Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Tracker Hacker by Jeff Adams

Theo Reese is just an average high school student with a passion for hockey and an uncanny talent when it comes to computers… at least on the surface.

What his teammates, fellow students, and even his boyfriend don’t realize is that Theo leads a double life. When he’s not putting up his facade of normal, Theo is working as an agent for Tactical Operational Support, where his technical genius is more than just a hobby. At sixteen he is responsible for helping agents in the field and keeping the TOS network secure.

It’s a secret he has to keep—from everyone.

But secrecy becomes even harder when a hacker compromises the system TOS uses to track its agents and Theo’s dad goes missing. Theo must find him and stop the hacker, which means leaving the comfort of his computer screen and venturing into a very real and very deadly world.

And if that’s not enough to deal with, all the secrecy is really putting a strain on Theo’s love life.

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Book 1
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Harmony Ink

Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

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

This is a great young adult story that really delivers on the mystery/thriller aspect. You have Winger (I love the hockey theme in this too), who is a young high school student with an aptitude for computers and code. I loved his character. Despite the tough life that already follows high school kids around, he takes on much more and wants to be part of the larger, better, bigger picture.

I really enjoyed the dynamic between all of the agency characters and felt that this aspect of the story was the most successful one. They all were developed well and I thought that they interacted in a very good way. These characters made the story.

What I felt lacked the most was the romance/relationship aspect of this story. I didn't really understand why Winger was with his boyfriend, who seemed clingy and whiny at times. I think this would have been much more successful as just a mystery/thriller without the romantic aspect, but I really liked the story and can't wait to see what Winger does next!

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 biggayfictionpodcast.com.

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Tracker Hacker (Codename: Winger #1) by Jeff Adams to read and review.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Finding Home by Garrett Leigh

How do you find a home when your heart is in ashes?

With their mum dead and their father on remand for her murder, Leo Hendry and his little sister, Lila, have nothing in the world but each other. Broken and burned, they’re thrust into the foster care system. Leo shields Lila from the fake families and forced affection, until the Poulton household is the only place left to go.

Charlie de Sousa is used to other kids passing through the Poulton home, but there’s never been anyone like his new foster brother. Leo’s physical injuries are plain to see, but it’s the pain in his eyes that draws Charlie in the most.

Day by day, they grow closer, but the darkness inside Leo consumes him. He rejects his foster parents, and when Charlie gets into trouble, Leo’s attempt to protect him turns violent. When Leo loses control, no one can reach him — except Charlie. He desperately needs a family—a home—and only Charlie can show him the way.

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Riptide Publishing

Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

15-year-old Charlie meets Leo when his parents foster Leo and his little sister, Lila. The story is told from both Charlie and Leo's points of view but it is very much Leo's story. Leo has been left traumatised after his father murdered his mother and burned their house down. He is slow to warm up to life in the Poulton house and is very distrustful of his foster father, Reg. Over time, Charlie and Leo develop a friendship that leads to more, providing them both with some happiness.

While I liked Charlie right from the get go, I didn't find Leo a particularly easy character to like at first, but the longer we spent with Leo the more fond of him I became. In the end I was so wrapped up in his story that when Leo got in trouble and things started to go pear shaped, I was in tears.

Finding Home is a very well done story with difficult subject matter and, even though it is bleak at times, it is an engrossing story. I feel richer having spent time with Leo and Charlie.

This book pretty much ripped my heart out. It was a little bit too close to home. I read it while we were trying to settle a new teenage foster child into our family. Sadly, Leo and Lila’s situation hit me hard because it was so horribly ordinary.

Garrett Leigh captures the experience of kids in care with detailed accuracy. Leo’s bluster. His defensiveness. His fear of men. His protectiveness of his sister. His need for control. She captures the minute triggers (like Lila’s cereal box) that can send children into a rage that is bewildering for carers.

If I have any criticism about the story it would be that the Poultons are maybe a little bit too perfect. The kids are a bit too well adjusted and the parents are a little bit saintly at times. But this is told from Leo and Charlie’s perspectives and Leo’s fears and his behaviours are terribly familiar.

