on that night. It's supposed to be magical and filled with fun. You dress up and hang out with your friends, dance and have a good time. But what if you figure out you're gay in the middle of all of that and the one person that draws your attention is the one person to help you understand your new reality?

Bryson is coming to terms with his coming out. He didn't mean to blurt it out, especially to Jasper, the guy he's been crushing on. When Bryson learns he was unexpectedly outed by the one person who was supposed to have his back, he quickly learns not everyone is ok with his news.

I devoured Playing for the Other Team in one sitting. I am not usually a YA reader, but I am enjoying the subtle take on romance and attraction, a nice change up from my usual reads. It held my attention and in the end had me rooting for Jasper and Bryson.

Bryson realises he is gay while watching Jasper, a guy in his art class, dance with a girl at prom. On what turns out to be an eventful night for Bryson, he comes out to Jasper. Can they become friends? Jasper is openly gay and agrees to support Bryson through his coming out.

Bryson struggles to survive his final year of High School. When the students find out about Bryson's sexual orientation, some are supportive and others are vile and homophobic. All the while, Jasper is there for Bryson and romance develops. But it isn't all roses. Jasper has problems of his own that impact their relationship.

I really loved the way this story was written. These adolescents felt real and their struggles were easy to relate to. I did feel the very end of the story was a little rushed but otherwise this was a great story.

Sage C. Holloway is a parent, sex-positive feminist, pet store employee and resident fruitcake. Her childhood dream consisted of being a writer and an astronaut, and so far, she is about fifty percent there.

She has one husband, who seems to be the only one capable of putting up with her on a regular basis, and one son, who bears a striking resemblance to the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. She is also owned by three cats, who do an excellent job of assisting her by lying on her manuscripts whenever they can tear themselves away from lording over the living room. Sage loves glitter and loathes Wisconsin winters. She is delighted when she meets people who share her strange sense of humor.

Spectacularly Broken is her first novel.

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Playing for the Other Team by Sage C. Holloway to read and review.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Holding Court by K.C. Held

Sixteen-year-old Jules Verity knows exactly what's in store at her new job at castle-turned-dinner-theater Tudor Times. Some extra cash, wearing a fancy-pants dress, and plenty of time to secretly drool over the ever-so-tasty--and completely unavailable--Grayson Chandler. Except that it's not quite what she imagined.

For one, the costume Jules has to wear is awful. Then there's the dead body she finds that just kind of...well, disappears. Oh, and there's the small issue of Jules and her episodes of what her best friend calls "Psychic Tourette's Syndrome"--spontaneous and uncontrollable outbursts of seemingly absurd prophecies.

The only bright side? This whole dead body thing seems to have gotten Grayson's attention. Except that the more Jules investigates, the more she discovers that Grayson's interest might not be as courtly as she thought. In fact, it's starting to look suspicious...

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Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

The women in Jules family have the gift of sight. For Jules this manifests with what she calls "psychic Tourette's syndrome." She randomly blurts out prophesies in the form of sentences that seem to make no sense. At least not at the time.

When Jules lands a job playing a psychic at a local castle, she stumbles across a dead body while trying to hide from her childhood crush. The dead body promptly goes missing and the mystery begins.

This story is a fun, quirky, teenage mystery with a little romance thrown in. Lunewood Castle is a great setting with its secret passageways, pretty costumes, dinner theatre and array of interesting employees.

I loved the way this story is written. There is lots of conversation and action, there is always something going on. I had a blast reading Holding Court. It is a great G-rated read for teens and adults alike.

K.C. Held was born and raised in California with stopovers in Honduras, Mexico, and France. Married to her high school sweetheart, and mom to two avid bookworms, she holds an MFA in costume design and has worked as a freelance costumer in opera, theater, film and television. K.C. is represented by Kathleen Rushall at Marsal Lyon Literary Agency. Her debut young adult novel, Holding Court, will be published by Entangled Teen on March 1, 2016.

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Holding Court by K.C. Held to read and review.