Monday, May 28, 2018

All the Little Lights by Jamie McGuire

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Jamie McGuire comes a riveting tale of first love that starts young but runs deep.

The first time Elliott Youngblood spots Catherine Calhoun, he’s just a boy with a camera, and he’s never seen a sadder and more beautiful sight. Both Elliott and Catherine feel like outcasts, yet they find an easy friendship with each other. But when Catherine needs him most, Elliott is forced to leave town.

Elliott finally returns, but he and Catherine are now different people. He’s a star high school athlete, and she spends all her free time working at her mother’s mysterious bed-and-breakfast. Catherine hasn’t forgiven Elliott for abandoning her, but he’s determined to win back her friendship… and her heart.

Just when Catherine is ready to fully trust Elliott, he becomes the prime suspect in a local tragedy. Despite the town’s growing suspicions, Catherine clings to her love for Elliott. But a devastating secret that Catherine has buried could destroy whatever chance of happiness they have left.

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Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

To be honest, I have absolutely NO idea how to review All the Little Lights, as I'm going to do my best to avoid any and all spoilers and refuse to delve into book report territory. I went into reading the book blind, and I want everyone else to do so too.

Was I hooked from the beginning? No.

Why? Elliot is awesome – his child version was the sweetest, most protective little fella, but the setting and pacing were bizarre, and it never really changed from that point onward.

There are three eras to the novel. Child versions of Elliot and Catherine, which is only a handful of pages. Fifteen-year-old kids, which spanned a portion of the novel. The main portion featured a seventeen and eighteen-year-old Catherine and Elliot, including scenes in a high school.

What I truly appreciated within All the Little Lights is how the bond between Elliot and Catherine was instantaneous, but it wasn't romantic in nature. Real love must be based in friendship, not infatuation and lust. Over hundreds of pages, the pure connection between Elliot and Catherine is forged with organic, lifelike realism.

I'm a sucker for what I call Gothic romance, featuring a mystery surrounding a drafty old house filled with secrets. I love the classics and their remakes into film, and this book does hold a place in my heart because it reminds me so much of those types of stories. Which is why the high school environment felt so out of place for me, like the two parts don't necessarily form a whole.

I can't call this novel a page-turner, not with the baffling pacing and release of information. As I read, I could sense something beneath the surface. What was jarring is how it was Catherine keeping the secret, refusing to tell others what was happening, but the reader was literally INSIDE Catherine's head during her narration, which is what had me stuttering and stumbling as I read.

There was a door slammed between our narrator and the reader, and it created an emotional disconnect, while she was telling us her story.

The novel is definitely a mystery – a mystery the narrator is keeping from the readers and all the characters in the novel. While I love to be surprised, this slowed the pacing while simultaneously frustrating me. I was curious, but I could see some readers hanging up the towel because no information is given. There is no steady breadcrumb trail, no piecemeal delivery to keep the reader engaged. No trails for readers to follow as they connected the dots – no foreshadowing or information to be puzzled together to solve the mystery.

The reader has to wait through 90% of the novel to be given... something.

While reading everyday events, which did seem to feel redundant, slowing down the pacing even more while feeding my need to skim-read, there was this 'I'm in the Twilight Zone' sensation while reading about teenage angst, football games, and catty mean girls. The juxtaposition was jarring. Not only did it feel several hundred pages too long, it also read longer.

So, Erica, why are you handing out five stars?

Native American culture intrigues me, because I come from a region in the northeast that is heavily laced with Native American history. While there is a lot of racism shown, I don't feel as if it's the author's voice flowing through – more as if she is placing a voice to the ignorance that does infect through the generations. I will say, this felt more like what I would have heard when I was in fourth or fifth grade back in the early 90s, while I was second-hand bullied alongside a Native American boy in my class, not in a more politically correct 2018.

True story, as we sat next to one another - (boy's first name) "Green swims in Lake Erie!" (nickname for Erica) was a euphemism we dealt with several times a day for two school years, along with other racial slurs. So this portion hit me hard, because the treatment of my classmate and his brother has never left me all these years later.

I wanted to give Elliot the biggest hug and tell him he's an amazing person.

I also say time and time again, if the author surprises me, I don't care what else I found off within the novel, I will hand out a 5-star rating, because it's nearly impossible to surprise me. I will admit, I did get it right early on, but I dismissed it as quickly as it popped into my head... hundreds of pages later, I was like, WOW! HA! Awesome!

