Saturday, August 25, 2018

Schooled by Jeff Adams

Theo Reese is a high school student who’s also a secret agent. Usually those lives are kept separate, but now he must be both at once.

Theo lends his expertise to his school’s computer science club as they gear up for a competition, but his talents are also required by the covert agency he works for. Someone has stolen an encrypted key that can allow them to control the nation’s energy grids. The possibilities are catastrophic unless Theo and his team can reclaim the file.

Theo locates the file in an unexpected place—the computer science competition. As Winger, his secret identity, he must recover the file and keep his teammates safe from the unscrupulous thieves…. But can he do it without revealing his secrets? He can’t blow his cover, especially with so many of his classmates around.

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Book 2
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Harmony Ink

Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

Avid Reader☆☆☆☆☆
4.5 stars
M/M Thriller, Mystery
Triggers: Click HERE to see Avid Reader’s review on Goodreads for trigger warnings.

This is the second installment and I do suggest that you read the first one in order to gain good insight into the characters who are present in this book.

Winger is back and trying harder than ever to juggle his secret life with his high school life. His boyfriend Eddie is very understanding, which helps, but Winger (Theo) has to make some tough decisions in this book. Not only is he a great hockey player, he's a great student and amazing at his job.

The mystery in this story is tied in nicely with Theo's school life. I really enjoyed the new characters and how the story meshed with Theo's secret life and high school career. His abilities are a unique asset to himself and the school – when put to the test, it was awesome to see it all come together.

I can't wait to see if Eddie's complication will be the next book, but that aspect of the story was intriguing. I am anxiously awaiting the next book.

Also Available in the Codename: Winger Series

Book 1
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Harmony Ink

For reviews & more info, check out our Tracker Hacker post.

JEFF ADAMS has written stories since he was in middle school and became a gay romance writer in 2009 when his first short stories were published. Since then he’s written several shorts and novels and he plans to keep writing as long as wonderful readers keeping picking up his books.

Jeff lives in rural northern California with his husband of twenty years, Will. Some of his favorite things include the musicals Rent and [title of show], the Detroit Red Wings and Pittsburgh Penguins hockey teams, and the reality TV competition So You Think You Can Dance. If forced to pick his favorite book, it would be a tie between Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay and David Levithan’s Every Day.

Jeff is the co-host of Jeff & Will’s Big Gay Fiction Podcast, a weekly show devoted to m/m romance as well as pop culture. New episodes come out every Monday at

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Schooled (Codename: Winger #2) by Jeff Adams to read and review.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

The Dark Beneath the Ice by Amelinda Bérubé Blog Tour

Black Swan meets Paranormal Activity in this compelling ghost story about a former dancer whose grip on reality slips when she begins to think a dark entity is stalking her.

Something is wrong with Marianne.

It's not just that her parents have finally split up. Or that life hasn't been the same since she quit dancing. Or even that her mother has checked herself into the hospital.

She's losing time. Doing things she would never do. And objects around her seem to break whenever she comes close. Something is after her. And the only one who seems to believe her is the daughter of a local psychic.

But their first attempt at an exorcism calls down the full force of the thing's rage. It demands Marianne give back what she stole. Whatever is haunting her, it wants everything she has—everything it's convinced she stole. Marianne must uncover the truth that lies beneath it all before the nightmare can take what it thinks it's owed, leaving Marianne trapped in the darkness of the other side.

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Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

I’m not a big reader of paranormal stories but the cover and the blurb for this book caught my attention, so I decided to give it a shot. The story takes a few chapters to get going as we learn about Marianne, her parents’ separation, and her life. Once the setup is established, it was easy reading and I started having different ideas as to what was actually going on and what was haunting Marianne, if anything. Eventually I realised all my theorising was getting me nowhere so I stopped and just enjoyed the ride.

The author does a really good job setting the atmosphere. There is an eeriness and a literal darkness surrounding this story. Marianne’s world has an absence of light. Looking back, even those scenes set in the daytime appear grey in my mind. As the story progresses and the disturbances in Marianne’s life become more pronounced and more violent, I was really getting tense and the big finale had me on edge, right up until the big reveal. Because really that was it? What a letdown. I get what the author is saying but I was disappointed, probably because I was hoping for a big surprise, something I hadn’t considered and in the end, the answer was the obvious one.

