Saturday, March 25, 2017

Redux by A.L. Davroe

The domed city of Evanescence is in ruins. With nowhere to go, prodigy hacker Ellani “Ella” Drexel and a small band of survivors flee to the Undertunnel below their city.

To escape the wasteland she unknowingly created.

But sanctuary is hard to find. With malfunctioning androids and angry rebels at their backs, the group hopes to press on for the neighboring city of Cadence. But Ella’s chosen path is challenging… life-threatening, even. Worse, the boy she loves is acting distant, and not at all like the person she first met in Nexis.

But then Ella learns a secret… and it changes everything.

Ella knows she needs to turn back and make a stand to reclaim her home. She’s determined to bring a new—and better—life to all who’ve suffered.

Or die trying.

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Book 2
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Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

Droids have destroyed Evanescence and Ella, Quint, Gus, and a group of residents manage to escape the city alive. Ella feels responsible for the deaths of so many people and is ready to do whatever it takes to keep the survivors alive.

Life outside of Evanescence eventually leads them to come into contact with the disfavoured and we start to learn that there is far more going on than we thought. Outside of the walls of Evanescence, Ella sees people she thought she'd never see again.

The side story of the romance provides a good dollop of teenage drama and angst alongside their fight for survival. But what I loved most about this story is it doesn't really go where I excepted and it is full of surprises. In the end, it is clear that Ella is an amazing heroine and she is willing to make huge personal sacrifices for the greater good.

I was completely engrossed in Redux every step of the way and I can't wait for book three.

At the start of Redux, I was afraid I'd have to reread Nexis. It had been over 15 months since I read the debut in the series, and had read 500+ books in the interim. While I can't say it wasn't a bit of a struggle in the first few pages to situate myself into the universe, characters, and past events, Davroe did a fabulous job leading the reader to remember bits from Nexis, without devolving into an info-dump rehash. So I applaud the author on the seamless delivery of past information.

With that being said, if you enjoy rereading, and you read the first close to its release, I'd suggest rereading prior. As I read Redux, I had moments where I thought it would have been nice to reread to capture the subtle nuances that may otherwise be lost on the reader. Those heart-tugging, gut-wrenching moments, and bits of foreshadowing, where the reader murmurs, "ahhh..." on a reread.

I do not recommend this being read as a standalone or out of series order.

From this point on, to avoid spoilers, I'm going to have a difficult time formulating a cohesive review. It truly would ruin the journey.

Redux was a page-turner, where I found myself getting snippy when torn from the story. I just wanted to sit down and devour it from page one until the end. This fast-paced read is filled with intriguing world-building, adventuring, love and loss, which hit all my emotions.

The opulent, domed city of Evanescence is powered down, with its inhabitants scattered in the wind, and/or no longer among the living. Ella and company try to save the few remaining aristocrats by seeking to locate a sanctuary. There's no real comfort and security, so Ella has to have the backs of her companions. Nothing goes as planned, including all the machinations plotted by the original Tricksters, which put them into the mess they are dealing with now. Lives are lost, friendships are made and tested, and relationships die while others bloom.

Ella is still a strong role model, making good choices with both her head and heart. In a world where the cast of characters is either vapid – and only thinking of their wants and needs – or logical to a fault – where they are missing empathy and compassion, only seeing people as tools, even loved ones and friends – Ella stuck true to her roots, as the perfect mix of both personality types. Ella bridges the gap as the Savior.

Ella does her best, making sacrifices for the good of all the people.

There are several romantic entanglements, adding a nice dose of teenage angst, but they are far from insta-love and do not subtract from the very involved plot. While I wasn't surprised by the direction the author took Ella's romantic interests, I was shocked by another twisty plot point. Young adults and the young at heart will find the romance in Redux to add to the overall enjoyment, give us a reason to root for specific characters. It truly is complementary to the story arc, not propelling it but giving everyone a reason to hope in a desolate situation.

Redux was well worth the wait. Usually when I'm floored by an amazing debut novel, it all goes downhill in the sequel. Nexis and Redux are both equally worthy of a 5-star rating, which I never give lightly. I can't wait to see what the author has in store during the next book.