I adored Catherine and Elliot, even if I felt the connection was almost an unhealthy extreme, but it was the aloofness, the lack of emotion from Catherine as she kept her secrets, her codependency on her mother and Juniper that felt so off.

While I was entertained and awed, while I appreciated the writing and the story itself, that disconnect between Catherine and the reader was most difficult for me.

I'm glad I read the All the Little Lights, and I'll never forget it. However, reading is so subjective, I have no idea who to recommend this to – I did rec it to my own mother, though.

Young Adult age-range: 13+, featuring kissing and violent situations.

We follow Elliot and Catherine from when they first meet and spend a summer together, to them being separated, and Elliot’s return to Oak Creek in his senior year. When Elliot returns, two years have passed and there have been some big changes in Catherine’s life, but he is still completely devoted to her.

If you decide to read All the Pretty Lights please be patient. It took me three days to read the first 40% of the book and it felt like three weeks. A lot happens in Elliot and Catherine’s lives but at the same time I felt like there was not much direction and I was wondering where the story was going. I also had a feeling of dread at what was to come next because it felt like it would be something big. Elliot’s love for and commitment to Catherine, coupled with my curiosity about what was actually going on at the Juniper, kept me reading.

All the Pretty Lights deals with lots of different issues. Family drama, teenage love, loss, bullying, and high school drama, as well as having mystery tinted with danger. Once the story really got going about half way through I couldn’t put it down. I was on the edge of my seat as it unfolded in ways I was not expecting.

Every girl deserves to have a guy like Elliot in their life and in their corner, and he is a big part of what makes All the Pretty Lights an excellent young adult novel. This story is well worth your time. My advice is don’t rush it, be patient, and just let the story unfold.

This was my first time reading anything by Jamie McGuire and I have to say that I was completely blown away by All the Little Lights. I just have no words to describe my current feelings after such an ending because I am still reeling from it! All the Little Lights was definitely kind of a slow start for me, but by the end I was on the edge my seat and completely invested in Catherine and Elliot’s love story. I also really appreciated that the story rotated between Elliot’s point of view and Catherine’s. Although, I thought this was gonna be a nice, sweet young adult story about first love and coming of age, but what I got was actually a riveting tale with a gothic feel to it. If this is what I can expect from all of McGuire’s books I may have to start adding them to my TBR pile immediately because by the end, I could not put it down. I’m not gonna lie, I probably was leaning more towards a four star review, but by the end I was just so incredibly impressed that I can’t not give it a full five stars. Like, is it just me? I literally can’t stop talking about it. I am so enchanted that I want to immediately read it again! Don’t be fooled by the cute little synopsis and charming little cover picture because this story has depth!

I think fans of Jennifer L Armentrout's Don't Look Back and Sara Shepard’s Pretty Little Liars series will easily find themselves intrigued by this book.

5 stars for All the Little Lights by Jamie McGuire

Oooh – this is a wonderfully creepy story full of Southern Gothic charm. On one level, it is the story of the friendship between the daughter of a wealthy family and the son of a blue collar aboriginal family. It is a dark coming of age story and the story of a childhood friendship that gradually becomes a romance. On another level – Nope. Not going there because revealing anything else might spoil the story for another reader.

There is a little bit of Harper Lee’s Maycomb in this book and a whole lot of Flannery O’Connor’s twisted imagination, but the story isn’t crafted quite as tightly as the classics by either of these writers. The pace is slow, and the time lapses and shifts in narrative voice don’t always work. Too many characters on the periphery of the story aren’t fully fleshed. It took time for me to get into the book, but I really enjoyed the stifling atmosphere and the gradual build of tension.

I wasn’t expecting to love this book. The young adult blurb and John Green style cover doesn’t really do it justice. But Elliott and Catherine captured my heart and my imagination. Once I got properly stuck into their story, I couldn’t put it down and I couldn’t get it out of my head once I finished it. I have to recommend it both to teens and to adult readers because – like all the best books – it doesn’t fit neatly into easy genre boxes.

Jamie McGuire is the #1 New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of Walking Disaster, the Maddox Brothers series, the Providence trilogy, and the international bestseller Beautiful Disaster, which paved the way for the new-adult genre. She was the first independent author in history to strike a print deal with retail giant Walmart, and her work has been translated into fifty languages. She lives in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, with her husband, Jeff, and their three children.

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of All the Little Lights by Jamie McGuire to read and review.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Fourteen Summers by Quinn Anderson

Family, friendship, love, and a summer to remember.