The Dark Beneath the Ice is an engaging story and the mood and atmosphere are still with me several days after finishing the book, which is a sure sign it made an impact. 4 stars.

Young adult age recommendation: 13 and up.

Amelinda Bérubé has been a writer and editor with a small department in the Canadian public service. She holds a bachelor of humanities from Carleton University and a master of arts from McGill. Amelinda is also a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

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Monday, August 13, 2018

Courting Carlyn by Melissa Chambers

Vaughn Yarborough is ready to trade the fame and glory of the international junior pro tennis circuit for college and a more settled life. First stop: spearhead a summer camp for underprivileged kids. The girl who’s agreed to run it with him has Vaughn more intrigued by the minute, but with the strict no-fraternizing rules, he’s got to figure out how not to fall for her.

When the boy Carlyn Sadowski has crushed on for years asks her to work with him for the summer, she has to pinch herself. When his world-famed coach offers her training for free, she can’t believe her luck. He could actually help her follow in her mother’s footsteps by playing college tennis. But when she finds out the catch is she’s got to convince Vaughn to go pro, Carlyn will have to decide between her dreams and the boy currently stealing her heart.

Disclaimer: This Entangled Teen Crush book features a super-hot sports star, the shy girl looking to grow her confidence on and off the court, and late-night shenanigans that would make your camp counselor blush.

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Entangled Publishing

Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

Courting Carlyn hit many of my favorite notes. A slight love-hate vibe in the very beginning. Summer Camp crushes. Angsty dilemmas. Warm and fuzzy of first love. The moral of doing what is just and right.

Carlyn's aspirations are to get onto the university's tennis team. The seventeen-year-old has an academic scholarship but longs to follow in her mother's footsteps in memoriam. The only issue is how she isn't from a wealthy family like her peers, rather working at the country club to use their facilities than being able to afford trainers and alike.

Vaughn is the 'it' boy, well on his way to being a superstar of tennis. Broody, secretive, and labeled a bad boy, clearly Carlyn has been harboring fantasies, just like every other girl in the vicinity. Too bad he thinks she purposefully lost them the doubles tournament to spite his trainer – bring the love-hate angst.

Thrust into running a summer camp together, Carlyn needs the training via Vaughn and his trainer, and the paychecks are much-needed too. But Vaughn is doing it to clear up his image, so he can attend the same university Carlyn is so desperately trying to get accepted onto their tennis team.

The side characters were engaging and original, creating the perfect backdrop to Carlyn and Vaughn's verbal banter and avoidance of wanting one another. The older couple who owns the camp wants no fraternization. The trainer is tempting Carlyn to manipulate Vaughn. Carlyn's dad is not a fan, of either boy superstar or the past superstar. Age-appropriate angst abounds in this first crush, warm and fuzzy novel.

I highly recommend to those who are addicted to the young adult genre, readers who enjoy a good sports theme, and fans of the author.

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

Melissa Chambers writes contemporary novels for young, new, and actual adults. A Nashville native, she spends her days working in the music industry and her nights tapping away at her keyboard. While she’s slightly obsessed with alt rock, she leaves the guitar playing to her husband and kid. She never misses a chance to play a tennis match, listen to an audiobook, or eat a bowl of ice cream. (Rocky road, please!) She’s a member of SCBWI and RWA including several local and online chapters thereof. She holds her B.S. in Communications from the University of Tennessee.

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Courting Carlyn by Melissa Chambers to read and review.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Someone I Used to Know by Patty Blount Blog Tour

From the award-winning author of Some Boys comes an unflinching examination of rape culture that delves into a family torn apart by sexual assault.

It's been two years since the night that changed Ashley's life. Two years since she was raped by her brother's teammate. And a year since she sat in a court and watched as he was given a slap on the wrist sentence. But the years have done nothing to stop the pain.

