Saturday, July 30, 2016

Defying Gravity by Kendra C. Highley

Zoey Miller lives for her holidays in Aspen. Her time up on the mountain with the Madison brothers, Parker and Luke, is everything. But for the first time, it’s not enough. This time, she’s determined to win one of the brothers’ hearts.

But the brother she has in mind is a renowned player, with hordes of snow-bunnies following him around Snowmass resort. And the other…well, he’s her best friend and knows she deserves better. Namely him. And he’s going to win her heart.

Disclaimer: This book contains enough sexual tension to melt snow, the hottest near-kiss in the history of near-kisses, and a sexy snowboarder determined to win the heart of the girl he loves.

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Book 2
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Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

This is book #2 in the Finding Perfect series, but you don't have to read book #1, this may be read as a stand-alone book.

Zoey Miller loves spending her holidays in Aspen with the Madison Brothers, Parker and Luke. Her time up on the mountain with Parker and Luke are the moments she lives for. In Aspen she can be the real Zoey and not the "Class President Barbie" that everyone back in Texas seems to think she is.

Parker and Zoey have been best friends for years, but Parker, who's in love with Zoey, is hoping to be more than just friends. Unfortunately, Zoey's got her mind set on winning the heart of Luke Madison, Parker's older brother, who also happens to be a renowned player.

Anybody else feel like taking a trip to Aspen, Colorado after reading this? I think I might need to try my hand at snowboarding again! I've never been to Aspen, but I am totally ready for a visit this winter after reading this book. I was totally into all the shredding and the fact that the Madison brothers were such amazing snowboarders. I don't snowboard, which means I didn't know any of the boarding terminology, but Highley did an excellent job painting the picture for me. Although, after spending the past few days sweltering in my non-air-conditioned apartment in NYC, I was totally ready to fall in love with this snow story, but I think I mostly just fell in love with Parker. I liked the book, it was a nice quick read, but I guess after reading book one, I was expecting Zoey to be a little less of a burst into tears kind of gal. Nevertheless, other than all the crying I still really liked Zoey's character. I found her to be very down-to-earth and relatable for a girl that has a vacation home in Aspen. Furthermore, I adored Parker, but who wouldn't? Total babe. Luke, the player, on the other hand, not so much, but he seemed to have some nice redeeming qualities. In fact, I would be intrigued to read about the kind of girl that could win his heart.

Honestly, after reading Finding Perfect I was quite charmed by Ben and Paige's story and I was looking forward to reading about Paige's best friend, Zoey. However, I just didn’t enjoy reading about Zoey the same way I did reading about Paige. In fact, after reading the blurb for book two I thought this one would be a winner for me, but it just didn’t appeal to me the same way the first book did. However, Highley does a phenomenal job at creating some swoon worthy male characters and I look forward to seeing what she is up to next! On that note, I would give Defying Gravity a 3.5 star rating if I could. For fans of Kasie West and Susane Colasanti, this is great YA book to add to your TBR pile!

4 stars for young adults.
2 stars from me personally.
3 stars total.

I need to preface this review by stating I've enjoyed this author in the past, five-starring the previous book, and the majority of Entangled: Crush Publishing's titles have been a hit with me. The female narrator rubbed me the wrong way, completely derailing any enjoyment I could find from the nearly 200-page novel. This is the review from an adult perspective of a young adult novel. So please take my review with a grain of salt, but I had to get it off my chest.

I had looked forward to this novel, but the narrator sounded different, written in a different voice than her chapter at the last of the previous book, and her actions with Paige and Ben. Zoey was previously written as being seen as a shallow high school 'it' girl, who everyone wanted to be or get with. Paige spent the majority of her novel voicing how no one saw Zoey for who she truly was, and I felt Parker did the same during this novel. But no matter what light Paige and Parker showed Zoey, being 'inside' Zoey's head negated everything the author was trying to 'tell' the reader.

For me, Zoey truly was as vapid as her classmates felt her to be – boy-crazy, shallow, and her behavior contradicted how she acted in the first book.

Being an adult, I had a hard time empathizing and relating to Zoey – I couldn’t respect her at all (it was at the start through mid-book, and even near the ending). Zoey’s crush on Luke made her look vapid, even if it’s how teenage girls behave/act/react. Zoey wasn't 'that girl'. The book was to show she wasn’t like that, yet she was written exactly as that, with Parker ‘trying’ to show Zoey's true nature. But the reader can only trust Zoey’s narration, as she is speaking and thinking, not as a side character but the narrator herself.

Zoey = Paige's best friend. Zoey = 'I'm not that type of girl' but she truly is, no matter how many times she thinks it, her behavior has her acting that way when she was above it all in the previous book.