Identical twins Aiden and Max Kingsman have been a matched set their whole lives. When they were children, Aiden was happy to follow his extroverted brother’s lead, but now that they’re in college, being “my brother, Aiden” is starting to get old. He’s itching to discover who he is outside of his “twin” identity.

Oliver’s goals for the summer are simple: survive his invasive family, keep his divorced parents from killing each other, and stay in shape for rowing season. He’s thrilled when he runs into his old friends, the Kingsman twins, especially Aiden, the object of a childhood crush. Aiden is all grown-up, but some things have stayed the same: his messy curls, his stability, and how breathless he makes Oliver. Oliver’s crush comes back full force, and the feeling is mutual. Summer just got a whole lot hotter.

Fun-loving Max takes one thing seriously: his role as “big brother.” When Aiden drifts away, Max can’t understand how his own twin could choose a boy over him. Summer won’t last forever, and with friendship, family, and happily ever after on the line, they’ll have to navigate their changing relationships before it’s too late.

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Riptide Publishing

To Our Readers

While we strive to provide reading recommendations that are appropriate for most young adult readers 12 and older and keeping the blog free of adult content in order to achieve this, there are times when we discover a book that walks that fine line between young adult and new adult. It's that gray area of novels, romance or not – the coming of age story.

Fourteen Summers is one such book – we consider it neither truly young adult, nor truly new adult, but rather a coming of age story. It is because of this that we ultimately decided to share it on our YA blog, despite the sexual content. We feel the challenges the young men face will resonate with older teens as their relationships with friends and potential romantic interests change over the years. Because the book includes non-explicit scenes that aren't fade-to-black, but are age-appropriate for the characters, we recommend Fourteen Summers for mid-to-older teens. Also, we strongly encourage parents of mature, younger teens to read the book to assess for themselves if it’s appropriate for their child if they're uncomfortable with their teen reading sex scenes. We feel that Quinn's message is one that will resonate with many young readers, but especially with teens who are grappling with their own sexuality.

Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

Fourteen Summers is a coming-of-age tale that encompasses many different types of relationships – romantic, familial, and friendship. The focus easily shifts, yet manages to weave all these types of relationships into a sense of belonging you only get from family.

It starts off fourteen years in the past, with three little boys. A pair of twins try to draw their best friend into their welcoming family. It was a heart-tugging yet lighthearted, warm and fuzzy, humorous scene that set the perfect stage for the novel to come.

As identical twins, Aiden and Max have always had a built-in support system, best friend, and constant companion, perhaps causing an unhealthy codependency. They were both devastated when their childhood best friend moved away, but they had each other.

Oliver wanted nothing but a warm and welcoming family that didn't fight with one another, after growing up amidst a bickering set of parents who ultimately divorced, and a rowdy, obnoxious yet loving extended family. He loved his best friends, but was jealous of not only their connection as twins, but of their loving parents as well. Oliver just wanted to be part of their family instead of his own.

Fourteen years later... after a decade apart, a chance meeting in the grocery store sets off a chain of events that tests the binds of different types of relationships, acting as both the angst of conflict and the catalyst of change.

While on the outside looking in, Aiden and Oliver seem almost too perfect in juxtaposition to those around them, especially with Max. Max is jealous, used to being the alpha of his brother and their friend, and he can't handle being the third-wheel. I understood Max, and I think it helped being inside his head during his narration, but I do fear readers not empathizing with him, maybe finding him obnoxious or frustrating. But no character should be perfect, and Max was used to show how Aiden and Oliver are far from perfect themselves. Perception is reality, and Max's perception helps paint a full picture within the novel.

The novel was sweet and warm, yet had its moments when it became highly emotional. There was also a yummy decadence of a longtime crush evolving into something more adult. The realism was shown via Max's interactions, as he was able to force the reader to step out of the warm and fuzzy romance and angst and show a different type of relationship, that of twin brothers and of best friends.

I highly recommend Fourteen Summers. While this is listed as MM romance, I do believe it would be appropriate for mid-to-older teens, (however, it is not fade-to-black sexual situations) as all three boys are barely 20 and experiencing coming-of-age growth as the novel progresses.

This is a sweet and very innocent feeling story. While there is a central romance, it is more a coming of age story about twins growing into an adult relationship. The characters are college age, but living at home with parents for the summer makes them all seem much younger.

Identical twins Aiden and Max are complete opposites but have been inseparable since childhood. Aiden’s interest in Oliver marks the first serious relationship for either brother and it hurts Max more than either of them expected.

This story is as much about the two families as it is about the two boys. Even as a small child, Oliver was aware of the differences between Aiden and Max’s warm and happy parents and his own home where arguments and grudges were normal.

