Saturday, April 30, 2016

True Born by L.E. Sterling

Welcome to Dominion City.

After the great Plague descended, the world population was decimated...and their genetics damaged beyond repair.

The Lasters wait hopelessly for their genes to self-destruct. The Splicers pay for expensive treatments that might prolong their life. The plague-resistant True Borns are as mysterious as they are feared…

And then there's Lucy Fox and her identical twin sister, Margot. After endless tests, no one wants to reveal what they are.

When Margot disappears, a desperate Lucy has no choice but to put her faith in the True Borns, led by the charismatic Nolan Storm and the beautiful but deadly Jared Price. As Lucy and the True Borns set out to rescue her sister, they stumble upon a vast conspiracy stretching from Dominion’s street preachers to shady Russian tycoons. But why target the Fox sisters?

As they say in Dominion, it’s in the blood.

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Book 1
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Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

5 page-turning stars.

I'm not going to give a play-by-play of the story, ruining it with spoilers. So below is basically an overview of the beginning setup and my overall enjoyment.

True Born – a pair of twins born conjoined in the upper most society of an apocalyptic world ravaged by plague. Lucy and Margot, with Lucy as the narrator of the tale, are the only children of one of the most influential political members of Dominion society. As such, they have rules in which they must abide to keep up appearance.

At the age of 18, you learn your fate. Lasters (those destined to be inflicted by the plague), Splicers (those who can afford to go to the clinic to stave off the illness), and True Born (genetically evolved, incapable of being inflicted by the plague).

True Born begins just prior to the twins' 18th birthday, as they are tested and await their fates. An uprising begins, in an effort to overthrow those in higher government by the destined to die. Lucy's father employs the True Born to take care of his daughters while he's away...and the story takes off from there.

The writing style is fluid, flowing quickly with an adventurous, addictive fantasy storyline. Lucy is a stable heroine, never a damsel in distress, who is a good role model. Strong and fierce, with a deep protective instinct, Lucy's drive to protect her sister is admirable. While Margot displays more teenage girl tendencies, she does have a backbone of steel. I truly appreciated how the twins were written, opposites but both with their faults.

The True Born were intriguing, well-developed, and added a suspenseful thread to the story. The world-building is vast, yet it leaves things left unexplained to keep you hooked for the next book in the series.

There is an underlying romantic thread – it lies quietly beneath the surface, not overpowering the main storyline but adding depth and the need to keep turning the pages.

True Born gave me the feels, and I devoured the book in a few short hours. When I was finished, realizing I would have to wait for the next installment, I wished I had slowed down and savored it. But, with its pacing, I doubt I could have stopped myself, even if I had tried.

Recommended for fans of Young Adult Dystopian Fiction/Urban Fantasy/Fantasy/Science Fiction.

Young Adult age-range: 14+ due to violent content.

I took a chance on True Born. I love reading young adult novels, but I usually stick to contemporary books. True Born is fantasy/sci-fi, but the synopsis was interesting enough that I thought I'd give it a go. It took me a few chapters to get my head around the whole true born, splicer, and lasters thing and the dynamic of the world in which Lucy lives but once I did I was drawn right in.

When the children of Dominion turn 18 a reveal party is held where it is announced whether the child is true born, a splicer or a laster. As the day of Lucy's reveal approaches, Lucy starts to realise something is different about her and her twin sister, Margot, and the story launches from there. We get action and mystery and spots of graphic violence. True Born may not be suitable for sensitive younger teens because of the violence, but I'm sure my 13-year-old would love it.

The romance comes when Lucy's father hires a group of true born to protect her and her sister. Lucy is drawn to Jared, and I loved the hot and cold dynamic between them. It shows that you can have sizzling chemistry without the need for sex.

True Born is a great read which showed me that choosing to read a book outside of my usual genre can be well worth it. I can't wait for the next instalment.

L.E. Sterling had an early obsession with sci-fi, fantasy and romance to which she remained faithful even through an M.A. in Creative Writing and a PhD in English Literature – where she completed a thesis on magical representation. She is the author of two previous novels, the cult hit Y/A novel The Originals (under pen name L.E. Vollick), dubbed “the Catcher in the Rye of a new generation” by one reviewer, and the urban fantasy Pluto’s Gate. Originally hailing from Parry Sound, Ontario, L.E. spent most of her summers roaming across Canada in a van with her father, a hippie musician, her brothers and an occasional stray mutt – inspiring her writing career. She currently lives in Toronto, Ontario.

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of True Born (True Born Trilogy #1) by L.E. Sterling to read and review.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Bright Blaze of Magic by Jennifer Estep

Bad Things Always Come In Threes…

As a thief, I'm good at three things: hiding in the shadows, getting in and out unseen, and uncovering secrets. I put these skills to work for the Sinclair Family, one of the magical mobs that run the tourist town of Cloudburst Falls.