Parker and Luke = younger and older brother, with Parker, Paige's other best friend, who happens to be in love with her, and Luke, the older, college guy who is just a pretty face who treats his brother like crap.

Zoey and Luke were the male and female equivalents of one another. But I could forgive it in Luke because 1) he wasn't the narrator, and 2) call a spade a spade – he never pretended to be anything but a player. Zoey lied to herself about who she was, with everyone doing the same.

I was looking forward to reading the Zoey who helped Ben and Paige, the girl with high standards who didn’t date high school boys because they were immature and only saw her looks and popularity, not the real Zoey. She was rational and kind, not me. me. me. and blind. In this book, Paige and Ben make a reappearance, and Ben asks Zoey if Luke meets her 'high standards'. But, with how Luke was written, for Zoey to like Luke means she has absolutely NO standards or self-esteem/respect/worth.

Girls who fall for guys like Luke need validation from a guy, instead of knowing their true worth, and are preyed upon by the Lukes of the world, until they mature. Zoey deserved more than to be portrayed as thus. She was written the opposite in the previous book, and upset how her friends saw her that way. Like the girl who took Zoey's seat at the restaurant – any girl with an ounce of self-respect would have left Luke.

Guys are not worth fighting over. They don't choose you – you choose them. If they don't want you back, walk away, because he's not the right guy for you. Stealing a guy from another girl means he's not worth it, for any girl. He's no prize. Zoey didn't want to be seen as a prize, yet she treated Luke as one.

All women deserve more, and it’s our job as women to teach the youngest of our gender the signs. The false smile and a bite of attention is not flattery – it’s disrespect.

This is where the adult reader comes into play. Luke isn't a bad guy, IF he ever grows up. Boys like Luke only exist because of girls like Zoey, so I couldn’t respect her character, even with the small emotional evolution, because girls who know who they are don't fall for Lukes. I would have LOVED Zoey if, from word-one, she thought Luke was a joke, treated him as a friend/brother, and told him to grow up.

If Luke gets a book, I can guarantee his girl won't be a hanger-on-er, so why write Zoey like that? No one respects that type of person (character). I can't respect Parker for even liking a girl who wanted his brother. Gross.

Luke’s charm is like currency – if girls didn’t buy the falsity he’s selling, he won’t be a commodity anymore and I wish parents, mothers, authors would show this. Because that type of guy is created by the same foolish people they ‘hurt’, and they grow up into men who hurt many.

The women are the problem – we create the monster by feeding into it.

Writing Zoey as saying she isn’t that type of girl, yet having her behave so… quote: “yesterday she had flirted with him shamelessly... … like the groupies she despised… she’d done her hair and makeup both yesterday & this morning, in hopes he’d notice.” “Oh, my God. She was finally alone with Luke. Maybe she should have done more to her hair.”

If I had a daughter and she thought like that (which is my problem with the book itself). You can’t get more shallow than that, the very shallow her BFF (Paige) promised Zoey wasn’t in the previous book.

To quote Parker: "Sad" Zoey's behavior was 'sad'. As in, it's too bad a woman will debase herself in such as manner.

To want someone to like you on your looks instead of who you are is the very definition of shallow, exactly who you’d get in return. As an adult, I feel this perpetuates the cycle with the young adult reader, how only your looks matter. Then there is the manipulative, game-playing of using the best guy friend to trap his brother with jealousy, when said friend is in love with you.... and you love him too, and his brother, but only because he's a hot chick-magnet.

The author can write every character in the series to be Zoey's biggest fans, but when her inner monologue reads as such, there is nothing you can do to make me believe it. “Is this how guys back home felt when they tried to talk to her? If so, she could develop some sympathy for them.” “She needed to fight fire with fire. She’d ask Parker to go on that sleigh ride and they’d have a blast, and tell Luke he missed all the fun.”

But Zoey's NOT 'that girl'.

In the previous book, Zoey didn’t like how people judged her on her looks, money, and popularity, never wanting to get to know the ‘real’ her (which the reader never sees via Zoey, only the other character's narration) but she is doing the same to Luke, wanting him on looks and charm alone, wanting him to pick her over other girls, as if that is the value of her worth.

To be quite honest, my dislike on how Zoey was written was making me close to DNFing an angsty, love-triangle book I’d generally enjoy, when I was absolutely engrossed with the previous book. It all just felt forced (the entire storyline. Zoey, who everyone wants to be with, didn't think Parker wanted her? But wants Luke too for an ego-boost). I can’t empathize with a girl who is crying about absolutely nothing like it’s the end of the world. Zoey literally had no problems whatsoever, no personality, so her being upset about every little thing is beyond shallow in reaction. She would literally burst out bawling throughout the novel.

