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.

Connect with Jennifer

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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.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Fallen Heir by Erin Watt

These Royals will ruin you.

Easton Royal has it all: looks, money, intelligence. His goal in life is to have as much fun as possible. He never thinks about the consequences because he doesn’t have to.

Until Hartley Wright appears, shaking up his easy life. She’s the one girl who’s said no, despite being attracted to him. Easton can’t figure her out and that makes her all the more irresistible.

Hartley doesn’t want him. She says he needs to grow up.

She might be right.

Rivals. Rules. Regrets. For the first time in Easton’s life, wearing a Royal crown isn’t enough. He’s about to learn that the higher you start, the harder you fall.

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Book 4
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Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

Fallen Heir picks up with Ella and Easton finishing their senior year at Astor Park Prep, but entirely in Easton's point of view. I think this story flows best if you've read The Royals books #1-3, but it's not necessary if you want to skip straight to Fallen Heir. I was so excited to finally read Easton's story, but I'm left feeling slightly disappointed. Book #4 seemed to move so slowly and didn't quite live up to my high hopes for it. The story just kind of seemed to drag on and then abruptly end. Also, I wish it would've been in more than just Easton's point of view because I felt like it started to get a bit repetitive. Erin Watt's Fallen Heir just didn't draw me in and keep me interested the same way the previous books in The Royals series did.

Easton Royal has never worried about the consequences of his decisions until he meets Hartley Wright. She's the only girl to ever turn him down even though he knows she's attracted to him. However, Easton's determined to win her over.

This is the first time I haven't been completely wowed by Erin Watt and I for sure thought that I would adore reading Easton's story, but it just didn't do it for me. Nevertheless, I am excited to read what happens next for the Royal family!

3.5 stars for Fallen Heir by Erin Watt.

3.5 Cliffhanger Stars

In the past 24-hours, I've binge-read all four of The Royals titles. No doubt, I can attest to the continuity of how well the authors transitioned from Ella and Reed's narration to Easton's. I wanted to be inside the boy's head, and I'm not sure I got what I bargained for, to be quite honest.

No matter who is the narrator, Fallen Heir has the same frustratingly infectious quality that has the reader white-knuckling their Kindles, while furiously tapping the pages to see what happens next. This frustration always has my heart racing as I read, and I love a book that can do that to me.

Fallen Heir was a roller coaster of emotional extortion, running the gamut from heartbreak, to frustration and anger, to surprised laughter at Easton's banter and charm.

So why am I not 5-starring the book like I did Paper Princess?

Easton is all over the place, which I understand due to his ADHD, upbringing, and his tragic past. Easton is hurting, having lost his mother to suicide, feeling he is partially to blame, being the middle child who feels adrift from the rest of the family, and finding out his hero is actually a villain. Easton was difficult to read on many levels. I do applaud the authors on the authenticity of how Easton's mind functioned in chaos.

What I struggled with is the wash-repeat feel of the storyline... What was new and original in Paper Princess, and its two sequels, seems worn and tired in this new story arc.

*Rich, misunderstood bad boy as our hero.
*Poor, abandoned, intelligent, hard-working heroine.
*Love-Hate vibe (which I loved, but it felt forced in Fallen Heir vs fluid and natural in Paper Princess)
*Heroine's father is the adult villain of the story.
*The doe-eyed, doormat, spineless, begging ex who’s refusing to let go, thinking the guy is theirs even if they aren't together anymore (for longer than a year even, in both cases) and blames the guy because they broke up. Yet never seem to be bothered as their friends go after the guy. Honey, he doesn't want you – get over it. You cannot dictate whether or not someone likes you, and it's not a mark against your self-esteem if they don't. They're not a possession you can control – if they allow that, what's to like or want if they're that blank and weak?
*Gaggle of mean girls, one in which blackmails/extorts/annoys/bullies/overpowers everyone – adults and students alike, and everyone looks on and their only reactions are to wring their hands and blink.
*A brother/father/friend's girlfriend is actually 'evil' and using this loved one, but no one steps in and stops it. Just lets it unfold and exacerbate... "Not my business"... but it's gonna be.
*Our hero, allowing said mean girl to run herd on him for all of the story, making him look weak as he self-blames instead of just nipping it in the bud as it happens.
*Only the 'poor' girls are good, and the rich girls all want more money and status. All the men are pushovers who just let it happen, then fret as their world burns at their feet
*The real 'doer' never takes responsibility in the aftermath, while the hero ends up self-blaming as everyone else blames him too. (Everyone, even Ella, angry at Easton for shouting how the relationship was fake – it was. Easton was being honest for once, after he said NO multiple times. I don't believe in cause and effect. She does what she does, and only she does it. It's not Easton's fault if she doesn't like the humiliation of everyone finding out she was a liar – her premeditated actions in the aftermath are her fault, not Easton's. Just saying. I can't stand that mindset, and Ella bashing Easton over it, it made it feel as if Ella had a character trait lobotomy now that she's no longer narrating the story. "But did you apologize?" Excuse me, that girl is trying to mess with you and everyone you care about, Ella – have you lost your ever-loving mind, girlfriend? Where did logical, problem-fixer Ella go? She turned judgmental, instead of actually helping with the problem, and wrung her hands as their world burned at their feet.)
*Illogical actions/reactions.
*The mother of all cliffhangers times 2.