Everyone knows Victor Draconi wants to take over all the other Families--and kill every last Sinclair. What they don't know is that I'm on to him, and no way will I let the man who murdered my mom get away with hurting all the other people I care about. Especially when I've got places to break into, stuff to steal, and Devon Sinclair fighting right by my side…

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Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

First, I won't give a plot play-by-play, because there is too much to cover and I don't wish to spoil the experience by giving a book report. This is a spoiler-free review, sticking to characterization and writing style.

I've never hid the fact that I was an Estep fangirl after finding her years ago. The Elemental Assassins series is unique and Gin is...Gin. (Now I want to do a reread) With that series, I developed a taste for Jennifer Estep's writing style. The women are strong characters, not thinking themselves strong in their own heads while putting themselves in sticky situations they can't get out of, expecting help from their love interest. The girls get the job done themselves. They take the lead. So, needless to say, when I began the journey of the Black Blade series, I fell in love with Lila because she was flawed with perfectly crafted human traits. Over the past three books, I've watched the characters grow, the story evolve, and Victor get more villainous.

The final installment of the Black Blade series has arrived. Knowing this at the start of the book made the journey bittersweet as I said goodbye to the characters.

There's an addictive quality to the story, thrilling and exciting – adventurous but a little bit brutal with unexpected humor to soften the blow. It was a nonstop action thrill ride to close out the series. After the previous books, Lila and Devon are together, so the romance is underlying to the main story, which I appreciated the fact that it didn't overshadow what had been built.

Yes, some of the obvious outcomes were predictable, but this is a young adult book designed for young adults, and I'm an adult who enjoyed in nonetheless. And yes, that is my fangirl bias showing in the form of common sense. To make it so ‘I’ couldn't reason out the conclusions, would mean children wouldn't be able to read it...just saying. Nevertheless, the flow was so rapid, it's not like the reader had any filler to wade through while contemplating the plot.

I recommend this series to young adults and the young at heart who enjoy the fantasy genres, who need a thread of romance but want a developed story more.

Will I read more by this author? I look forward to whatever Estep brings us next.

Young adult rating: 14+ due to violence set in a fantasy world.

Also Available in the Black Blade Series

Book 1
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Book 2
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For reviews & more info, check out our Dark Heart post.

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 Bright Blaze of Magic (Black Blade #3) by Jennifer Estep to read and review.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Crazy, Stupid, Fauxmance by Shellee Roberts

It’s all fun and games until you fall in love...

After Mariely Hinojosa and Cabot Wheeler both break up with their significant others at the same party, Mariely sees a way to get even with both of their exes. Everyone knows that the best way to get over a breakup is a hookup—a fake hookup, that is. Three weeks, all fun, no strings, and definitely no heartbreak at the end.

But somewhere between the sweet hand-holding and melt-your-mind kisses, their fake relationship starts to feel less like an act and more like the real thing...but Mariely’s a free-spirited girl from the other side of the tracks, and Cabot’s the hot trust-fund guy from the Hills.

They’d never work for real...

Disclaimer: This Entangled Teen Crush book contains a kickass heroine, a boy so hot he’ll make you shiver, and a falling-in-love story fit for the big screen. You’ll want to settle in and have the popcorn ready.

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Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

5 Angsty, banterific, slow-burn stars

I found the Creative HeArts series with book #2 for review, and have been hooked ever since. Shellee Roberts is a new-to-me author. Crazy, Stupid, Fauxmance was the perfect addition to the Creative HeArts series.

Mariely and Cabot narrate this story, both broken-hearted and in the need of feeling power over something. I won't explain the details, as that is why you read a book and I don't wish to spoil it for anyone, but it's a classic fauxmance turned real romance with the classic type of villains and support systems from friends. While a fun trope, it didn't come off as cliché. (Adults, you have to remember this is young adult, written for young adults)

Opposites attract, traversing social classes.

Mariely is a scholarship student who loves thrift shops to showcase her rockabilly style. Since she's an actress, she's into classic movies and uses some of the greatest actresses and actors as cuss words. Her family works hard, but is close to being destitute. Even though she comes off as over-the-top, she's extremely serious and determined.

Cabot is the child of two divorced parents, both living in huge mansions, where going to the country club is an actual pastime. He's seen as the rich boy without any substance, but beneath the cover is a depth of personality.

Together, they have more in common than what's on the surface, and Mariely and Cabot discover this amongst their plan. During dates, they are awestruck at times, warming the reader. Their banter is electric. And not a single moment of it feels forced.

The book was a heartstring tugger, completely giving me the feels. I teared up a few times, laughed ten-times more, and smiled through the pages. Fast-paced, cute and heartwarming, I was rapidly turning the pages. Often times, I find myself looking down at the percentage read – this time I was so into the story, reading it in one-sitting, I never once looked, only finding out when I hit the last page.