The author can ‘tell’ me Zoey is down-to-earth all through the book via the other characters, but Zoey ever wanting Luke romantically counters that, because her falling for his fake charm proves she’s attracted to bright and shiny, and nothing of real value, exactly who her classmates think her to be. I understand the triangle premise demands this, and teenagers fall prey to this daily, but just once I’d like to see a girl who thinks with her brain and heart, not with her eyes and status. And I thought that was the Zoey I was going to get – not as advertised.

While, no doubt, young adults would eat this book up, I wouldn't allow my imaginary teenage daughter to read it. The first book, yes. This book? No. I wouldn't risk my daughter modeling herself after Zoey.

All of the issues are due to miscommunication and silly, childish, beneath their age group mentality, 18-20 year-olds. Parker deserved a more mature friend in Zoey, but if they were such good friends, he should have at least told her what Luke was playing. (Would you allow your BFF to be lied to, played, and bet upon, even if it's by your brother? Actually, especially if it's by your brother, someone she trusts? NFW, and if you do, you're a crappy friend. Why not say Luke was with a bunch of girls when he said he was with the guys? SMH) No matter the outcome, I wasn’t pleased, because it involved Zoey, who needed to grow up in more ways than one, whether friendship or relationship, because Parker was blind and Zoey thought herself different than she behaved/acted/reacted – the ultimate of unreliable narrators.

I will read the next in the series and more by this author. But this installment of the series was most definitely not for me.

Young adult age-range: 13+.

Also Available in the Finding Perfect Series

Book 1
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For reviews & more info, check our Finding Perfect post.

Kendra C. Highley lives in north Texas with her husband and two children. She also serves as staff to four self-important and high-powered cats. This, according to the cats, is her most critical job. She believes in everyday magic, extraordinary love stories, and the restorative powers of dark chocolate.

Connect with Kendra

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Defying Gravity (Finding Perfect #2) by Kendra C. Highley to read and review.

Friday, July 29, 2016

The Night Screams by Devon McCormack

Running naked through the woods, Cal flees the sadistic man who abducted and tortured him. When he stumbles upon a convenience store, he breaks in to steal food. A young store clerk, Jake, confronts him, and they get into a fight that ends with Cal being knocked unconscious. He wakes in the home of Jake’s Uncle Gary, the owner of the convenience store. Realizing Cal needs help, Gary tries to communicate with him, but despite Cal’s efforts, he can’t bring himself to speak. Instead, he writes down his experiences. Horrified by the perverse cruelty Cal endured, Gary takes him to the police, who track down his tormentor.

Abandoned by his parents before his abduction, Cal doesn’t have anywhere to go, so Gary and his wife eagerly welcome him into their home. He feels fortunate to be with such caring people—something he’s never had before. Despite their help, he still can’t find his voice, and he wonders if he ever will. And Jake certainly isn’t making things any easier. It’s clear he doesn’t want Cal to be part of their family. But the more Cal gets to know him, the more he realizes Jake might be the very person who can heal the deep wounds left by his horrifying past.

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Harmony Ink

Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

After Cal got caught kissing another boy, his parents kicked him out of the house. Cal thought he was putting himself into a safe situation until he woke up chained to a wall in the dark. When he finally is able to escape his abductor, he is starving and naked. He tries to steal some food but is caught. Instead of being taken to the police, he's taken to the owner’s home. He's traumatized, scared, and unable to speak. Gary and Luce provide him with more love than he's ever known. His attraction to Jake, Gary, and Luce's nephew, is unexpected given the way Jake treats Cal.

I enjoyed the base of the story. I would have like to see more from the abduction and Cal's healing. It seemed glossed over, but otherwise it was a quick enjoyable read.

3.5 Stars.

I need to start this review by stating how I read like an editor, not the average reader. I pick up things I wish I didn't, so read my review knowing it's with a clinical bent.

Devon McCormack is a new-to-me author, and I found the writing style to be a steady flow, engaging and easy to read, with likable characters, but the overall story to be emotionally manipulative.

The opening hooked me from word one, written in an inventive manner that truly engaged the reader, and I thought for sure I'd be handing out an automatic 5 stars. Based on the majority of the content, it was a 5-star read, but I felt the emotional side wasn't fully explored or executed properly.

Without going into great detail over the events, as I don't wish to spoil the read – plus, thankfully the author didn't go into detail either as this was a 17-year-old – some major things happen to the narrator, Cal, but the aftermath isn't truly explored, only popping into the story when it benefits the current scene. Inconsistent.