While I did enjoy the story, tried to empathize and sympathize with Easton as he torched his own life, the wash-repeat of similar storylines dropped the entertainment value for me. While the subtle nuances were different, the plot points were essentially the same.

The book was hyper-focused on Easton, with only cameos here and there, missing that 'gang' feel of family like the previous books, where they tackled the issues together and had each other's backs. After all Easton had done for Reed and Ella, Ella wasn't empathetic, nor helpful, but judgmental and completely not like Ella at all. Gee, how about a rehab, because we all know telling an addict no or guilt-tripping him isn't going to 'fix' the issue.

Fallen Heir just didn't work for me. Separately, I 'got' Easton, and I felt for Hartley, but together they didn't fit. It felt forced. There is zero romance or relationship building. When they do come together, it felt out of nowhere and out of context of the situations they were in and their surroundings.

Honestly, I think the book suffered due to the fact that it was a singular point of view from Easton's narration. The reader needed to 'hear' Hartley to connect with her, because she was so cold, reserved, closed-mouthed, refusing to give the simplest of answers or open up to Easton, we readers didn't get to 'know' Hartley at all. No connection. I'm not knocking her character traits (I'm a similar type of person) being so reserved, without her point-of-view, the reader had nothing to go on with Hartley – she was a stranger to us, less developed of all the characters, because at least they spoke freely to Easton so we (the reader) could get to know them too. Hartley was an enigma to readers, so why are we rooting for an Easton and Hartley pairing when we have nothing invested by Easton's bizarre obsession? The only time the reader connected with Hartley was through hearsay and eavesdropping on Easton's part.

After stating all that above, I do need to say I'd kill for the next in The Royals series. I wish I had it right now, because it ended in the mother of all cliffhangers (times 2), as the authors yet again emotionally extort the reader. I'm good with that – I thrive on the adrenaline rush as my heart races for what was revealed/happened in the ending. I just hope the storyline deviates from this point forward.

Young Adult age-range: 14+ due to mature content, bullying, alcohol abuse, violence, and adult language.

Erin Watt is the brainchild of two bestselling authors linked together through their love of great books and an addiction to writing. They share one creative imagination. Their greatest love (after their families and pets, of course)? Coming up with fun–and sometimes crazy–ideas. Their greatest fear? Breaking up.

Connect with Erin

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Fallen Heir (The Royals #4) by Erin Watt to read and review.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Micah Johnson Goes West by Sean Kennedy

Micah Johnson is living two separate lives. On the field he’s making a name for himself as a rookie with the AFL football team the Fremantle Dockers—at just eighteen. But when he steps off the field, Micah is a mess: confused, away from home for the first time, and feeling isolated from family and friends three thousand kilometres away. The foster family he’s staying with is nice, but Micah isn’t ready to open up to them about what he’s going through. Distracting himself with hookups and partying seems like a good idea until a friend’s life is changed by misfortune and Micah’s own health is threatened by his behavior. Micah knows he has to make a change, that he can’t do it alone, and that maybe there’s no shame in reaching out to others.

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Book 2
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Harmony Ink

Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

Micah is finally working as a professional footballer! Living far from his friends and family, Micah is a little less abrasive than he’s been in the past but he’s still struggling with the whole adulting thing.