Recommended to fans of Young Adult, Fantasy, Science-fiction, Dystopian/Utopian fiction, MMORPG video game based novels.

Young Adult age-range: 14+ Adult Language. Violence. Kissing & fade-to-black sexual situations.

Also Available in the Tricksters Series

Book 1
Buy Links

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B&N  ~  Google Play  ~  iTunes  ~  Kobo

For reviews & more info, check out our Nexis posts from Erica & Veronica.

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.

Connect with A.L.

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Redux (Tricksters #2) by A.L. Davroe to read and review.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Operation Prom Date by Cindi Madsen

Kate ships tons of fictional couples, but IRL her OTP is her and Mick, the hot quarterback she’s crushed on since, like, forever. With only one semester left of senior year, it’s now or never if she wants to land him in time for prom. Since she’s flirtationally challenged, she enlists Cooper Callihan, the guy who turned popular seemingly overnight but who used to be a good friend.

Cooper lives and breathes rowing, but his partner just broke his wrist. When he remembers Kate’s good with a set of oars, he strikes a deal: help him train, and he’ll make sure her crush notices her. Only he didn’t know how addicting spending time with her would be. Or how the more successful the Operation is, the more jealousy he experiences.

The mission has been set. The troops have their marching orders. But what if the target is the wrong guy all along?

Disclaimer: This Entangled Teen Crush book contains stargazing, accidental swimming, and poker swindling. This kissing practice will melt your ereader…and give you a new couple to ship.

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Book 1
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Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

Operation Prom Date (Tactics in Flirting #1) by Cindi Madsen was such a delightful lighthearted young adult book. Kate, the main character, was likable, fun, and very relatable. I especially enjoyed all the pop culture references! Fairly predictable storyline, but still an enjoyable easy, quick read. I can’t wait to see what comes next in the Tactics in Flirting series and I will definitely be looking into what other books Madsen has to offer.

Kate has been crushing on the hot quarterback, Mick, since her sophomore year in high school and with it being her last semester of senior year, there's only so much time left to snag him as her prom date. However, due to the fact that she seems to be inept at flirting, she's resorted to enlisting help from Cooper, who used to be her friend before he turned popular practically overnight. Cooper is in a bind since his rowing partner just broke his wrist and when he remembers that Kate was pretty good at rowing, they decide to strike a deal. He'll help Kate snag Mick's attention if she takes his rowing partner's spot to help him train. The only problem is that he had no idea how much he was gonna enjoy spending time with Kate.

Overall, I think Operation Prom Date was a solid four star read and I am sure readers will easily fall in love with this charming story. If you enjoy reading young adult romance books, then this book will easily win you over and have you wanting to ship this couple too!

Cindi Madsen is a USA Today bestselling author of contemporary romance and young adult novels. She sits at her computer every chance she gets, plotting, revising, and falling in love with her characters. Sometimes it makes her a crazy person. Without it, she’d be even crazier. She has way too many shoes, but can always find a reason to buy a pretty new pair, especially if they’re sparkly, colorful, or super tall. She loves music and dancing and wishes summer lasted all year long. She lives in Colorado (where summer is most definitely NOT all year long) with her husband and three children.

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Operation Prom Date (Tactics in Flirting #1) by Cindi Madsen to read and review.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Swinging at Love by Kendra C. Highley

Outfielder Tristan Murrell has a problem. As the number two slugger for the Suttonville Sentinels, his team is counting on him to make their very first run at the state championship. But he has a secret—his swing has totally deserted him. As in, he can’t hit anything. He needs to fix the issue, and fast, but how?

Ballerina Alyssa Kaplan has a problem, too. The shiny new sports complex in town has left her family’s batting cage business on the verge of going under. Nailing her audition for a prestigious dance company is everything, but there’s no way she’s letting her some shiny big-box company destroy her family’s livelihood.

Tristan needs a miracle. So does Alyssa. And maybe, just maybe, Tristan’s secret weapon might be the girl of his dreams...

Disclaimer: This book contains hot, shirtless baseball players, kisses that bring a ballerina to her knees, and a lot of baseball smack-talk.

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Book 2
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Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

The adult in me is rating 4 stars. However, I do believe actual young adults will find this book impossible to put down, with all the addictive, page-turning elements (tropes) on the pages.