It's been two years of hell for Derek. His family is totally messed up and he and his sister are barely speaking. He knows he handled it all wrong. Now at college, he has to come to terms with what happened, and the rape culture that he was inadvertently a part of that destroyed his sister's life.

When it all comes to a head at Thanksgiving, Derek and Ashley have to decide if their relationship is able to be saved. And if their family can ever be whole again.

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Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

Someone I Used to Know is a story about Ashley and her brother Derek. Two years ago, Ashley was raped by a member of Derek’s football team as part of a team scavenger hunt. In the now, Ashley is burdened with anxiety, flashbacks, and coming to the realisation that the justice system didn’t really provide any justice. Her once close relationship with Derek is in tatters and her family is falling apart. Derek has now moved interstate to attend college and is struggling as he starts to realise how his own behaviour contributed to the rape culture in his world.

This story is a confronting depiction of rape culture and how this horrific crime effects the victim, her family and friends, and the wider community. At the beginning of each chapter we get an excerpt from Ashley’s Victim Impact Statement and they send a strong and clear message of the horrible time Ashley is going through and you can only wonder how anyone could blame her rather than her rapist for the crime and the fallout from it.

We get the point of view of both Ashley and Derek, told in the now and in the past. We learn about the year that the rape happened, the events leading up to it. We also get snippets about Ashley and Derek’s past that show us that the tension between them now is not just about the rape.

I went through many emotions reading this story from sad, upset, helpless, furious. In the end, I was proud of Ashley and Derek and I was left with a feeling that there is something we can all do to change the culture we live in. The issues raised in this book had me thinking about my own experiences in a different light and if it can do that for a 40-something woman who considers herself a feminist, imagine the impact it could have on the teenagers who are the target audience. 5 stars.

5 Riveting Stars

To be honest, I'm not entirely sure how to review Someone I Used to Know. The novel is a journey showcasing rape culture, done so with intelligence and maturity, yet written in an age-appropriate manner befitting the narrators. The author left no stone unturned, revealing every facet from just about every angle.

Multilayered, told far in the past, two years ago, one year ago, and in the present. The author needs to be applauded for revealing the after-effects rape have on an entire community, the school, and a family, not just the victim, all wrapped up in an easy to digest package.

On the surface, Ashley and Derek appear to be working on themselves, but it's a forward momentum to repair the damage to their strained relationship as brother and sister, something that was harmed initially by how their parents felt it easier for the big brother to entertain the sister vs raising and entertaining her themselves.

When the hero not only lets his sister down, but leaves her open and vulnerable to harm. The brother and sister were compelling, proving perception is reality. How they view the situation is tainted by their experiences and not anything how others around them view it. I believe it's important to imprint this into memory and remember it when interacting with others in our everyday lives. While we may feel right from our stance, they don't view the world as we do, and they are also right from their own stance.

The events that happened didn't feel sensationalized or exploitative – organic, easily seen as something that could unfold, especially when dealing with the mob-mentality of a team in a high school, a community that is sports-minded, and a society that believes sex sells. Truly, the author hit every note, the psychology of every viewpoint.

The author explores the dynamic of how rape and rape culture affects not only the victim, but her family, the community, and the strain this places on all the individual relationships and on a whole. The guilt, the shame, the powerlessness isn't only held by the victim, but everyone involved. Their lives have been knocked off their axis, each and every one of them. Everyone rallies to comfort and help the victim, not realizing they too need help processing and moving forward with this new reality.

Do I believe this is a novel for everyone? Yes and no.

Yes, I believe it's something everyone should read.

The reason I also say no is simply due to the fact that while I found it riveting and poignant, and I'll truly never forget it, the entertainment value is not that of a fictional read and it may not suit everyone. I don't want someone to pick this up and assume it's a linear novel, slowly telling a fictionalized story.

We all learn differently. While some are adept at picking up subtle suggestion, others may not enjoy being hammered in the face page after page with no reprieve. This novel is very present and forward, the sole focus the subject matter. That's why I say yes and no, as it involves the individual and what may or may not trigger them.

With that being said, I highly recommend and will be checking out the author's backlist, applauding the maturity and insight within the writing.