This is a slow and thoughtful story. It is a coming of age story about three boys who are finding themselves and working to make their childhood relationships work as adults. The romance is sweet (with a tiny bit of heat) but for me it was the boys’ relationships with their siblings, parents, and friends that were most meaningful.

Avid Reader☆☆☆☆
M/M Coming of Age
Triggers: Click HERE to see Avid Reader’s review on Goodreads for trigger warnings.

Aiden and Max are identical twins. They do everything together. They were fortunate to make a very good friend while they were just little, Oliver. They have the sweetest relationship together and watching them hang out and be friends was a very sweet way to start the story.

Fast forward 14 years and the boys are just entering their twenties. Reconnecting is something they all needed. Oliver's home life was less than stellar when he was little, and it still is a little rocky now that he's more grown up. Oliver wanted to have the happy home life that his best friends had. While Oliver wasn't exactly jealous of Aiden and Max's home life, it became Oliver's goal to have a family like that.

Aiden and Oliver had crushes on each other when they were little. But because they were little, neither really knew what they were feeling or if they should do anything about it. When they are reunited, those old feelings come back to the surface. But now that those two have a connection that is deepening, how will Aiden and Max cope with the changes in their own relationship?

This story has such a great dynamic. It is about family, love, friendship, and acceptance. I really enjoyed seeing the boys figure out what they wanted personally and from each other. The family dynamic is not overdone and overall, this is a great coming of age story.

This is a very sweet coming of age novel involving three best friends. Two, identical twins Aiden and Max, have been together literally their whole lives, and have caring, loving professional parents. Oliver met them as a young boy but moved away when his always arguing parents finally divorced. As a boy, he loved the calm and happiness of their home, as well as having a crush on Aiden. Fast forward to age 20 and they meet up again as Oliver's dad has moved back to the area.

Now we deal with three young men who kind of want to recapture the innocence and fun of their boyhood, yet Aiden and Oliver are clearly attracted to each other. Max suddenly feels that he is losing his twin, and everyone's emotions go into overdrive. We hear the story from all three perspectives, and I enjoyed the fact they all learned from each other and had a new, adult view on what happened in their past, and maybe the direction of their futures.

Quinn Anderson earned a master’s degree from the University of Dublin in Ireland and is also a University of Florida alumna with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. She began writing books, poetry, and fan fiction at fourteen years of age and was first published at nineteen. Her favorite authors include Gail Carson Levine, Libba Bray, Tamorra Pierce, and T.A. Barron. A nerd extraordinaire, Quinn draws inspiration from pop culture and makes far too many obscure references. Quinn’s favorite thing to write is witty dialogue, and her favorite thing to read is a slow burn.

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Fourteen Summers by Quinn Anderson to read and review.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Furyborn by Claire Legrand

The stunningly original, must-read fantasy of 2018 follows two fiercely independent young women, centuries apart, who hold the power to save their world... or doom it.

When assassins ambush her best friend, Rielle Dardenne risks everything to save him, exposing herself as one of a pair of prophesied queens: a queen of light, and a queen of blood. To prove she is the Sun Queen, Rielle must endure seven elemental magic trials. If she fails, she will be executed...unless the trials kill her first.

One thousand years later, the legend of Queen Rielle is a fairy tale to Eliana Ferracora. A bounty hunter for the Undying Empire, Eliana believes herself untouchable—until her mother vanishes. To find her, Eliana joins a rebel captain and discovers that the evil at the empire's heart is more terrible than she ever imagined.

As Rielle and Eliana fight in a cosmic war that spans millennia, their stories intersect, and the shocking connections between them ultimately determine the fate of their world—and of each other.

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Book 1
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Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

4.5 Stars

Reviews are so difficult for me to write for Fantasy stories!

Furyborn was an epic adventure, based on the lives of two different women at two different time periods (approx. 1000 years apart). I've read many fantasy novels, but none like this!
I have to mention that this prologue was INSANE. If this doesn't grab your attention, nothing will.

We follow the lives and trials, of Rielle Dardenne – otherwise known as Queen Rielle. We see how she obtains her power, and the important events in her life. I hate to say it, but I was rooting for her the entire story. She may have been my favorite character, for different reasons. I'm not going to tell you why because I really don't want to give anything away.

Fast forward 1000 years, we see the same landscape but in a different light and meet Eliana Ferracora. She's a complete badass, afraid of nothing, and ready to tackle anything. She's on a quest to find her mother and protect her brother. She's completely human, makes some bad choices, and pays the consequences. She feels deeply, but doesn't show it. I love Eliana for her realness, her humanness.