Welcome back to Suttonville, where last we readers enjoyed Kyle and Faith's relationship grow. In this installment in the series, their friends get a chance at budding romance.

Alyssa, or Chickadee ('Dee) as her father calls her, is a hard-working, driven, and dedicated girl. She's a good student, a ballet dancer, and an ex-softball player. She works at her father's ailing/failing business round-the-clock. Swing Away, which has batting cages for big and small ballplayers. She's a supportive friend, to the point she usually allows them to walk all over her, which I did find a contradiction to her personality.

Tristan is a ballplayer with a problem. He's so stressed out from the upcoming championship, with the need to not let his team down, his swing is way off. He's lost his mojo. Instead of going to the new mega complex to bat, the one all the town and his teammates visit, he heads to Swing Away in private.

This is the setup for Alyssa and Tristan to meet. She helps him 'slow down' his game, relax, and unexpectedly find love.

What I enjoyed most about this novel, other than Alyssa and Tristan, is how the family members are all realistic and present in the lives of their children. More often than not in young adult novels, we see the children raising themselves, or raising their parents, as the conflict. Not this time around, and I applaud the author for the realism.

One of the morals of the story is stress, stress both young adults and adults alike can identify with. Alyssa is stressed about getting into dance camp, and Swing Away failing. Tristan is stressed about being so perfect, he's messing up. The kids are stressing about their friends. The parents have very real fears/stressors about losing a business that is tied to their home as well. It was realistic, with a good moral, showing how working through all the stress, dealing with it, is far better than hiding from it while you wait for it to pass.

Another moral is for teens, but I do believe adults should have a listen. Crushes, we've all been there. You may have never even spoken to your crush, but you feel a sense of ownership to him/her, and you place your stamp on the them, and if your friends try to date your crush, they are a bad friend. We see it as loyalty/disloyal. But we don't see the crush as a human being with a say in it. A relationship is between two people, and you're not entitled to the crush, just because you want them. What do you like, other than vapid things, if you've never even spoken to this person? There's a good chance you won't get along, and a greater chance your friend will. It's wrong to be controlling of both your friend and a stranger, as if you have a say in their dating life. I liked how the author focused on this, as Tristan and Alyssa's best friends both called dibs, not even knowing their crush's name, causing pain for all around.

This is where I go into what I didn't quite enjoy, where it didn't quite work, as it ties to above. The pacing is fantastic, a real page-turner. It's quick and easy to fall into the story, with likable, realistic characters. It's on the verge of insta-love, but in a cute, warm your heart way. But it felt concluded early on, then drawn out with a conflict I felt wasn't a conflict at all. Miscommunication is a pet-peeve of mine, in imagination-land and in real life. But at least it wasn't between Alyssa and Tristan (once it was – a tiny blip I knew was coming).

The miscommunication was between the best friends, calling dibs on crushes when they'd never spoken to them and didn't know their names. This caused our lovebirds to stay a secret, instead of manning up about it. It wasn't really a conflict, and it highlighted how bizarre/wrong it is to place a stamp of ownership on another human being just because you like how they look and their social standing. Bit of a mean girls situation played out, but I'm glad it was shown in a light young adults would learn from.

I was unsure how Alyssa's BFF had a complete 180 so quickly, it was out of character. But Dylan was in his character. So while I can appreciate what was on the pages, the story of Tristan and Alyssa felt complete by the 20% mark in the book, when it's usually a journey between the couple.

Swinging at Love was cute, heartwarming, a bit over-the-top at the ending, yet realistic the rest of the time. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and would recommend it in a heartbeat. I look forward to more in this series, and more by this author. Kendra C. Highley is becoming one of my favorite YA authors.

Young adult age-range: 13+. Kissing. Mild Swearing. PG with 17-year-old narrators.

Also Available in the Suttonville Sentinels Series

Book 1
Buy Links

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B&N  ~  Google Play  ~  iTunes  ~  Kobo

For reviews & more info, check out our The Bad Boy Bargain 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.

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Swinging at Love (Suttonville Sentinels #2) by Kendra C. Highley to read and review.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Island of Exiles by Erica Cameron

In Khya’s world, every breath is a battle.