As a romance, this is low steam young adult. The boys are young and the connection between them is a friendship with a heavy dose of sexual attraction. This is more the story of Leo finding a place for himself in the Poulton family. Charlie is a very special character and I can only hope that there is a teenage boy like him out there somewhere.

As an adult foster carer, the child’s perspective here was a refreshing but heartbreaking reminder of the many thoughts, feelings, and memories our own new teenager is struggling to manage and unable to communicate.

I really appreciate the research Garrett Leigh has done for this book. I feel like a difficult topic has been handled with respect and sensitivity. I love the strand of hope that has been woven through the book and I would love to read more young adult from this author.

Garrett Leigh is a British writer and book designer, currently working for Dreamspinner Press, Loose Id, Riptide Publishing, and Black Jazz Press. Her protagonists will always be tortured, crippled, broken, and deeply flawed. Throw in a tale of enduring true love, some stubbly facial hair, and a bunch of tattoos, and you’ve got yourself a Garrett special.

When not writing, Garrett can generally be found procrastinating on Twitter, cooking up a storm, or sitting on her behind doing as little as possible. That, and dreaming up new ways to torture her characters. Garrett believes in happy endings; she just likes to make her boys work for it.

Garrett also works as a freelance cover artist for various publishing houses and independent authors. For cover art info, please visit blackjazzdesign.com.

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Finding Home by Garrett Leigh to read and review.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

The Border by Steve Schafer

One moment changed their lives forever.

A band plays, glasses clink, and four teens sneak into the Mexican desert, the hum of celebration receding behind them.

Crack. Crack. Crack.

Not fireworks―gunshots. The music stops. And Pato, Arbo, Marcos, and Gladys are powerless as the lives they once knew are taken from them.

Then they are seen by the gunmen. They run. Except they have nowhere to go. The narcos responsible for their families' murders have put out a reward for the teens' capture. Staying in Mexico is certain death, but attempting to cross the border through an unforgiving desert may be as deadly as the secrets they are trying to escape...

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Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

From the moment they hear gun shots, the lives of Pato, his cousin Arbo, popular fellow student Marcos, and Marcos' sister Gladys, are changed forever. From the minute they discover the blood bath where their parents and families have been killed, which ultimately leads to them crossing the desert from Mexico to the US, unprepared and with no clear idea of where they are headed.

The author does not hold back in showing us the horror of what Pato and his friends are going through, which is part of what makes The Border such a gripping story. I was on the edge of my seat watching these teens go from one dangerous situation to another, with only each other to lean on. The problem is, they are teens with the usual teen angst and fighting among themselves, which sometimes makes the situation worse.

This is one of those stories where I had no idea where the story was going and I love that. Would they survive the desert? Would they make it to the US? I had no idea and I was just along for, what is at times, a harrowing ride. But you know what? Every now and then little glimpses of hope and love appear in the story and those moments are more meaningful given what Pato and the group are going through. I fell in love with Pato, Arbo, Marcos, and Gladys and I just wanted them to survive. To live. The Border is a fantastic story that I think teens and adults will enjoy it.

Steve Schafer is an avid cultural explorer, animal lover, bucket-list filler, and fan of the great outdoors. He has a master’s degree in international studies from the Lauder Institute at the University of Pennsylvania. He lives in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania, with his wife and two children. The Border is his first novel.

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of The Border by Steve Schafer to read and review.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Autoboyography by Christina Lauren

Fangirl meets Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda in this funny and poignant coming-of-age novel from New York Times bestselling author Christina Lauren about two boys who fall in love in a writing class—one from a progressive family and the other from a conservative religious community.

Three years ago, Tanner Scott’s family relocated from California to Utah, a move that nudged the bisexual teen temporarily back into the closet. Now, with one semester of high school to go, and no obstacles between him and out-of-state college freedom, Tanner plans to coast through his remaining classes and clear out of Utah.