The Night Screams was an emotional book, but with so many different types of tragedies coming at the reader, it desensitized me to all emotional aspects. Abduction. Escape. Physical violence. Abandonment. Love-hate. Teenage angst and jealousy. Gay Bashing with violence. Religion used against homosexuals. Cancer. Strokes. Heart attacks. Crime. Deaths. Coming out in a small town. Within only 200 pages.

If only a handful of these tropes had been fully explored, I would have been a basket case while reading, truly experiencing all the tumultuous emotions Cal's character would have been showing. But with so much happening on every page, without the characters showing the emotional impact, it just felt like the author was using emotional extortion. I can't hand out 5 stars because of brutal content unless I feel it was executed to maximum impact.

Show me – don't tell me. Make me bleed for the character, not ask what's next.

The characters just moved on, without any aftercare from one event to the next, and I was just waiting for what else could possibly occur, and not out of mystery or anticipation. Maybe Armageddon.

Sometimes less is more. Give the reader time to 'feel' what the character is feeling before slapping them in the face with yet another tragic event. Yes, a character needs to earn that happily ever after, but it just starts to feel manipulative on the author's part after 10 or more tragedies.

I've noticed this trend lately in books, where the author emotionally tortures the characters. Several this week alone. Tossing a bunch of tragedies into a hat and picking 10 to 15 of them doesn't make a poignant read – fully exploring a singular event with a major impact in the aftermath does. Build the character.

I feel so awful saying that – truly I do, as I did enjoy the story and the characters. But maybe this was the book that broke the camel's back for me, and I'm judging too harshly. I never got to 'know' Cal, not really, because it was just one thing after the other, leaving me to play catch-up. As for the romance aspects, I never felt I understood Jake's moods, and wondered if the book would have felt more complete with a dual-narrative with Cal and Jake.

Recommended to adults, as I feel they would appreciate the book better than the intended audience who is the age group of the narrator.

Young adult age-range: 16+ due to content. Younger based on the reader's maturity level. Features abduction, sexual content (fade-to-black), and profanity.

Devon McCormack spends most of his time hiding in his lair, adventuring in paranormal worlds with his island of misfit characters. A good ole Southern boy, McCormack grew up in the Georgian suburbs with his two younger brothers and an older sister. At a very young age, he spun tales the old fashioned way, lying to anyone and everyone he encountered. He claimed he was an orphan. He claimed to be a king from another planet. He claimed to have supernatural powers. He has since harnessed this penchant for tall tales by crafting whole worlds where he can live out whatever fantasy he chooses.

A gay man himself, McCormack focuses on gay male characters, adding to the immense body of literature that chooses to represent and advocate gay men's presence in media. His body of work ranges from erotica to young adult, so readers should check the synopses of his books before purchasing so that they know what they're getting into.

Connect with Devon

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of The Night Screams by Devon McCormack to read and review.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Blurred Lines by SC Montgomery is Now Available & Reviewed

What would you do to be free?

Trapped in a home full of rage and violence, Jonah King has had to fight for every scrap of good that life has ever tossed his way. But will it ever be enough?

Will he?

Sometimes, the lines are blurred between good and evil, love and hate, and when Jonah meets Autumn Garrett, he finds that he’s not the only one fighting for salvation.

Can love this raw be real? More importantly, will they survive to find out?

Gritty and emotional, Blurred Lines is a gut-wrenching, heartrending roller coaster ride through the ups and downs, twists and turns of life, showing us that the most brilliant beauty can be found in the darkest reaches of despair. More than Romeo and Juliet retold, this is no fairy tale. This is survival at the most basic level—the heart.

***Reader Warning*** This book touches on serious issues, meant for mature readers. My characters may be seventeen going on eighteen, but they deal with things far past their years. There are major themes of abuse, as well as some foul language and sexual content. Please read at your own discretion.

Also, Blurred Lines can standalone, but to avoid any big spoilers, I’d highly recommend reading Lines in the Sand and Two Blue Lines first. Happy Reading!

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Book 2
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I leaned in slowly and let my eyes fall shut. I breathed in the sweet scent of him and the ocean as his lips touched mine gently. He kissed me like I was a precious thing and tears threatened.

Drawing back, he ran his fingers through my hair and cupped the back of my head. “I think I like you a little too much.”

“How can you like someone too much?”

“When they have the power to break your heart.”

I met his dark eyes, saw the things he kept hidden. “You’ve had your heart broken.” I didn’t ask, I could see it.

“Not by a girl.”