On the isolated desert island of Shiara, dying young is inevitable. The clan comes before self, and protecting her home means Khya is a warrior above all else.

But when following the clan and obeying their leaders could cost her brother his life, Khya's home becomes a deadly trap. The only person who can help is Tessen, her lifelong rival and the boy who challenges her at every turn. The council she hoped to join has betrayed her, and their secrets, hundreds of years deep, reach around a world she's never seen.

To save her brother’s life and her island home, her only choice is to trust Tessen, turn against her clan, and go on the run—a betrayal and a death sentence.

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Book 1
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B&N  ~  Google Play  ~  iTunes  ~  Kobo
Entangled Publishing

Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

The blurb was a definite hook for me, especially with the Graceling being one of my all-time favorite young adult fantasy novels. But the language and terminology confused this 38-year-old writer/avid reader, so I wonder how much a young adult will comprehend while reading.

I've struggled over the course of two weeks to read this novel, reading about 10% in a sitting before switching to another book, then coming back for another tenth of the book, more than determined to finish it. At the start, I felt like I was forced to solve a complicated puzzle with all the terminology and how the reader is thrust into a world with no explanation, being left to figure it out on their own.

I'm not necessarily a simple reader, but this novel made me feel like one with how confused I was. I've read thousands of books in varying genres, especially this one, so I know what some of the terms used meant. I grasped the overall plot, but was still left to solve what was being said in the paragraphs.

In a nutshell, I felt as if I was reading a foreign language after being dropped into a foreign land, and through familiarity I had to learn how to speak the language (eventually I got it, but it harmed the entertainment factor). While beautiful, and lent an ethereal and realistic feel to the world created, it created a jarring flow as the reader tried to puzzle through understanding the words used to tell the story.

As the writer and creator, the author knows what she meant when writing, but that didn't necessarily translate to the reader understanding. Eventually, yes. But it shouldn't be so much work at the start. The beginning is when the reader must be hooked, and I fear the majority will toss in the towel long before they comprehend the beautiful world created. I personally experienced a disconnect between me and the characters due to the writing style, which I battled the entire duration of the long book.

AFTER I conquered the novel, there was a glossary of terms at the end of the book, which I wish I knew existed prior to starting. If you're reading my review prior to purchasing/reading the novel, click to the glossary first. It will make your reading enjoyment much more fulfilling. Though, at the same time, it feels a bit like you have to study and keep notes in order to read the book.

At the start, the reader is thrust into a harsh world, with Khya as our narrator. She's a strong, stubborn, responsible role model of a character, with utter devotion to her brother – Yorri. Yorri was one of my favorite characters. The strong connection the brother and sister shared was endearing.

I appreciated how the focus was on the plot, unlike how many young adult fantasy novels focus on the romance. There was a romantic thread, but it wasn't insta-anything. There was a slow-build vibe between Khya and Tessen, which is a trope that always keeps my attention. Khya is blind to the attraction between her and Tessen, more focused on her brother. They had known each other for most of their lives, so there wasn't a scene (like in most YA books) where the new hottie totally makes our heroine lose her focus. No matter how much Khya wanted to be left alone, Tessen maneuvered his way in by being helpful.

The universe created was diverse, with three genders and no sexual orientation qualms. I give mad props to the universe the author created, all the time spent researching and maintaining the world-building from start to finish, the ability to write a highly complex novel.

I wasn't the intended audience for this novel. I like to be entertained, to fall into the story and not want to crawl back out until well after the final page. With the way Island of Exiles was written, with the complexity, I couldn't fall into the story without struggling to understand the story. It was like working instead of relaxing. While I can appreciate the hard work and beauty the author injected into the story, it wasn't a pleasure to read.

I do recommend this title, but only if the reader downloads a sample to get a feel of the writing style and world-building. While I can appreciate the story, I won't be reading the sequel.