In Micah, Sean Kennedy has created a beautifully flawed and honestly human character who will resonate with teenage boys everywhere. I still don’t know whether I love or loathe Micah and in this story, my feelings for him changed from moment to moment. He’s alternately infuriating and completely loveable. He is impossibly arrogant and terribly insecure. His temper is a little more contained than it was a year ago but he is still terrible at relationships.

This is a pretty gritty look at Micah’s first year away from home. Micah’s introduction to life as a professional sportsman is a little less gilded and a little more realistic than he might have expected but he still manages to get himself into some frightening situations. While Micah is still pretty self-absorbed, part of his growth in this story involves Micah starting to demonstrate some empathy and insight into the people around him.

This is actually quite a slow story but Micah had my attention the whole way through. He is a fabulous antihero and I’m already looking forward to his next adventures.

As this is the second book in a spin-off series, I do not recommend reading as a standalone. Please read Tigers and Devils onward first.

Micah Johnson Goes West picked up where the previous book left off. Moving away from his home to Perth, Micah is a rookie for the AFL team, Fremantle Dockers. On the field, he's focused – tight – but off the field, he's a train wreck.

Without spoilers, or giving specific plot points away: Micah is more mature in this installment, after showing growth in the last book, but he has a lot of growing up to do. Homesick, feeling adrift without his mentor and ex, he feels isolated, yet it's his own need to close himself off to others that is fueling this emotion. It's in Micah's nature to lash out to keep others from hurting him first, but it makes dealing with him difficult for anyone who wants to get close to him.

To be honest, it was difficult to read Micah's spiral downward. I was muttering at my Kindle, wishing I could shake some sense into Micah, then give him a hug.

Micah is always getting in his own way – creating what he fears – and this leads him to make poor choices, devolve. But this is par for the course in a coming-of-age book, needing a catalyst for change. Without Declan, Micah has a new support system he comes to depend on, developing another set of side characters for the readers to connect with.

The pacing was a bit slow for me in places, but not enough for me to lose interest. However, I could see where this may become an issue for readers who are used to more 'exciting' reads. There isn't a bunch of bells and whistles with the plot, and low on romance. This is a coming-of-age journey as a young man finds himself, showing character development via interaction with others.

Also Available in the Get Out Series

Book 1
Buy Links

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B&N  ~  Google Play  ~  iTunes  ~  Kobo
Harmony Ink

For reviews & more info, check out our The Ongoing Reformation of Micah Johnson post.

SEAN KENNEDY lives in Perth, Western Australia, but his heart still belongs to his hometown Melbourne—which is also the home of Simon Murray and Declan Tyler from his series Tigers and Devils. A disciple of cult leader David Lynch, Sean is breathlessly awaiting the revival of Twin Peaks in 2016.

Connect with Sean

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Micah Johnson Goes West (Get Out #2) by Sean Kennedy to read and review.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

The Ongoing Reformation of Micah Johnson by Sean Kennedy

There is no Plan B.

After being outed in an especially brutal way and briefly running away from home, Micah Johnson has sworn to get his life back on the straight and narrow. Well, not so much straight, but you know what he means.

Unfortunately the path to redemption is not an easy one. With fights at school and on the football field and an all-round snarky attitude as his number one defense mechanism, will Micah survive the school year and the training camps to achieve his dream of making the national draft and becoming a professional AFL player?

His mentor, Declan Tyler, believes in him, but Micah wishes he had the same confidence in himself. Only time will tell if the ongoing reformation of Micah Johnson will be successful.

Add to Goodreads –

Book 1
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Harmony Ink

Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

Micah Johnson is a fabulous character. Obnoxious, insecure, and arrogant, he is a wonderfully memorable anti-hero. This story of Micah’s progress from complete asshole to not quite as much of an asshole is alternately funny and frustrating.

Readers will spend most of the story cringing as Micah continually makes bad situations worse. He alienates his friends, antagonises the bullies, and constantly reaffirms his asshole reputation. For most of the book, it is almost impossible to like Micah. I had some empathy for the homophobic behaviour Micah faced – until his reactions made the situations worse. This is a story of personal growth and I actually really liked the absence of any sort of ‘come to Jesus’ moment. Micah’s progress is pretty limited. As a result, he feels like a real kid rather than a literary hero. He is far too familiar and his mistakes are painfully funny. I may not have liked him but there were many moments where I completely loved him.