“Then who?”

He let me go and sat back. “Everyone else.”

I didn’t know what to say to that so I didn’t say anything. How could he not see we were the same? Scared and alone in this world, never fitting in. Until now. Until each other.

Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

Mary Jo☆☆☆☆
Tackling the issues of domestic violence and physical abuse is hard at any age, but when it involves teens, it makes the story all the more heartbreaking. Each family in this story has varying degrees of success or failure which leads to episodes of violence toward the wives and children.

What we learn is that domestic violence transcends socioeconomic factors and impacts each family in horrible and tragic ways. Jonah's older brother died after a bar fight and Autumn's father kicked her brother, Gavin, out of the house for standing up to him. Each teen is older and wiser than their years suggest, and they do their best to keep their relationship from becoming tainted by the anger that surrounds them.

As their romance progresses, both Jonah and Autumn have to face hard truths about their families and whether or not their happiness is worth sacrificing the people who love them.

A very realistic story in which the author takes a heartbreaking and heartfelt issue and pens a story that I think every teen should read.

SC Montgomery is a self-proclaimed nerd and readaholic.  She has dabbled in telling stories since she was very young by letting her imagination play out with her Barbie dolls and her bestie many a weekend.  She also writes Contemporary adult romance under the pen name Shauna Allen, and it was in one of those novels that the YA bug bit when she wrote in a teenager loosely based on her own son.  Her first story, Lines in the Sand, was penned as a gift for her mother, but was published with her blessing, and it’s just taken off from there.

SC is married with three children—one son in the Air Force and two teenage daughters—who give her plenty of inspiration and advice, and are a constant source of laughter and new terminology.  Besides writing, she loves reading, movies, singing and dancing reality shows and going to the beach.

Connect with SC

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Blurred Lines (Crossing the Line #2) by S.C. Montgomery to read and review for this tour.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Finding Perfect by Kendra C. Highley

How far will you go for perfection?

For "Perfect Paige" Westfeld, today is "D" Day. As in, she just got one on her calculus test. With her dreams of Stanford, her reputation, and her parents' expectations at stake, Paige needs to find a way to save face before everything she's worked for goes up in flames.

Ben Franklin (yes, he's related) is from the wrong side of town, with the wrong clothes and the wrong kind of life. He also knows an opportunity when he sees one, and he'll be happy to tutor Paige-if she makes him into the kind of guy her best friend, the hottest girl in school, will date.

It's the perfect arrangement. And Paige is determined not even the inconvenient-and utterly imperfect-attraction simmering between her and Ben will ruin it...

This Entangled Teen Crush book contains swoony situations, adult language, and a perfectly imperfect hero with an eye for calculus and a heart of gold.

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Book 1
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Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

4 Teenage Angst Stars

Perfect Paige's life is imploding from too much stress. Everyone asks her for help and expects her to, not only do it, but to do a perfect job. Committees, student council, volunteering, schoolwork, piano.

At 17, in the beginning of her senior year, her entire life is already mapped out for her by her parents. Her father wants her to take over his practice when he retires, and her mother sees Paige's accomplishments as her own – to do well is to make her parents proud. Set on the career path of neurology, Paige must be better than 4th in her class, because she needs to get into Stanford – her father's alma mater. Unlike the rest of her fellow students, Paige's course load is heavy, and Calculus is bringing down her GPA, especially with a D.

Ben is #3 in the senior class, smart but from the wrong side of the tracks, working several jobs to survive while working even harder in school for scholarships. He's a nice guy, labeled as a geek because he's intelligent. He's had a crush on Paige's best friend for two years, and he'd do anything to get a date with her.

Ben has what Paige needs, and she has what he wants. Ben will help Paige in Calculus, for payment: get him a date with her popular BFF.

We all see where this is going, right? Imagine The Duff mixed with She's All That, but in reverse, and you have a recipe for the perfect Young Adult novel.

Kendra C. Highley is a new-to-me author, and I found her writing style fluid, flowing rapidly and engaging, with realistic, age-appropriate characterization. Paige was written as an A-type personality, yet a people pleaser. She's always been in the shadows of her BFF. Ben was a boy, who wanted the popular girl because of her looks and status, coveting someone he didn't even know, as if only appearance matters, which is more insulting than flattering but that's classic guy behavior.

The conflict of the tale was Paige's parents, but I felt they were written realistically, and I could see both Paige's and their stance. The BFF was written as supportive instead of back-stabbing and manipulative.

Finding Perfect elicited the warm glow of a first crush, the fear of rejection, and unrequited love. I recommend this title to young adults and those young at heart, and I look forward to the next in the series.