After a lifelong obsession with books, Erica Cameron spent her college years studying psychology and creative writing, basically getting credit for reading and learning how to make stories of her own. Now, she’s the author of several series for young adults. She’s also a reader, asexuality advocate, dance fan, choreographer, singer, lover of musical theater, movie obsessed, sucker for romance, Florida resident, and quasi-recluse who loves the beach but hates the heat, has equal passion for the art of Salvador Dali and Venetian Carnival masks, has a penchant for unique jewelry and sun/moon d├ęcor pieces, and a desire to travel the entire world on a cruise ship. Or a private yacht. You know, whatever works. Her debut novel, Sing Sweet Nightingale, released March 2014 and it was the first volume of The Dream War Saga. In May 2015, Erica and her co-author Lani Woodland launched the Laguna Tides series with Taken by Chance. Riptide’s new YA imprint Triton Books will release both books in the Assassins series, Discord and Nemesis, in 2016. The Ryogan Chronicles, a fantasy trilogy set to launch through Entangled Teen, will launch in 2017 with Island of Exiles.

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Island of Exiles (The Ryogan Chronicles #1) by Erica Cameron to read and review.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Off the Ice by Julie Cross

All is fair in love and hockey…

Claire O’Connor is back in Juniper Falls, but that doesn’t mean she wants to be. One semester off, that’s what she promised herself. Just long enough to take care of her father and keep the family business—a hockey bar beside the ice rink—afloat. After that, she’s getting the hell out. Again.

Enter Tate Tanley. What happened between them the night before she left town resurfaces the second they lay eyes on each other. But the guy she remembers has been replaced by a total hottie. When Tate is unexpectedly called in to take over for the hockey team’s star goalie, suddenly he’s in the spotlight and on his way to becoming just another egotistical varsity hockey player. And Claire’s sworn off Juniper Falls hockey players for good.

It’s the absolute worst time to fall in love.

For Tate and Claire, hockey isn’t just a game. And they both might not survive a body check to the heart.

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Book 1
Buy Links

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B&N  ~  Google Play  ~  iTunes  ~  Kobo
Entangled Publishing

Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

3.5 Stars

This was an okay read, I feel like the story just dragged a bit in the middle. It was really slow at parts, but I will say the writing is good and the parts that weren’t slow are great!

Tate is a goalie for his high school’s hockey team, which in his tiny town is a huge deal. Since he was a kid, he’s had a crush on this older sister’s best friend, Claire, and right before she heads off to college she witnesses his father’s drunken abuse and the two have an unbreakable connection. When Claire goes away to college Tate lets his feelings go, but when Claire comes home to help care for her very sick father, old feelings come back to the surface. Tate is fighting to earn his place on his team, get a spot on an NHL team, and battle his father’s strong-arming him and his friends. While Claire is fighting to keep her parents’ business afloat, earn enough money to pay for college and keep her dreams alive. The two have a lot going on and have to really fight at a relationship.

My favorite aspect of this book was that Tate has a long-time girlfriend, Haley, who is perfect – gorgeous, smart, cheerleader, etc. Only, she’s kind of awesome, and I found that refreshing. Usually that character is written as catty and mean, but Haley is awesome and I honestly think I wound up liking her mother then Claire (like I really hope she gets her own book – *hint, hint* LOL). This is a book that really covers it all and though I think a few of the details could have been cut out to make this a more fast-paced read, I did enjoy the author’s wide variety of characters.

This was my first time reading any of Julie Cross' books and Off the Ice (Juniper Falls #1) was a nice introduction. The story flowed well and the characters were developed. I will definitely be looking to see what's in store next for Juniper Falls!

Claire O' Connor takes time off from college to return to her small hometown of Juniper Falls and help take care of the family's hockey bar while her father begins to recover. She has zero intentions of sticking around, but running into to Tate Tanley has her questioning everything.

I never knew I was such a fan of hockey until after reading Off the Ice. Cross does a lovely job of weaving hockey and romance. I often times forgot I was even reading a young adult book because this one seemed to straddle the line between young adult and new adult. Off the Ice was a solid 4-star read for me.

New York Times & USA Today Bestselling Author of Halfway Perfect, Whatever Life Throws at You, Tempest, optioned by Summit Entertainment, Letters to Nowhere, and Third Degree. Julie lives in Central Illinois with her husband and three children.

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Off the Ice (Juniper Falls #1) by Julie Cross to read and review.