But when his best friend Autumn dares him to take Provo High’s prestigious Seminar—where honor roll students diligently toil to draft a book in a semester—Tanner can’t resist going against his better judgment and having a go, if only to prove to Autumn how silly the whole thing is. Writing a book in four months sounds simple. Four months is an eternity.

It turns out, Tanner is only partly right: four months is a long time. After all, it takes only one second for him to notice Sebastian Brother, the Mormon prodigy who sold his own Seminar novel the year before and who now mentors the class. And it takes less than a month for Tanner to fall completely in love with him.

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Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

4.5 Stars.

I need to preface this review with how I struggled at the beginning of Autoboyography. I also need to add I received an advanced copy, so I cannot comment on whether or not this is present in the published version.

I was close to DNFing the novel several times over during the beginning, which would have been a shame. The premise kept me reading – a bisexual writer in this coming-of-age tale. Truly, I’m thankful I kept reading, as I enjoyed the story immensely. To be honest, there was a different feel to the first three chapters versus chapter four and beyond. The pacing, flow of information, and scene structure, the majority of the first three chapters were rambling monologue, giving info the reader needed, but in a storytelling fashion. All tell, no show. There was little to no dialogue. But my biggest issue was how the narrator dropped readers into scenes in the middle of it, only for a few paragraphs, then would teleport the reader into another time and place without a transition.

Explanation: paragraphs of a classroom scene. One word later, the reader would be thrust into the mall. Classroom, then arcade. Classroom, then home. All partial scenes, in the middle, with no beginning or end. While this promotes fast pacing, cutting out any unnecessary info, it was beyond jarring and confusing. I'd flip back pages, wondering if I'd somehow missed the end of one scene, a mark denoting a passage of time, and the beginning of the next. Days could go by from the end of one sentence to the beginning of the next.

If you are reading this review, like I went searching due to my struggles, hang in there. It's worth it. The scenes become full-length at the start of Chapter 4. The authors begin showing, instead of telling.

Tanner is a well-rounded boy from a supportive family, with an equally supportive best friend. It was a breath of fresh air to have a narrator who wasn’t abandoned, or bleeding angst on every page. Dry wit and self-depreciating humor, Tanner knows who he is, what he wants, and where he wants to be in the future. He’s a non-religious bisexual boy living in an LDS community, raised by a Jewish parent and one who holds deep-seated resentment toward the Mormon church.

Tanner’s family is intelligent, open-minded, empathetic, supportive, and gives true-to-life, realistic advice by emotionally mature individuals. It was refreshing.

While Autoboyography does show different sides to LDS, instead of besmirching it, it’s written in a gray area, where it’s decisions made, left up to the individual.

Tanner falls deeply into infatuation with the TA in the Seminar, a class where students write a full novel during the semester. Color me jealous, but I wish this existed when I was in high school. The only issue, the boy Tanner falls for happens to be the son of a bishop in the LDS church.

On the pages, the reader follows Tanner’s coming-of-age journey, as the boy he loves has a conflict of conscience but never of faith. The comfort and clarity Sebastian found in his faith was inspiring, even during his deep struggles with the followers of said faith. The evolution mirrors the book Tanner’s writing. Cute. Sweet. Mortifying. Several times over, I dropped my Kindle into my lap, only to cover my face with my upraised palms. I was embarrassed for Tanner – blushing, laughing, and smiling. Shaking my head at the dang kid. Mortified.

Tanner and Sebastian had chemistry, tension, and a push-pull banter that was as humorous as it was seductive. A true connection was felt from the pages, causing the reader to become emotionally invested in the story.

I thoroughly enjoyed Autoboyography, and am so thankful I continued forth after struggling with the beginning. I recommend it to fans of the authors, as well as fans of the MM romance and Young Adult genres. But my recommendation goes deeper – young adults, especially those struggling with their sexuality while having faith, to experience the comfort of knowing they aren't alone. I also recommend reading by parents of these same children, to get a grasp on what they may be going through.

Like all the best Young Adult writing, this story made me laugh and smile and cry and reflect. It is the story of a bisexual boy from an affluent liberal family who finds himself one of only a handful of non-Mormon kids in his new Utah small town. And he finds himself falling hard for his very Mormon writing mentor.