Young Adult age-range: 13+. Kissing.

Paige Westfield, also known as "Perfect Paige," has it all figured out: get into Stanford University, get into medical school, and take over her father's family practice. There's just one tiny hitch, she's failing calculus and she's starting to see her perfectly laid out future slipping through her fingers.

Ben Franklin is a smart guy, but he's from the wrong side of town and wearing the wrong kind of clothes. Fortunately, Ben has been crushing on Paige's best friend, Zoey, the hottest girl in school, for as long as he can remember, and he'll help Paige pass her calculus class if she can make him into the kind of guy Zoey would date.

I really liked Finding Perfect, it was a nice quick read with the perfect blend of romance! Paige is such an easy character to relate to, and Ben was just too cute! Also, I was pleasantly surprised with how much I ended up liking Zoey, her best friend, and I am totally looking forward to reading her own story in book two. I will say some of these YA books make me feel like I'm too old to be reading them, but this definitely isn't one of them. If you're looking for your next summer beach read, this one will be a perfect fit!

For fans of Kasie West and Jenny Han, this book is a must read!

Kendra C. Highley lives in north Texas with her husband and two children. She also serves as staff to four self-important and high-powered cats. This, according to the cats, is her most critical job. She believes in everyday magic, extraordinary love stories, and the restorative powers of dark chocolate.

Connect with Kendra

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Finding Perfect (Finding Perfect #1) by Kendra C. Highley to read and review. Review copy was purchased by the blog.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Finding the Upside of Down by Dionie McNair

Broken by bullying, Tabitha volunteers and finds just what she needs to mend her life.

Being bullied has always been part of Tabitha Cockell’s life. Since first grade her tormentor, Amelia, has hounded her with cruel taunts, name-calling and nasty rumors both face to face and online. She attempts suicide, but is saved in the nick of time by the guy she has just started dating after he reads her suicide note on Facebook.

Survival means she has to face life, but she doesn’t know how until she sees a crew of State Emergency Service volunteers at work. She finds the courage to join, and her decision soon has her seeing and understanding life from a whole new perspective.

Reader Advisory: This book contains scenes of bullying, verbal abuse and an attempted suicide.

Publisher's Note: This book has previously been published elsewhere. It has been revised and re-edited for re-release with Finch Books.

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Finch Books

Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

Dionie McNair is a new-to-me author

3 Stars.

5 stars on the premise, minus the execution and lack of maturity in the characters. I can’t hand out a favorable review just because the book is about tough subject matter. If this book had been written in a younger age-range, perhaps 14 year olds instead of college-age adults, I could have forgiven the immaturity of the voice. To be totally honest, it felt as if a more mature person was writing this novel, envisioning how a college freshman would think, but ended up sounding more like a freshman in high school using adult words instead.

Finding the Upside of Down has a good premise and a well-written blurb, but the writing style isn’t delivering. Tabitha is a college freshman, who has been bullied since kindergarten by Amelia.

The first day of college Amelia shows up to bully Tabitha continuously. Why I find this not realistic and difficult to read: It’s almost a mockery of how it truly is to bully and be bullied. Perhaps if this took place during junior high or high school, I could have bought into it.

Amelia is almost comically bad at being a villain. The taunts, teases, and bullying tactics are more of a 10-year-old, not a grown adult in college. How small is this college campus and surrounding town to be everywhere Tabitha is without searching for her? Who has the time when they are paying for an education, studying, working, social and family life, to always be where Tabitha is, from day one. How did Amelia even know where to be, when Tabitha herself was just learning where she had to be?

Amelia was a step ahead, when Tabitha’s steps weren’t predestined but just taken at random. The odds of her knowing Tabitha’s class schedule, managing to be in said classes, and getting to locations prior to Tabitha when they left at the same time, knowing her brand new unlisted cellphone number… and so on. Knowing when she texted her friends and didn't receive a reply.

In a college class with 17+ year olds, one student is 22, maybe one or two would have laughed at Tabitha and found Amelia funny. But the other students would have found her as ridiculous as I did. Comically bad, juvenile, a disturbed mentality, perhaps mentally ill.

These students are paying for an education, and there to work. They are intelligent individuals and wouldn’t have time for Amelia disrupting a class in which they work hard to pay for it. The age range at a college, which provides continuing education for adults, would be up to retirement age. I can't see many standing by and accepting this.

I also need to add, stalking and harassment is a crime – not a ‘just ignore it.’ I would have taken the text messages and threatening notes and had Amelia arrested. The just ignore it felt irresponsible to read, especially since this is a young adult novel.