Both of these women face dire consequences, pay terrible prices, and yet persevere. The support cast only added to the main story, and of course, were necessary.

I really enjoyed this book, it has everything you'd expect from a fantasy novel: it was funny and sweet at times, angsty and anxiety-inducing, scary and suspenseful, tragic and beautiful. Physical and mental strengths are at war with magic and the unknown! I loved that this story took right off, there was world-building, but it wasn't boring pages full of just descriptions. There were some slow-moving parts, but I felt like they were sprinkled in to give you time to process everything else going on. I cannot wait to read the second book in the Empirium Series!

Claire Legrand used to be a musician until she realized she couldn’t stop thinking about the stories in her head. Now she is a writer and librarian living in central New Jersey (although her heart will always live in her home state of Texas).

Her first novel is The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls, one of the New York Public Library’s 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing in 2012. She is also the author of The Year of Shadows, a ghost story for middle grade readers; and Winterspell, a young adult re-telling of The Nutcracker. Some Kind of Happiness, her middle grade novel about mental illness, family secrets, and the power of storytelling, is a 2017 Edgar Award Nominee. Claire’s latest novel, Foxheart, is a classic fantasy-adventure and a 2016 Junior Library Guild selection. She is one of the four authors behind The Cabinet of Curiosities, an anthology of dark middle grade short fiction that was a Junior Library Guild selection, a Bank Street Best Book, and among the New York Public Library’s 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing in 2014.

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Furyborn (Empirium #1) by Claire Legrand to read and review.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Spies, Lies, and Allies by Lisa Brown Roberts

Summers are supposed to be fun, right? Not mine. I’ve got a job at my dad’s company, which is sponsoring a college scholarship competition. I just found out that, in addition to my job assisting the competing interns, I’m supposed to vote for the winner. Totally not what I signed up for.

My boss is running the competition like it’s an episode of Survivor. Then there’s Carlos, who is, well, very distracting––in a good way. But I can’t even think about him like that because fraternizing on the job means instant disqualification for the intern involved.

As if that’s not enough, an anonymous informant with insider intel is trying to sabotage my dad’s company on social media... and I’m afraid it's working.

Much as I’d love to quit, I can’t. Kristoffs Never Quit is our family motto. I just hope there’s more than one survivor by the end of this summer.

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Entangled Publishing

Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

Laurel wants to spend time with her workaholic father, the geeky dad who used to spend a ton of time with her. She's willing to do anything, even be the assistant/spy to the new set of interns.

In this young adult novel, not only is the connection between a daughter and father explored, but also that between friends. How perception is reality and first impressions aren't accurate descriptions of the real person deep inside.

From outward appearances, Laurel looks to be a spoiled, rich daddy's girl who has the world at her fingertips and not a care in the world. While the other interns duke it out in a survivor-like competition to win a full scholarship, they resent the girl who is there to help them, seeing her as she appears to be.

Each intern has their own set of challenges and strife, which makes Laurel feel as if her need to spend time with her father is indulgent and not important. Settling for a few minutes to and from work in the car is worth working a 9-to-5 for Laurel.

Laurel doesn't come off as whiny or spoiled or entitled, so I got her position. When surrounded by people who all have deeper issues than you, what you're going through is trivialized, like it's not important. It is important. Life isn't a competition to see who has it worse, to the point you don't need help/attention/love because your lot in life isn't as bad as someone else's. Everyone is equally important.

Laurel was surrounded by people who put out into the world, "let's talk about me, because your issues aren't as important as mine," which feels narcissistic and dismissive, not true friend-like behavior, when she was already putting everyone else first.

Amongst the angst, Laurel's longtime crush is one of the interns, when he doesn't even remember her name after an entire school career together, along with another employee's daughter, who has never given her the time of day. The other three interns are strangers, and more willing to get to know Laurel.

The bond that forms between them was sweet, while their real-life issues will be sure to resonate with every reader. The crush of budding first love, while getting to know one another as friends first was sweet, broody, and angsty deliciousness.

The 'mystery' of the novel was predictable, and I wished another character was chosen as the villain of the story, but it created a fast-paced, addictive page-turner of a read.

I definitely recommend Spies, Lies, and Allies to young adults and those young at heart, looking for a fun, light, yet equally emotionally deep novel. Lisa Brown Roberts has become my go-to young adult fix.

Young Adult age-range: 12+, includes kissing and cussing.