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

Powered by way too much chocolate, award-winning author Patty Blount loves to write and has written everything from technical manuals to poetry. A 2015 CLMP Firecracker Award winner as well as Rita finalist, Patty writes issue-driven novels for teens and is currently working on a romantic thriller. Her editor claims she writes her best work when she’s mad, so if you happen to upset Patty and don’t have any chocolate on hand to throw at her, prepare to be a subject of an upcoming novel. Patty lives on Long Island with her family in a house that sadly doesn’t have anywhere near enough bookshelves… or chocolate.

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Wednesday, August 8, 2018

In the Desert by Elliot Joyce

Can a Navajo trans teen and a nerdy Catholic find the place they belong... and maybe themselves? In the desert, anything is possible…

When Wren came out as transgender before his senior year, it cost him most of his friends. His father hopes joining a Boy Scout troop might help Wren meet other young men his age and be accepted for who he is.

Felipe Nieves wants the new guy in the troop to feel comfortable, and he reaches out to Wren. They become fast friends… with something more beneath the surface. Those feelings confuse Felipe, since his religion considers this a sin—and he’s always assumed he was straight—but he can’t help pining for Wren. Asking him out will take courage, and getting together won’t be easy… but through their friendship, both young men might find their identities… and learn to embrace them in a unique coming-of-age story set against the beauty of the American Southwest.

States of Love: Stories of romance that span every corner of the United States.

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Dreamspinner Press

Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

This is a very enjoyable coming of age story about two boys (one trans) who find that they are drawn to each other when they meet at Scouts. As we spend the last few months before college with them, we get a good understanding of their thoughts and hopes for the future.

We get to meet both their families and understand some of the dynamics which form the background to their developing relationship. Kyle and Travis are also key to getting Wren and Felipe to admit to each other how they feel – and they definitely add the comedy, as well as Kyle being a mentor to Wren.

A lovely mix of a simple young romance, the complexity of not following the standard paths, and a good appreciation of the way it affects family and friends.

This is a really sweet and innocent feeling young adult romance. It is the story of the unlikely relationship between a gay trans Navajo kid and a closeted Mexican Catholic boy. Both Wren and Felipe are social misfits who find a scout group where they can belong.

I have to admit that I liked the idea of this story more than I liked the actual book. I feel like too many ideas and moments are mentioned but not fully developed. I wanted to know more about Wren’s Navajo culture. I wanted to know more about his sibling relationships. We get some insights into Wren’s experience as a trans teen but I’m not sure we ever properly get into Wren’s head or his heart.

Very few of the characters in this book feel real to me. Wren’s parents say and do the right things. They are nice and good – but they aren’t interesting, and Wren’s family never moves past 80s sitcom family clichés. The teenage characters are alternately far more mature and more kind than real life teens and also more innocent than any high school seniors could possibly be.

Probably because I can still remember dating 18 year old boys, I didn’t ever buy into the nervous hand holding and stolen kisses between Wren and Felipe. This is a sanitised, low-heat romance without much sexual tension between the characters. The result is a sweet and gentle coming of age story. The boys are adorable but not very believable. This is the book I’d lend my mum if she wanted to try a LGBT romance.

ELLIOT JOYCE is a social-media obsessed, selfie-taking millennial and he’s proud of it. He can usually be found in his room playing D&D or in a theater lurking on the catwalks. Sometimes he even writes.

Other notable facts include the fact that he’s bisexual, he cannot juggle, and he regularly trips over thin air. Catch him on tumblr or really any social media, he spends enough time on it.

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of In the Desert by Elliot Joyce to read and review.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Kiss of the Royal by Lindsey Duga

Princess Ivy has one goal—end the war against the Forces of Darkness.

Ivy’s magic is more powerful than any other Royal’s, but she needs a battle partner who can help her harness it. Prince Zach’s unparalleled skill with a sword should make them an unstoppable pair—if only they could agree on... well, just about anything.

But Ivy’s magic can only fully unlock with Zach’s help, and he’s not exactly cooperating.