While I believe bullying is a huge issue people face on a daily basis, and a premise worth exploring in literature, I felt the execution of it during this novel was too over-the-top and juvenile for the age-range of the characters.


Amelia leaving a box of pregnancy tests on the counter in a public bathroom at college. Tabitha was mortified someone would think they belonged to her. Why? Who cares? That’s an expensive prank with no payoff. What are the odds anyone would be in the bathroom at the same time? So what if someone thinks the tests belong to Tabitha the adult? Why would anyone jump to the conclusion the tests were Tabitha’s just because they were on the counter? This is shaming to women, as if getting pregnant is shameful. A woman may raise an eyebrow when seeing the test, but that's it. Maybe ask if you need some moral support. I don't know what world these grown women are from – junior high, I suspect. Wouldn't it have been more embarrassing for Amelia when she bought the tests, than to leave them on the counter for Tabitha to find? Checking out is in public, the restroom is in private.

Amelia knocking all the stuff off Tabitha’s desk, then snickering as she walked away, leaving Tabitha to feel mortified. I’m at a loss how this is humiliating for Tabitha – infuriating, yes. Mortifying or humiliating – how? I’ve accidentally knocked someone’s belongings over, and *I* felt like a moron and apologized, and the other person had no blame placed on them whatsoever. No one cares – they're in college to get an education. Just as they don’t know what’s in the notes placed on Tabitha’s desk (considering she sat at different desks, I was unsure how Amelia guessed which desk to place it on) so why would they all snicker as Tabitha opened a threatening note? Who cares? The other students don’t. They don’t know either of them, nor would they laugh for no reason.

Amelia showing up at Tabitha's job...

The juvenile bent to the story, when set in an adult world, the voice of the narrator being at least five or more years younger than her age group, made reading a book which should have been profound, to be a chore.

Recommended for young adults, even if this is listed in the New Adult age-range. I would suggest actual children, not those who read the young adult genre as adults, as I do.

Will I read more by this author? To be honest, the writing style is not to my tastes.

Dionie was a closet writer for several years before she got brave enough to share her work with anyone until she joined Eyre Writers Inc, a creative writing group in the seaside town of Port Lincoln and really began to improve.

Her first book was a 100,000 words family saga novel, but after studying children’s literature at university she embarked on a new direction—writing a young adult fantasy novel.

After being made redundant from the job she loved in 2011 she became a carer for her frail, vision-impaired mother and turned to fulfilling her dream of becoming a writer.

When Dionie is not writing she enjoys spending time with family and friends, especially her mother, and three wonderful adult children and adorable grandchildren. She also enjoys egg decorating and carving, reading of course, painting, gardening and cooking.

Dionie currently lives in the beautiful ‘city of churches’, Adelaide South Australia.

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Finding the Upside of Down by Dionie McNair to read and review.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Life After Juliet by Shannon Lee Alexander

Becca Hanson is a reader-a voracious reader. And with all those fictional friends, she never had time for real ones. Plus real ones come with uncontrollable quirks, like constantly filling a room with song, drawing on any available surface, and worst of all, dying. Real friends are more trouble than they're worth. Since her best-and only-real friend Charlotte's death six months before, Becca has returned to a life of books in order to distance herself from heartache and constant loneliness as her junior year at Sandstone High begins.

When a class project forces her into the Drama Club, she attracts the attention of not one, but TWO guys involved in the production, onstage and off. Meanwhile, she's still dealing with the grief of Charlotte's death--the fact that Charlie is away at MIT--and that she finally has to build a life for herself on her own terms. Ultimately she learns more about who she is, what she wants, how she feels--and how to find what she's looking for. (And while she isn't sure what comes next, she's pretty sure there'll be more kissing involved.)

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Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

Becca is grieving the death of her best and only friend, Charlotte. She spends every minute she can with her head buried in a book, avoiding the world, her grief, and making connections with people. She is socially awkward and thinks people don't notice her. But they do.

When Becca face plants into Max's lap in class, and after a little pursuing from Max, they become friends and Becca starts to come out of her shell. She signs up for the school play and starts to live. Charlotte's death and grief hang heavily over Becca as happiness in her new life wars with guilt over moving on.

The lovely teen romance between Max and Becca moves slowly and is PG rated. Becca's relationship with Max is important in her new life, but so are the people around her. Max's best mate, Victor, provides comic relief while frienemy, Darby, helps hold a mirror up to Becca's life, forcing her to face things she'd rather avoid.