I was able to overlook the erratic pacing and the sometimes confusing plot structure because I fell hard and fast for Tanner. Most of the story is told from Tanner’s perspective and his experiences and observations are wonderful. I loved his friendship with Autumn and I wanted so badly to protect him from Sebastian.

Tanner’s experience as an outsider in a Mormon town is only compounded by his mother’s experiences growing up LDS and her adult resentment towards the church. Similarly, Tanner’s ‘coming out’ is tainted by his aunt’s very negative experience a generation earlier. I loved that the kids and the adults in this story are all multi-dimensional. We don’t get good and evil, we get people trying to do what’s right for them. Even when I wanted to hate Sebastian’s family, I was forced to understand their emotional and spiritual struggles.

Together, Sebastian and Tanner are wonderful. They are sweet and sometimes beautifully innocent. I wanted so desperately to protect their hearts – but this story is too honest for that.

While I loved the story, I did struggle with the writing. At times, scenes ramble on and on but in other places, readers are jolted from aborted scene to aborted scene quite erratically. But these characters are special and I had a powerful emotional reaction to their story.

A really new and different take on a coming of age/forbidden love story. Tanner's family moves to Utah, the land of Mormons and the LDS (Latter Day Saints church) where his mother grew up but left after the church shunned her gay sister. Tanner is bisexual and moving from open and out California to closed and closeted Utah is an adjustment, for sure. Of course, the one person Tanner finds a spark for is the LDS Church's, bishop's son!! Couldn't even be a girl he found completely intriguing. Sebastian is the poster boy for the LDS church. He's lived his entire life with a smile that covers a lie. Tanner brings out everything Sebastian is fighting to keep hidden. The two take on a forbidden romance and all the angst that comes with the fight against Sebastian's bishop father, the closed minded church town, and the intensity of first love. The beginning of the book threw me off a bit at first. Slightly disjointed and halting with quite a bit of over description. I was unsure where this story would go, but boy did my perseverance pay off and I implore you to do the same, KEEP READING! This book was a "can’t put it down, stayed up till 2am reading" story! Although I did find the ending a bit lackluster, although it was sweet and the way I wanted, I guess I just wasn't finished reading and wanted more. The book is very Young Adult with great descriptions that don’t go into much real detail but written extremely well.

I don't often read coming of age novels, but I am very glad that I read this one. The blurb absolutely captured my imagination, and did not disappoint.

I found that Tanner was beautifully written as a boy who is right on the cusp of manhood, but can fall either side of the line, just depending on what is happening to him at that time. He was such a fabulous romantic writer – even though we don't get to read his book, anyone who ever wrote pages of their feelings of unrequited love, can imagine just what he has expressed in it.

And the whole LDS element was fascinating to me, as someone who lives in the UK, where there really aren't such large groups of Mormons. I met a young man going on his mission a few years ago on a flight to Ghana – so I remembered his nervousness, his earnest desire to do well, and yet he had never been away before and had very limited expectations of being able to talk to his family over the next two years. So, I could feel for Sebastian, and the prospects of his next few years.

The idea of basing the story around a book writing class is inspired, as it provides so many opportunities for the two guys to meet, which would have not happened otherwise. There are also some fabulously important people that get to join the cast; Autumn without a doubt being the most noteworthy. Whilst at the beginning of the book she dips in and out of sight, her contribution later is at times essential, and also, she holds a twist or two in her hands!

Really, my advice is that you should get yourself a copy and enjoy a wonderful love story, with some unexpected twists and turns. And do it as soon as you can. This book is on my re-read list, because I know I will enjoy it even more second time around. Thank you, Ms. Lauren.

Christina Lauren is the combined pen name of long-time writing partners/besties/soulmates/brain-twins Christina Hobbs and Lauren Billings. The coauthor duo writes both Young Adult and Adult Fiction, and together has produced fourteen New York Times bestselling novels. Their books have been translated into 31+ languages. (Some of these books have kissing. Some of these books have A LOT of kissing.)