Zach believes Ivy’s magic is dangerous. Ivy believes they’ll never win the war without it. Two warriors, one goal, and the fate of their world on the line. But the more they argue, the more they fall for each other. And only one of them can be right…

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Entangled  Publishing

Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

Rating from me the adult: 3 Stars.
Adult assuming how a young adult would rate: 5 Stars.
Overall rating: 4 Stars.

Kiss the Royal is the debut novel by Lindsey Duga. Solid start, but lacking slightly in execution that comes with writing experience. It was refreshing to read a fantasy title that was a standalone, not a trilogy or long-standing series. Knowing there was to be a conclusion, it was easy to fall into the story without fearing a long-term commitment while waiting for subsequent installments.

To be honest, I struggled to get into the novel at the beginning, with the way the world-building was unveiled, while trying to connect to the characters. It's as if it wasn't thoroughly plotted out ahead of time, but done so by the seat of the author's pants, so information just appeared when it would offer additional conflict but at the confusion of the reader.

I was intrigued with the fantasy world-building, where a kiss from a princess to her prince offers protection and healing on the battlefield. For those who don't believe in love, kissing has a purpose, not an expression of affection, whereas the Romanticas see kissing as we do today. If Ivy hadn't shown she had a purpose, she would have been forced to be bred by as many royals as possible, to create a larger royal army (this plot point is slightly disturbing for younger readers). This was a unique fairytale type premise that intrigued me, kept me reading until the end, even though I felt it a bit too long and meandering at times.

The adult in me got stuck on the little things, overthinking the plot points. As a writer/editor, I will admit I have great difficulties falling into a story due overthinking. This is why I gave the book a high rating from the young adult mindset, as they won't suffer from my predilection to dissect a plot down to its foundation. The majority of readers won't see the structure of a novel the way I do.

Biggest issues for me when speaking of the bloodlines... the first two or three generations would have had children with their siblings, then cousins, until generations later it would be far-removed, yet keeping the bloodline pure. Yet, generation after generation later, Princess Ivy was stronger because she was a direct descendant of Myriana... but weren't all the royals direct descendants? To be a royal was to be a direct descendant, that was what the world-building backstory taught readers. All the royals are direct descendants of Myriana, so how is Ivy more powerful than the rest of the royals (her relatives)?

Younger readers and those able to fall into a story without tripping on plot points, they'll go with the flow, enjoying the push-pull, nearly argumentative banter between Ivy and Zach, the fantasy world-building, and the action surrounding the Evil Queen's nefarious deeds.

Ivy was a strong heroine and a good role model for younger readers. Headstrong, Princess Ivy will stop at nothing to protect her people, to the point of self-sacrifice. With that being said, she needed help along the way.

Zach was the brooding, swoon-inducing hero that always graces the pages of young adult novels. No doubt Zach will become a fan-favorite.

Ivy and Zach bashed heads a bunch, their belief systems not similar – Kissing vs kissing (see above). Zach came off as being judgmental at times, and the pair spent a great deal arguing. What some may find as feisty, a type of foreplay, I found it as frustrating with their lack of communication skills and understanding. The romance is definitely a focal point.

Kudos on the debut novel, and I look forward to reading what the author writes next. Recommended to younger readers who enjoy fantasy novels, strong heroines, and swoon-worthy heroes.

Young Adult age-range: 12+ includes kissing (see the premise) and fantasy-esque violence.

Lindsey Duga developed a deep love for courageous heroes, dastardly villains, and enchanting worlds from the cartoon shows, books, and graphic novels she read as a kid. Drawing inspiration from these fantastical works of fiction, she wrote her first novel in college while she was getting her bachelor’s in Mass Communication from Louisiana State University. By day, Lindsey is an account manager at a digital marketing agency based in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. By night, and the wee hours of the morning, she writes both middle grade and young adult. She has a weakness for magic, anything classical, all kinds of mythology, and falls in love with tragic heroes. Other than writing and cuddling with her morkie puppy, Delphi, Lindsey loves catching up on the latest superhero TV show, practicing yoga, and listening (and belting) to her favorite music artists and show tunes. Kiss of the Royal is her YA debut novel.

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Kiss of the Royal by Lindsey Duga to read and review.