The characters, the school, and the characters' talents are a continuing theme from book to book, giving a highlight of the past narrators and what young adult angsty-ness they are up to, whetting our appetite for more.

I recommend this novel for those who are young, and those who are young at heart.

As a grown woman, I find young adult novels as a palate cleanser to reset how desensitized I've become while reading. But there is something about the innocent buildup in this series that I haven't stumbled upon before. There is no instant love/lust, real friendships are forged, and you can 'feel' your heart beat along with the narrators’ as they experience their first taste of true, first love. It's a feeling that if it could be bottled, we'd all be billionaires, and it's why we read to recapture the sensation.

Recommended Young Adult Age Range: 13+

Also Available in the Creative HeArts Series

Book 2
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For reviews & more info, check out our How Willa Got Her Groove Back post.

There are three things (besides her family) that Shellee loves more than Netflix: Dr. Pepper, OTPs, and book boyfriends (I’m looking at you, Gilbert Blythe).

Shellee has been told that her life goal as a writer should be to win prestigious awards that will grant her literary immortality, but as an OG shipper (Tad and Dixie—my first hardcore ship) all she really wants is to create two characters that people love so much they give them a cool mashup name.

Shellee spends her days living the dream with her family in Austin, Texas—and by living the dream she means waking up at the crack of dawn to go to work, chauffeur, walk dogs, do dishes, and fold laundry. At night she gets down to real business, basking in the warm, blue glow of her computer screen and bringing the stories in her head to life on the page...or watching shipper fan videos on YouTube till 2am. Tomorrow she’s definitely going to kick that procrastination problem to the curb.

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Crazy, Stupid, Fauxmance (Creative HeArts #3) by Shellee Roberts to read and review.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Pieces of You and Me by Erin Fletcher

Five years.

That’s how long I’ve been gone. Since I left my best friend—the girl I loved—behind.

Five seconds.

That's how long it takes to realize I am completely, utterly, screwed. Because now that I’m back, my childhood crush has turned into so much more.

Rylee has changed. We both have. And now I’m drawn to her in a completely different way. To her smile. Her touch. To reliving old memories and making new ones. To the happiness she’s always given me that I haven’t felt since I left.

But her friends are hell-bent on keeping us apart. My dad is one drink away from destroying both of our lives, and maybe I am, too. It’s only a matter of time before I have to leave again, and there’s nothing I can do to stop it. I never get a choice.

The one choice I can make? Stay away from Rylee. Because if I don’t, I’ll break her heart—and mine—all over again.

Disclaimer: This Entangled Teen Crush book contains references to drinking, addiction, and just the right amount of angst. You’ll want to save this tortured hero, while at the same time, not want to change a single thing about him!

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Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

Pieces of You and Me will undoubtedly delight younger teenagers. As an adult reading it, I will say I was entertained, and found the story and premise enjoyable.

Rylee & Chase were buddies, until his mother took him away from his alcoholic father. Moving back home with his now sober father, Chase surprises Rylee with his reappearance.

I believe that the moral of the story was self-fulfilling prophesy. Chase feared having to move away yet again, leading him to truly believe he would get too close to Rylee again, only to hurt her by moving. This prophesy was not only from him, but also Rylee's friends.

Teens are going to eat up how romance-centric the story is, revolving around memories of the past and sweet moments from the present. Intermixed with angst of meddling friends and good and badly behaving parents.

This is one of the first Young Adult novels I've read where both sets of parents were not only present, but involved. They cared. They made rules. They weren't irrational and immature (minus the mother and her new husband). That was a breath of fresh air.

Some of the plot I was angry with, but had to imagine it from a teenager's point of view. Still, even at 10 years old, I would have got the idea that a sixth-grader has no say in where they are going to live. So the reason why Rylee's friends were angry at Chase were irrational, shallow, and beyond annoying at times. Frustrating. It made me fear for their intelligence. But eventually, Rylee gets with the program and realizes no child could dictate where they live, and how horrible it would be to have no roots. As for keeping in touch, she didn't continue to stay in contact either.

I wish Chase would have been more clear with Rylee, instead of propagating this I don't want to hurt you phrase. He never explained how he feared his mother would call him back to her home.

As for Rylee's friends, I blame Rylee for keeping this from them. Typical teenage angst. But I also thought Mya and her boyfriend's behavior was bullying, right down to throwing things at Chase in class. What are they, 10? As for the missing cellphone, how about just say who stole it in the first place? These things annoyed me to no end. If any of them were my children, we would have had anti-bully, judgmental, and self-fulfilling prophesy conversations. I was baffled. They were discussing college, had boyfriends, but threw things during class?