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Autoboyography by Christina Lauren to read and review.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu

An unlikely teenager starts a feminist revolution at a small-town Texan high school in the new novel from Jennifer Mathieu, author of The Truth About Alice.


Vivan Carter is fed up. Fed up with a school administration at her high school that thinks the football team can do no wrong. Fed up with sexist dress codes, hallway harassment, and gross comments from guys during class. But most of all, Viv Carter is fed up with always following the rules.

Viv's mom was a tough-as-nails, punk rock Riot Grrrl in the '90s, and now Viv takes a page from her mother's past and creates a feminist zine that she distributes anonymously to her classmates. She's just blowing off steam, but other girls respond. As Viv forges friendships with other young women across the divides of cliques and popularity rankings, she realizes that what she has started is nothing short of a girl revolution.

Moxie is a book about high school life that will make you wanna riot!

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Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

5 Empowered Stars.

Moxie is for every female who has ever heard 'get back in the kitchen' '...is good for a girl' 'smile!' In the year 2017, society shouldn't feel it's acceptable to respond to emotion with 'triggered!' All girls are conditioned to worry about their appearance, placing their worth on whether or not they are pleasing to someone's eye. How many times have you heard, 'treat her as you would your own daughter/sister/mother?' when speaking to a male who doesn't get the concept of respect, as if our worth as women is tied solely to another human being, as if we're 'owned.' How about 'treat her as a human being?'

Moxie is for the girls who are too scared to have a voice, as they witness those who speak up be called derogatory names. 'TRIGGERED!' Moxie is for the girls whose voice was silenced by shaming, bullying attacks. Moxie is for the girls who are so indoctrinated, they find validation by a boy 'choosing' them over another. Moxie is for the girls who refuse to acknowledge sexism exists, saying we're overreacting and to just let it go.

Moxie is for the boys who know better but still go along with the status quo, for those who speak up, and for those who find misogyny as a badge of honor, receiving all the benefits it offers.

I'm a 39-year-old feminist, raised in a rural town, with only 42 students in my high school graduating class. Moxie hit so close to home in so many ways, I was an emotional wreck while reading it. Sometimes the injustice felt is suffocating... and we always hear 'calm down.'

I applaud Jennifer Mathieu for writing a novel, with an unsure girl as the narrator, about a subject that is always in the news, yet simultaneously always swept under the carpet. Moxie is written with humor, yet it slowly devolves deeper into sexism, which evolves the reader in the passenger seat while girls experience injustice at the hands of their peers and those who should protect them.

I won't lie, I broke down bawling, almost a PTSD moment when the bra-snapping and groping occurred on the pages. When I was thirteen, my girlfriends tore my dress off my body in the middle of a packed cafeteria, taking me beneath the table as I tried to put myself to rights. Being in a school with seventh graders to seniors, where grown men groped me and I was a defenseless child (my 13-year-old boyfriend had to get his senior cousin to protect me, both humiliating to me and emasculating to him), where I had to speak to male teachers and nothing was ever resolved. Those events stick with a person for life, so why put our daughters and sisters through it now? The fact that this still happens 20+ years later, how we've yet to evolve, makes me sick.

We need to have a voice, not be divided and culled from the herd as we're pitted against one another to see who wins the prize. Women raise sons, teaching them how to treat other women, both by example and by how we allow other men to treat us. It starts with us, and we need to come together and uplift one another, not tear each other down, leaving us in a weakened state that is easy to be preyed upon.

Yes, this is a review of a novel. Yes, everything above is my social commentary. Yes, everything I just stated shows the evolution within the novel... without a single spoiler.

I highly recommend Moxie to anyone between the ages of tween and 'cruising the funeral home,' but especially for those who are on the fence, arguing that feminism isn't needed because it's 2017 and we're all equal.

Jennifer Mathieu is the author of Devoted, Afterward, and The Truth About Alice, the winner of the Children's Choice Book Awards' Teen Choice Debut Author Award. She teaches high school English in Texas, where she lives in the Houston area with her husband and son.

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu to read and review.