Lisa Brown Roberts still hasn’t recovered from the teenage trauma of nearly tweezing off both eyebrows and having to pencil them in for an entire school year. This and other angst-filled memories inspire her to write YA books about navigating life’s painful and funny dramas, and falling in love along the way.

Her almost forever home is Colorado, though she occasionally pines for the days when she lived within walking distance of the Pacific Ocean. Her house is full of books, boys, four-legged prima donnas, and lots of laughter.

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Spies, Lies, and Allies by Lisa Brown Roberts to read and review.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Love Beyond Opposites by Molly E. Lee

If high school has taught mathlete Jade Aaron anything, it's that nerds never get the guy.

So when rock star Lennon Pryor starts pursuing her, it's not rocket science. This doesn't add up.

I mean, sure, he's hot.

And charming.

And a god on the guitar...

But he's also the world's biggest player. Being with him would be a bigger mistake than 2+2=5.

Until graduation night, when a reckless moment leads to a reckless kiss. And now Jade's falling for the one guy destined to break her heart.

Disclaimer: This Entangled Teen Crush book contains one epic party, complete with every high-schoolers-gone-bad shenanigan, and two opposites with nothing in common and nothing to lose... except their hearts.

Each book in the Grad Night series is a standalone story that can be enjoyed out of order.

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Book 3
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Entangled Publishing

Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

Molly E. Lee is a new-to-me author, which means I read the third installment of the Grad Night series as a standalone, with no confusion at all. I am beyond curious to read the first two installments and others by this author.

The events of Love Beyond Opposites takes place within a singular night, with a prologue and an epilogue set during freshman year in high school and freshman year in college.

Teenagers believe girlfriend and boyfriend means someone you think is hot that you go on dates with, not realizing there is a more important part of that compound word, other than girl or boy... friend.

The Rock Star & the Mathlete.

Lennon spent the whole of his high school career avoiding the girl he truly wanted, fearing he'd hurt her when he reached for rock-stardom. He fell into the trap of how a rock star should/would behave/act/react, instead of being himself, which only made him all the more of a broody heartthrob.

Jade is the quintessential geeky, awkward, one-of-a-kind girl. Born with the gift of numbers, the mathlete has a creative streak for illustration, particularly for graphic novels.

Both of them feeling pressure to fit into the boxes their parents try to fit them into, over their high school career, the math teacher's son and the math teacher's best student bonded, becoming friends over interactions three times a week, while ignoring their attraction.

A series of calamities on graduation night draws Lennon and Jade closer together, in a yummy, angsty page-turner of a novella, which I devoured in a single sitting.

Highly recommend to young adults and those young at heart, looking for an injection of the addictively sweet rush of first love.

Young Adult age-range: 12+, includes kissing, alcohol use not by the MCs, and profanity.

Avid Reader☆☆☆☆
M/F YA Romance

This is the third in a series, but can be read as a standalone. It's a sweet story about crushes, growing up, following your dreams, and learning to trust in yourself.

Jade is a shy nerd who is amazing with numbers. Her parents have worked incredibly hard to show her that their occupations are exactly where she needs to end up. Her mom is pushy and almost cruel at times and I really didn't like it at all. I thought that her dad was not a strong enough character to stand up to his own wife. Jade is trying very hard to please everyone around her – her teachers and parents – that she is losing sight of what makes her want to get up and get going every day.

Then you have Lennon. He wasn't ever a big brain. His dad is a teacher at the local high school and is head of the mathlete division – which means that Lennon gets to see Jade every week. What starts as a crush blossoms into songs and feelings that were long buried. Lennon is also trying to figure out what is the most important to him – his music or following his dreams – the big question becomes can he have it all?

These two have an epic night together with one mishap after another. It's a story that takes place over the course of one night but is so packed with emotions and events that it feels longer. I think that this was a great story, but more geared towards teenagers.

I do wish we would have had more time with them in the epilogue but know that you can only do so much in the pages. It was a story that was sweet and innocent, but packed a lot in to it.

Young adult novel about a hopeful, upcoming rock star and a super geeky mathlete. Jade and Lennon got to know each other from school and Jade's math club taught by Lennon's dad, the professor. Lennon has a one-track mind for his future. He wants to play music and college can wait. Jade is a genius in math and pressures by her parents to go that route are high, when all she wants to do is draw graphic novels. Lennon's dad asked him to leave Jade alone because Jade isn't the love ‘em and leave ‘em girl and Lennon isn't sticking around after graduation. The two are friends but they want to be more. Graduation night they end up on several crazy adventures together, all leading up to Lennon's showcase with the record executive at his huge party. All kinds of sidetracks ensue and while it's a fun night, I found the story to get a little monotonous. By 60% in, still nothing has really evolved between the characters or in getting Lennon to the party. I ended up getting "skimmy" on reading every word. Flash forward, a good story with a good ending and fun side characters. Just wanted the middle to move a bit faster, even for a novella.