This is very much a sports story. In his last year of secondary school, Micah is preparing for the AFL draft. The story tracks him from the end of school through summer selection camps. Many of the sports tropes in this story are a bit tired and the blatant homophobia feels outdated (though maybe not in Australia). Sports fans will enjoy the competitive tension and I found this a welcome change from all of the books about traditionally American sports.

I am annoyed that this book is marketed as the first in a new series. If I hadn’t read the Tigers and Devils series first, I would have been lost. As it is, I read the earlier books some time ago and I still found myself trying desperately to recall events and characters that the author assumes readers will remember. This is not the start of an autonomous series. It is an extension of the Tigers and Devils series and I really could have used some recap summaries at the start of this story because it took me a long time to properly get into this book.

3.5 Stars

A word of warning: as this is listed as the first in a series, I tried to read it shortly after its release. After three attempts, I realized my error. While it's listed as the first, it's a spin-off of an adult series (Tigers and Devils). I understand listing it separately, as it is geared more toward younger readers, with a younger narrator, it's nearly impossible to get heads or tails without reading the Tigers and Devils series first. Micah's journey 'begins' during Tigers on the Run (Tigers and Devils #3), as is obvious by the 'ONGOING' in the title. So my warning is to readers thinking this is truly the first in a series – it's not. Go read Tigers and Devils first.

After reading books #1 and #3 of Tigers and Devils, I restarted The Ongoing Reformation of Micah Johnson with great ease now that the info-dumpage from past books makes a whole lot of sense. I felt connected to the environment and the characters, and was able to read as if this was book #4 being narrated by Micah.

Micah is a difficult character to enjoy. He's arrogant and irritating, all a cover for his insecurities. While he wasn't a pleasant narrator, he felt real – emotions dictated by human nature. Every interaction is tainted by Micah's antagonism, no matter with who or whether they are being nice to him. This makes for a stressful read, where it's with great difficulty for the reader to connect with the narrator, because he rubs everyone wrong – friends, family, enemies, bullies – the reader. No matter how stressful to read, the author is authentic with Micah's personality, never deviating from the uncomfortable nature.

Micah encounters homophobia as he finishes out his high school career, enters camps, to prepare for the AFL draft. Heavy on Micah's personality, The Ongoing Reformation of Micah Johnson is also a sports story. One of the first I've read where it's not just used as a prop to propel the main character to a love interest, with a few passages to affirm it in the sports genre. Light on romance, Micah is an athlete dealing with homophobic and closeted jocks, while simultaneously reveling and fighting his antagonistic nature.

Recommended to LGBTQ fans, who enjoy reading coming-of-age characters, with a story based on character development instead of focused on romance and between-the-sheets action.

SEAN KENNEDY lives in Perth, Western Australia, but his heart still belongs to his hometown Melbourne—which is also the home of Simon Murray and Declan Tyler from his series Tigers and Devils. A disciple of cult leader David Lynch, Sean is breathlessly awaiting the revival of Twin Peaks in 2016.

Connect with Sean

Facebook  ~  Twitter  ~  Website  ~  Goodreads


Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of The Ongoing Reformation of Micah Johnson (Get Out #1) by Sean Kennedy to read and review.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Donna by V.C. Andrews

Book Two of the Girls of Spindrift. From the New York Times bestselling author of the Flowers in the Attic and My Sweet Audrina series, now Lifetime movies, continues a haunting new series featuring highly intelligent teenage girls who struggle to survive a specialized high school and find their place in a world that doesn’t understand them.

Such is the burden of being brilliant.

Being gifted is not something Donna ever wanted. It’s difficult enough to have a Latino father and Irish mother, and her genius only separates her even more from the other girls. They don’t say it, but they blame her for everything that goes wrong, just because she’s different.

And on the precise day she tries her hardest to fit in, everything turns out a disaster. A fight breaks out, and somehow Donna ends up in the middle. It’s not her fault, but it’s her word against theirs, and this time, the other girls aren’t going to stay quiet. The only solution might be to escape to the mysterious school her counselor is telling her about: Spindrift.