This is a beautiful story about a girl learning to move out of her comfort zone and live life after the death of a loved one. I note this is a companion book to Love and Other Unknown Variables but I read it as a standalone. Love and Other Unknown Variables has been added to my 'to read' list but knowing what I know, I'm not sure if my heart can take reading Charlie's story. Perhaps I need to take a leaf out of Becca's book and move out of my own comfort zone.

Shannon Alexander was compelled to write this story after the death of her best friend to ovarian cancer. She is a member of SCBWI and She Writes, and works as a copy editor for Sucker Literary, a showcase for new and undiscovered writers of young adult literature. She recently completed her seventh Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure in Washington D.C., and is an active supporter of cancer research.

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Life After Juliet by Shannon Lee Alexander to read and review.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

The Secret Life of a Dream Girl by Tracy Deebs

Hiding in plain sight is harder than it looks…

Dahlia Greene—aka international pop superstar Cherry—is undercover as a normal high school student. She just wants to experience what real life is like, so when she overhears hottie Keegan Matthews nervously talking about liking a girl, she sees the perfect opportunity to live a real life and play a little matchmaker. What was not part of the plan was falling for a guy she can never tell the truth.

Keegan Matthews has been secretly crushing on Dahlia ever since she started at his school. Sure, Dahlia thinks he’s crushing on some other girl—not realizing his Dream Girl is actually her—but he figures, play along with her tips to woo someone else, let her get to know him, and then make his move. But with so many secrets in the mix, their romance is doomed from the start…

Disclaimer: This Entangled Teen Crush book contains adult language, references to drinking and drugs, and a kiss so steamy it’ll fog up your ereader.

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Book 4
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Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

5 Angsty, banterific stars.

Tracy Deebs is a new-to-me author.

The Creative HeArts series is like 4 trilogies wrapped up in one large series featuring the same cast of characters in/around a performing arts school.

Excuse me for not giving a coherent review, as I'm going to go full-out fangirl on your behind. Reading every page voraciously, because I wanted to know what would happen next, I was dreading reaching the final page, because I never wanted the book to end.

For both young adult and those young at heart, The Secret Life of a Dream Girl has a Hannah Montana vs Miley Cyrus meets Lindsay Lohan feel. Dahlia, aka international ex-Disney star Cherry, has emancipated herself from her controlling father who leaks false information to the press to create more controversy around the 17-year-old girl. The version the public sees is not the true person Dahlia is.

Keegan is an all-around good guy, who happens to have a crush on Dahlia, the girl who sticks to the shadows, watching but never participating. Chatting with his friend, Jacen, about his dream girl, Dahlia overhears and decides to put herself out there by making a new friend after a conversation she had with Finn.

Obviously Keegan takes his crush up on her quest to get him the girl of his dreams as a way to be closer to her.

Yes, this premise has been written in countless young adult novels, but there is a reason the trope stands the test of time. It's an irresistible angsty, guilty pleasure that had me clicking the pages at a rapid rate. Keegan and Dahlia had great chemistry, camaraderie, and a realistic non-insta connection.

Added onto top of the romance is the realistic view of how celebrities have no privacy and are taken advantage, as well as Keegan's father going through a life-threatening cancer.

This book is not a standalone, the 4th book in a series of trilogies. While it is open-ended, it was a satisfying end to the novel, and a promising start to the next. Each book I end, I want the next before I'm even finished, even knowing in the cycle of books, it will be a different couple. The disappointment quickly fades, since I then get hooked on the next couple and the next...

Be patient – these are not instant gratification novels.

Here – have a guide (guesstimate by yours truly)

Sloane & Tru = books 1, 5, 9
Willa & Finn = books 2, 6, 10
Mariley & Cabot = books 3, 7, 11
Dahlia & Keegan = books 4, 8, 12

Authors? Yoohoo? Can we please add Jacen & Himish to this lineup? Pretty please? Just one book, even? A novella? Short story?

Young adult age-range: 14+ due to adult language. Kissing.

Also Available in the Creative HeArts Series

Book 1
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For reviews & more info, check out our Ten Things Sloane Hates About Tru post.

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.

Award-winning author Tracy Deebs collects old vinyl, new books and bold lipsticks and has been known to forget where—and sometimes who—she is when immersed in a great novel. At six she wrote her first short story—something with a rainbow and a prince—and at seven she forayed into the wonderful world of girls lit with her first Judy Blume novel. And from the first page of that first book, Tracy knew she’d found her life-long love. Now a successful author with 41 published novels to her various names, she loves spending her days writing in her pajamas, drinking too much tea and exploring fun and funky new places in her current hometown of Austin, Texas.

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of The Secret Life of a Dream Girl (Creative HeArts #4) by Tracy Deebs to read and review.