Saturday, June 18, 2016

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

Evanescence is a city that is class driven and its inhabitants incredibly vain. They live with much of their world controlled by electronics and robots, and their careers, and often marriages, are mapped out for them. The virtual world of computer game, Nexis gives people the ability to be whoever they want to be.

The author takes the time to give us a good grounding in this futuristic world. For me, the first half of this book was slow going. The story was interesting, but quite dense and I really had to push through.

The second half of the book was as fast as the first half was slow. I whizzed through it, eager to turn each page and follow Ella's journey. Desperate to find out what is at the end of the game, who Guster (her love interest in Nexis) is in the real world, and who was responsible for Ella's current predicament in life.

Many of the issues explored in Nexis can easily be translated into issues we face in our world today. I couldn't help thinking that this book would be great for high school students to study. They'd be reading something engaging and fun, but also relevant.

By the time Nexis came to an end, I was completely wrapped up in Ella's world and didn't want to leave. I'm looking forward to reading the next book in this series, Redux, which is due out in December.

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, June 11, 2016

Ten Things Sloane Hates About Tru by Tera Lynn Childs

When life gives you a blank canvas, make art.

Sloane Whitaker hates everything about moving to Texas. She hates leaving behind her friends and half her family in New York, starting over senior year at Austin’s NextGen Academy, and having to say she lives in Texas. Most of all, she hates that it’s all her fault. If she wants to earn her way back to the Big Apple, she has to prove she can still be the perfect daughter.

Which means no vandalism art, no trouble at school, and absolutely no Tru Dorsey, her serial screw-up neighbor, who loves nothing more than pushing her buttons.

But from the moment he vaults onto the roof outside her bedroom, there is something about him that makes her want to break every rule. Suddenly it’ s not the ten things she hates about Tru that are at the top of her list. It’s the ten reasons she doesn’t want to be without him.

Disclaimer: This Entangled Teen Crush book contains vandalism in the name of art, art in the name of love, and love for a boy too charming to ever hate.

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Book 1
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Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

4 Creative HeArts Stars.

Tera Lynn Childs is a new-to-me author.

I started the Creative HeArts series on book 2 for review, then book 3. In preparation for book 4, I finally backtracked to read book 1. Sorry for sounding confusing, I assumed book 2 was actually the first in the series when I signed up to review, not realizing there were three separate authors and three separate couples, essentially three separate series rolled into one school with the same characters. So far so good, as I've 4-starred book one, and 5-starred both book 2 & 3.

Ms. Childs' writing flowed fluidly and quickly, moving the story at a pace that was easy to follow along but wasn't bogged down in unnecessary detail.

Sloane's narrative was told in first person, while Tru's was in third person, which was slightly jarring but did make it distinguishable between the female and male leads.

Sloane had committed an egregious act, which we don't learn what truly happens until halfway through the novel. It wasn't truly a mystery of any kind, so I'm not sure why the author allowed the readers to stay in the dark, as it was the main focal point the entire plot was built upon. I liked Sloane, truly. I understood her as the quirky artist who felt powerless. I also simultaneously felt for her parents and felt them unfair.

Tru, the charming, bad boy who's actually a good boy, next door neighbor, which Sloane hates ten things about... but as a reader, Sloane nowhere in the body of the book ever states a single thing she hates about Tru, nonetheless ten things... I liked Tru too, just as much as Sloane did. Tru is a misunderstood kid by his parents, yet everyone at school sees him clearly, especially his teachers.

Obviously Sloane and Tru are reluctant love interests, and it was sweet and cute, and gave me the squees. There is a side mystery Sloane solves, that young adults will surely adore.

As the first in the series, it was a good start. But after reading book 2 & 3 first, which I felt were incredible, I wish I had started where I was supposed to, as the series would have built – evolved – instead of feeling just on the surface without much depth.

That was my issue: while I loved the author's voice, and Tru and Sloane, it felt like the story was missing something vital. I'm not sure if things were being left for a later book, but it felt unfinished plot-wise. It had everything it needed but never quite reached its potential – maybe explaining, to make it more realistic, (I don't know if this will be in a future book, but it was needed in book one – same with some resolution with Tru's father) that Sloane's parents split up instead of the waste of running two separate households while splitting up the siblings and the parents. That isn't realistic, doable, or anything an adult would have done. It would have been a family move, or Sloane moving with a relative. No mother leaves her husband and son to move across the country. Nope. That goes against the boundaries and structure Sloane was written to need. Unless, obviously, the parents split up, which is bad since Sloane is blaming herself, if that is the case, as Mom never says anything.