The four Girls of Spindrift novellas together form a prequel for Bittersweet Dreams—available now!

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Book 2
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Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

5 Gimme More stars

Reading Donna on the heels of Corliss added to the overall experience. Donna's introduction flowed more smoothly with the added information from the first serial in the prequels.

Donna is other. That's the only way to describe it. Her mind works so differently than what society calls the norm, that there is no gauge of understanding. Legally obligated to go to school, Donna does independent study all day in a private room in the library, in what used to be the in-school suspension room (from what I gathered). She is more removed from her peers than Corliss was in this regard, as she goes all day without interacting with anyone.

Added to her otherness is the fact that she is mixed heritage – a Latina with an Irish mother. Not only is she fighting the fact that she doesn't have the foundation most teenagers do with their peer group – friends and classmates – she's not enough of either heritage to fit in, and is bullied because of it. Donna's classmates think she feels above them, but she doesn't. Her intelligence is a cross she bears – a curse.

Donna has a friend/savior/guy who wants to date her. He's sweet and genuine, and I felt the emotions Donna portrayed realistic and not at all forced in so few pages. But, for Donna, there is a war waging between her mind and her heart. With an intellect so powerful, emotions confuse the teenage girl. Emotions aren't rational. Love can't be measured. In this prequel, that was a powerful message.

Life changes quickly in the blink of an eye, and this is no different for Donna. I was pleased that the reader was able to visit Spindrift for a few pages, as well as see Corliss there.

At the end, the overall emotion I am feeling is gimme more. But the other two serials aren't available, and it's going to take all of my self-restraint not to purchase Bittersweet Dreams, which is the full-length novel these four prequels are based upon. I will be patient. I will wait. I will read the prequels first for optimum reading fulfillment. Maybe.

Young Adult Age-Range: 12+ Kissing and violence.

Also Available in the Girls of Spindrift Series

Book 1
Buy Links

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B&N  ~  Google Play  ~  iTunes  ~  Kobo

For reviews & more info, check out our Corliss post.

One of the most popular authors of all time, V.C. Andrews has been a bestselling phenomenon since the publication of the spellbinding classic Flowers in the Attic. That blockbuster novel began the renowned Dollanganger family saga, which includes Petals on the Wind, If There Be Thorns, Seeds of Yesterday, and Garden of Shadows. Since then, readers have been captivated by more than sixty novels in nearly twenty bestselling series. V.C. Andrews’s novels have sold more than 106 million copies and have been translated into twenty-two foreign languages.

Sadly, V.C. passed away in 1986. She left several unfinished manuscripts and outlines that were completed by Andrew Neiderman.

Connect with V.C.

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Donna (Girls of Spindrift #2) by V.C. Andrews to read and review.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Dolphins in the Mud by Jo Ramsey

Stranded. Hopeless. Trapped. No one to turn to and no way to reach the freedom just beyond his grasp…

That’s how Chris Talberman feels when his family moves to an isolated New England coastal town and leaves him alone to care for his severely autistic sister, Cece.

Chris knows how the dolphins stranded in the cove near his home must feel—he understands their struggle better than he can express. But the tragic event has a silver lining. It’s there, while chasing his sister, that Chris meets Noah, a boy his age who is as kind and handsome as he is fascinating. Not only has Chris found the friend he needed, but the possibility for love—

Until Chris’s mother abandons the family and Noah reveals his own hidden pain. Now Chris must care for the person he thought would care for him.

2nd Edition
First Edition published by MLR Press, 2012.

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Harmony Ink

Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

3.5 stars

16-year-old Chris is struggling to keep his head above water. His 9-year-old sister is autistic, and as soon as he and his sister get home from school, his mother has to run 'errands' unbeknownst to his father, who is at work. The father believes everything is being handled, between the autistic school, the therapists, and the mother taking care of the girl.

Chris is good with his sister, understanding her in a way no one else does. The mother acts as if it's something to be ashamed of, whereas the father sees it as a nonissue dealt with by others. With his sister needing all the attention, Chris' parents don't give him necessary attention, with too much falling upon his shoulders, while they don't take care of their own marriage at the same time. It's a stressful situation, where it could be bettered, but pride and miscommunication always get in the way.