Love Beyond Opposites is the third book in Molly E. Lee's Grad Night series, but I read it as a standalone and I had no issues following the storyline. I really enjoyed Jade's character and I thought she was fun, relatable, and I especially loved that she was not only incredible with numbers, but that she was also talented in a more artistic way. Although I am usually a huge sucker for the whole opposites attract love stories, I wasn't as sold on Love Beyond Opposites as I thought I would be. It's not that I disliked Lee's book by any means, however, I just felt it was a little drawn out at some parts and most of those parts tended to be during Lennon's point of view. Honestly, I usually really enjoy it when authors write with a dual point of view because I think it tends to give more of a big picture view, but in this situation, I almost wish it was more of just Jade. Maybe if I had read the previous two books in the series I would have developed more of an appreciation for Lennon?

Jade Aaron, the mathlete, and Lennon Pryor, the rock star, have been dancing around each other since their freshman year, but that all changes on graduation night when a series of events leads to Jade and Lennon spending the evening together. As the night progresses, one bold action leads to a reckless kiss, but a rock star falling for a mathlete just doesn't add up.

I liked reading Jade and Lennon's love story, however it just didn't quite end up being my perfect equation. That being said, I still liked Lee's writing style and I would be interested in reading what she does in the future!

3 stars for Molly E. Lee's Love Beyond Opposites.

Molly E. Lee is an author best known for her debut novel Edge of Chaos, and as a mentor at Pitch Wars – a program which connects promising writers to established authors in the community. Molly writes New Adult and Young Adult contemporary featuring strong female heroines who are unafraid to challenge their male counterparts, yet still vulnerable enough to have love sneak up on them. In addition to being a military spouse and mother of two + one stubborn English Bulldog, Molly loves watching storms from her back porch at her Midwest home, and digging for treasures in antique stores.

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Love Beyond Opposites (Grad Night #3) by Molly E. Lee to read and review.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Out of Left Field by Kris Hui Lee

There’s no playing it safe in love or baseball in this sparkling debut, perfect for fans of Morgan Matson and Kasie West.

Marnie has never had a hard time fitting in with the guys. It would take a lot more than their goofy antics to keep her from joining them at the neighborhood sandlot to do what she loves best: play ball.

An added perk of hanging out at the sandlot? Spending time with Cody Kinski, their high school’s star pitcher and Marnie’s best friend. Sure, he can be stubborn and annoying. He also knows how to make her laugh and respects her skills on the mound. And when he gets nailed in the arm by a bone-fracturing pitch, Marnie becomes the team’s best chance at making it to the playoffs. Except no one told the guys they’re supposed to be on her side.

With her own team against her, Marnie begins questioning her abilities. And when fate throws her a curveball, can she play without losing the game, Cody, and her belief in herself?

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Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

When I started reading Out of Left Field, I wasn’t in the mood to read. I had other things I needed to get done. So, when I sat down to read I told myself I had to read at least 10% of the book in the first session. I was a third of the way through the book when I stopped reading the first time and I read the whole thing in 24 hours.

I was immediately drawn into Marnie’s world. She is feisty, quick witted, intelligent, a good friend, and a lover of baseball. Marnie’s life revolves around her friends Sara, Joey, and Cody (who is also the love interest). When Cody, the star pitcher for the high school baseball team, is injured, Marnie tries out for the team to replace him.

As a sports fan I often find sports romances don’t actually feature much of the actual sport. But in Out of Left Field, baseball is one of the key features of the story. I could feel the love Marnie has for the sport and I got caught up in the fun of the game, the camaraderie of being part of a team, and the highs and lows of playing a team sport.

This is also a young adult book full of teenage drama, but it never felt heavy or over the top. The ‘will they or won’t they’ between Marnie and Cody is well done. I loved the relationship between Marnie and Cody and watching her realise that Cody wants to be more than friends and her struggle with her feelings for him.

The author did a great job writing characters and issues that were age appropriate and because the story has no sex or drug use, I would recommend it for readers 13+. Out of Left Field is a really well written, fun, young adult romance and I had a great time reading it.

KRIS HUI LEE is a contemporary YA author who also doubles as a graphic designer. When not writing or designing, she can be found cuddling with a dog on the floor.