While the storyline itself will fade with time, my feeling of how the author let Chase down won't. Even at the end of the book, no one, not parents or Rylee, told Chase his living situation wasn't his fault. He was the child of an abusive alcoholic father and a narcissistic mother. Never able to gain friends because of never being anywhere longer than a few months, when he finally comes 'home,' Rylee's friends treat him horribly immediately, but first they are shallow and call him 'hot.' I lost respect for Rylee for allowing her friends to control her, under the guise of caring. (It felt almost abusively controlling. Telling a girl's boyfriend to leave her alone, because he would break her heart. So he breaks up with her because he was terrified to hurt her, then the friend comforts the girl. If that doesn't sound like manipulative and abusive, I don't know what is. Nothing like saying 'I told you so' while comforting your friend with ice cream, when you were the reason for the break up. And the reader was just to accept this as normal behavior... as if Mya was the best friend on earth for saving her friend, when it was controlling and abusive behavior.) I also lost respect for Rylee because she hid her relationship with Chase. I can't buy friendship/relationship if there is no respect. Actually, I can't respect anyone who wouldn't tell their friends how horrible they are for mocking people leaving an AA meeting.

Alone, Chase and Rylee were good – I thoroughly enjoyed their evolution. I even enjoyed Rylee's Mom and Chase's dad. But the rest of the side characters were irredeemable in my eyes, and made the story uncomfortable (they weren't meant to be the conflict). None of this is what I would want a younger reader to think is acceptable behavior. If the author had had one of the narrators think it was poor behavior, I would have found no issue with this. But it was just accepted as normal, and all of it was dysfunctional and toxic.

Recommended Young Adult Age Range: 12+ with talk of alcohol addiction.

Erin is a young adult author from North Carolina. She is a morning person who does most of her writing before sunrise, while drinking excessive quantities of coffee. She believes flip-flops qualify as year-round footwear, and would spend every day at the beach if she could. She has a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, which is almost never useful when writing books.

Connect with Erin

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Pieces of You and Me by Erin Fletcher to read and review.

Saturday, April 9, 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

It's the night of senior prom as Bryson stands, staring at Jasper dancing with a girl. His biggest wish is to run over and take her place, but would that be such a great idea? Bryson is confused by these feelings. Coming out wasn't what Bryson expected through it all. Bryson and Jasper both like each other, but is it a bad idea to date so close to graduation? As the boys go through the last few weeks of school, they are starting to develop stronger feelings for each other.

Bryson comes to a conclusion that he is gay. When he tells his mom, it doesn't go well. He eventually decided that not living a lie is stronger than his mom’s opinion. As he and Jasper start dating, Jasper's ex, Christopher, starts more drama than Bryson or Jasper wanted.

The book has a lot of drama, love, and some crude humor. My favorite character out of the whole book was surprisingly, Missy! She was funny, weird, and a person I would probably be friends with! I loved the book, and would love to read more like it!

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, April 2, 2016

Blood Princess by Rebecca Piercey

Laura struggles to find the truth behind the rebellion that threatens her family’s rule as she fights to protect her country from a war that could destroy it.

Seventeen-year-old Laura White, princess of Karkonia, has been ordered to murder her older sister, Alicia.

The job should be easy enough. Laura hates Alicia for betraying their family and joining a rebellion set on usurping their father, the Emperor. Besides, Laura’s been killing at her father’s command since she was eleven.

But before Laura gets the chance to end her sister’s life, she is dragged into the mess of the rebellion by her bodyguard, Shane Kagae. As Laura and Shane uncover secrets that her father has been keeping for years, they realize that Alicia and the rebels may have been right about the Emperor all along. When their disloyalty comes to light, Laura is forced to choose between saving Shane’s life and remaining loyal to her father. She chooses Shane, and they flee the palace, Laura’s heart breaking with every step.

Will she return to her father’s side to lead the war or give up her crown forever to help the rebellion?

Reader Advisory: This book contains some scenes of violence.

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Finch  Books

Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

I don't usually read much in this book's genre, but something in the blurb caught my attention and I grabbed it up. It did take me awhile to get into, but once I did the storyline read a lot more smoothly. It surprised me by having a few shocking moments even. I don't think there was a ton of depth, but there definitely was a ton of action and things going on. It seemed to take a long time to read this and yet, there really wasn't a whole lot to take in. I will be waiting for the next book, because I do want to know what happens next. Overall, an okay young adult book.

Rebecca Piercey is an author of Young Adult Fantasy and Sci-Fi novels. She grew up in Louisville, Kentucky, where she spent most of her childhood chasing butterflies during t-ball games and reading tons of books.

Now, still an avid reader, Rebecca attends the University of Louisville where she studies Fine Art and Creative Writing.

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Blood Princess (Blood Empire #1) by Rebecca Piercey to read and review.