Not a judgment – advice. This didn't effect my overall rating, but I do need to point out, and I'm not being overly critical or condescending, the book could have used another round of edits. Simple mistakes mixed with bad habits of the author, or perhaps punctuation rules never learned or put into practice. Most notable was the lack of proper commas. Example: "Night Sloane." Night Tru." There wasn't a night and day version of our characters. They were speaking to one another in dialogue. Commas matter. I sound nitpicky, but this was habitual throughout the entire novel, 90% of the time never doing it properly. Once put into practice, this won't happen but during a rare error, and won't put as much pressure on the editor. So that is why I'm pointing it out, for the author's benefit and growth. Been there, done that. I understand. Practice makes perfect and the rules do matter.

Whether you're a young adult, or young at heart, I recommend both this novel and the Creative HeArts series to fans of the young adult genre, particularly those who enjoy the creative arts.

Young Adult age-range: 14+, mentions of alcohol consumption, domestic violence, criminal activity, and kissing.

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.

Book 3
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For reviews & more info, check out our Crazy, Stupid, Fauxmance post.

Tera Lynn Childs is the RITA-award-winning young adult author of the mythology-based Oh. My. Gods. series, the Forgive My Fins mermaid romance series, the kick-butt monster-hunting Sweet Venom trilogy, and the Darkly Fae series. She also writes the City Chicks sweet chick lit romance series and is co-writing the Hero Agenda series with Tracy Deebs. Tera lives nowhere in particular and spends her time writing wherever she can find a comfy chair and a steady stream of caffeinated beverages.

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Ten Things Sloane Hates About Tru (Creative HeArts #1) by Tera Lynn Childs to read and review. Review copy was purchased by the blog.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

The Sound of Us by Julie Hammerle

Kiki Nichols might not survive music camp.

She’s put her TV-loving, nerdy self aside for one summer to prove she’s got what it takes: she can be cool enough to make friends, she can earn that music scholarship, and she can get into Krause University’s music program.

Except camp has rigid conduct rules—which means her thrilling late-night jam session with the hot drummer can’t happen again, even though they love all the same TV shows, and fifteen minutes making music with him meant more than every aria she’s ever sung.

But when someone starts snitching on rule breakers and getting them kicked out, music camp turns into survival of the fittest. If Kiki’s going to get that scholarship, her chance to make true friends—and her chance with the drummer guy—might cost her the future she wants more than anything.

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Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

4.5 Angsty coming-of-age stars.

Julie Hammerle is a new-to-me author.

I had a slightly difficult time getting into this novel, to be honest. Not that I didn't enjoy the characters, the narration, or the set-up. But compared to the middle through to the end, it was a slightly slow start. Perhaps it's because the flow of information evened out – at the start, there were many mentioned of bands, composers, artists, television shows, and movies. While setting the tone, it bogged the flow down slightly.

My point: if you're struggling in the beginning, hang in there. The story is pretty awesome.

The author's voice flowed fluidly, creating a narrative that did sound like a seventeen-year-old geeky yet creative girl. I found Kiki to be authentic. I'm not going to bog the review down in a book-report-style, which I always find to spoil a book for me. If you read the blurb, you know what you're buying.

Kiki made mistakes like any girl does – young and young at heart. She is passionate about many things, which I find to be a good thing. It took me too long to think as Kiki does near the end of the book. I had the 'feels' while reading, I won't lie. I look for books that make my belly twist up for the character, as if they are a real person, and The Sound of Us accomplished that feat.

Music. Teenagers. Problems that face teenagers as well as adults. Romance, unrequited and not. Finding courage to fight for what you want/believe in, without losing your integrity. I believe young adults will go crazy for this title, as will their parents. I'm a serious person of the advanced age of 37, who isn't a fan of light and fluffy, and I enjoyed every page of The Sound of Us.

One moral that hit me hard was how Kiki was willing to make room in her life for her friends, but she wasn't going to wait around for them, nor was she going to beg them to be in her life. Most girls never learn this lesson – some women never do. It took me until I was in my early thirties to realize you can open the door, but they have to be willing to come in on their own. If you spend all of your time pursuing, instead of enjoying each other, it's not worth it.

You've got a life to live, so go out there and live it instead of waiting... and waiting... and waiting to live someone else's life as their sidekick.

**Is this a standalone? I'm sure it is, or could be... but there was a very wide door left open should Ms. Hammerle decide to cross the threshold and continue on with Kiki's adventures. *cough. cough* Pretty Please – I'll beg.

Young adult age range: 13+, mentions of alcohol consumption and kissing.

Julie Hammerle is the author of A Place for Us, which will be published by Entangled Teen in the fall of 2016. Before settling down to write “for real,” she studied opera, taught Latin, and held her real estate license for one hot minute. Currently, she writes about TV on her blog Hammervision, ropes people into conversations about Game of Thrones, and makes excuses to avoid the gym. Her favorite YA-centric TV shows include 90210 (original spice), Felicity, and Freaks and Geeks. Her iPod reads like a 1997 Lilith Fair set list. She lives in Chicago with her husband, two kids, and a dog. They named the dog Indiana.

Connect with Julie

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of The Sound of Us by Julie Hammerle to read and review.