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Out of Left Field by Kris Hui Lee to read and review.

Monday, May 7, 2018

True Storm by L.E. Sterling

Lucy’s twin sister, Margot, may be safely back with her—but all is not well in Plague-ravaged Dominion City. The Watchers have come out of hiding, spreading chaos and death throughout the city, and suddenly Lucy finds herself torn between three men with secrets of their own.

Betrayal is a cruel lesson, and the Fox sisters can hardly believe who is behind the plot against them. To survive this deadly game of politics, Lucy is forced to agree to a marriage of convenience. But DNA isn't the only thing they want from Lucy...or her sister.

As they say in Dominion, rogue genes can never have a happy ending...

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Book 3
Buy Links

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

Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

True Storm is the final instalment in the True Born trilogy. It has been a year since I read book two, True North, so I was grateful the author gave us a little bit of a reminder as to what has happened so far.

Lucy's life takes many twists and turns in True Storm and there are some events that didn't surprise me, some that did, and one that I found a little uncomfortable even though it made sense to the story. Along with the action and political drama, Lucy now has more than one man interested in her, but Jared is still the focus of her romantic interest and there is plenty of ‘will they, won't they’ going on.

This is a story that felt like it started at a walking pace and slowly got faster and faster until the end was at a flat out run. The further I got into the story, the more engrossed I became, and I couldn't read it fast enough. Before I knew it, the time had hit midnight and it was well past my bedtime. But I couldn't put the book down and kept reading until I was finished.

The finale to this series answers our questions as it comes to a thrilling ending. True Storm is definitely my favourite book in the series. Partly due to the action and partly because I finally found out what was going on, which I found satisfying. The only thing True Storm lacked was an epilogue. Part of me hopes that means the author will write more books in this universe. I can only hope.

5 page-turning Stars.

I was apprehensive to read True Storm. True Born was one of my favorites, however True North was a slight letdown. Perhaps it was my mood at the time. In fear True Storm wouldn't live up to my expectations, as well as having reader's block, I dragged my feet on reading this novel.

I read 20% of the book in one sitting, and the following 80% in a binge, even while being distracted.

The fast pace had me feverishly clicking to turn the pages to find out what was going to happen next. Angst. So much angst, which is something I adore. Angst connects me with the narrator, has the story resonating with me, and Sterling delivered.

Nonstop action, political maneuvering, and the angst of being in an untenable position. Lucy delivers answers to the secrets plaguing her, the gut-punch sensation of betrayal, the loyalty of family, and the uncertainty of love, all combined with dystopian world-building, slight mythology, and paranormal elements.

Some things never change: Margot is acting squirrelly, Storm is his usual alpha self, and Jared is doing the hot and cold routine of a boy who doesn't believe himself to be good enough for his princess.

I'd love to say there is a love triangle... quadrangle? But the reader is fully connected to Lucy's thought process, so outside of forced situations, we know where her heart lies. Me, the angst lover, wasn't too worried about the quadrangle, but it sure did have me clicking the pages to find out. Loved that bit.

The ending sets up a shift that hopefully occurs in the series, and I cannot wait to see what Sterling comes up with next. Highly recommend the series as a whole. I imagine being able to read all three books back-to-back would heighten the experience.

My only con of the series thus far, for conjoined twins, and with Lucy's ability to sense Margot, I never felt a real connection between the girls. From the start of book one onward, no matter what inner monologue there was from Lucy, I never felt as if Margot was as invested in Lucy as Lucy was in Margot. There's a disconnect from page one that never gets repaired, when conjoined twins should offer a stronger bond than normal familial ties. I didn't 'feel' as if the twins were as connected as regular siblings or that of Lucy with those around her, no matter what she may have been 'thinking' at the time.

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

Also Available in the True Born Trilogy

Book 1
Buy Links

Amazon US  ~  Amazon UK  ~  Amazon Au  ~  Amazon Ca
B&N   ~  Google Play  ~  iTunes  ~  Kobo
Entangled Publishing

For reviews & more info, check out our True Born post.

Book 2
Buy Links

Amazon US  ~  Amazon UK  ~  Amazon Au  ~  Amazon Ca
B&N  ~  Google Play  ~  iTunes  ~  Kobo
Entangled Publishing

For reviews & more info, check out our True North post.

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.

Connect with L.E.

Facebook  ~  Twitter  ~  Blog  ~  Goodreads

Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of True Storm (True Born Trilogy #3) by L.E. Sterling to read and review.