There is a mystery thread of sorts – the brooding boy on the cove who keeps himself apart from the rest of the teenagers. This storyline wasn't so much romantic as it was a mystery. What made the boy tick, what were his secrets? Noah kept Chris in suspense too.

Dolphins in the Mud is a coming-of-age tale, as a young man struggles with adult issues within his family, as well as worries for his new friend, all the while finding his voice. I appreciated how romance didn't overpower the importance of the message.

However, the reason I couldn't rate this five stars was the slow-pacing and the lack of spark to keep me hooked. I was intrigued by some aspects, interested in others, but the pacing kept me from emotionally connecting. It was the miscommunication that was my biggest issue. There wasn't a single character who could hold an honest conversation and clear up the problems. This was obviously a plot device to continue the story, used as a conflict, but it just left me feeling as if everyone on the pages was emotionally bankrupt/immature, no matter their age.

I felt the autism aspects of Dolphins in the Mud were handled, not only with compassion, but authenticity. The patience needed to make the girl's life run smoothly, the stress when the schedule was off kilter, and the toll this takes out on an entire family.

I felt for the mother in the beginning, and it wasn't her absence that changed my mind. Mom's need to look like the perfect mother was the downfall, not asking/accepting help in the need to appear 'normal'. In actuality, she wasn't raising the child any more than Chris was. On weekdays, the girl was at school, then Chris was home at the same time the girl was. On the weekends, it was the whole family. No doubt there was a large toll on the mother, but she had 7 uninterrupted hours per day, to where she could have been running 'errands.' Just felt the need to point out how I wasn't sure when Mom was parenting either child, to be honest. How was that any different than Dad being at work?

Chris was struggling, but I do have to place the blame on his shoulders. This is a coming-of-age tale, and as the novel evolved, Chris realized it was the miscommunication/not speaking in general, that was his downfall.

I also felt Chris was incredibly rude at times, and I don't just mean to his parents. Chris was devoid of empathy with anyone but his little sister. There was no need to take Brad's mother for granted, treat her so disrespectfully, when she was coming to his rescue for nothing but the goodness of her heart. Entitled. Even in inner monologue, Chris belittled the former special education teacher. It made me think less of Chris, and not see him in a very good light. The woman had no need to be there, to take on the responsibilities of their family because they refused to do it, yet from day-one, they treated Brad's mom like she should just do for them, no questions asked and no thanks given.

Also, in regards to Noah, I felt Chris' responses/replies where short and rude ("I snapped") when this thread was meant to be a budding friendship/crush. They were learning who the other person was, but most of their conversations were like reading shorthand, neither giving anything, so the reader also couldn't connect. Both rude, and frankly, I wasn't sure why either would want to spend five seconds together with all the 'snapped' going on. I flinched every time I read it.

I won't ruin the mystery, but Noah's answers made more sense dealing with his secret, but what excuse did Chris have for being so short/rude/nasty in conversation? Noah's whiplash made sense, but why was Chris speaking that way too? Often times, I couldn't differentiate between their dialogue if it hadn't been for who was speaking, it was so interchangeably rude. These interactions, which were supposed to feel like budding friendship/crush, felt combative and made me uncomfortable.

While I felt the autism aspects were written authentically, in juxtaposition, I felt Noah's issue wasn't at all realistic. While I realize this is fiction, this is an issue close to my family. Noah wasn't a clingy sociopath, but he was written out to be one due to his 'illness.'

On the whole, it was refreshing to read a book where the romance wasn't front and center, where actual character building was at the forefront, showcasing stressful lives in a way where the reader could empathize while receiving an education.

Young Adult age-range: 14+ due to possible mental health triggers.

This is a slow, gritty story of a teenage boy struggling with more problems than he can manage.

Chris has recently moved home, leaving his friends and his boyfriend behind. Caring for his autistic sister leaves him with little time to make friends or join teams. And there is something off about the one boy he starts to get to know. As Chris’ problems escalate, he feels trapped by his responsibilities. We only see glimpses of Chris as a person beyond his problems. I felt sorry for Chris but I’m not sure I knew him well enough to really care for him.

This story is tagged as a romance but there isn’t really any romance in the book. Chris forges a tentative friendship with a boy who might become something more but the focus is on both boys’ problems, not their feelings for each other.

At times, this story reminded me of the topical ‘after school specials’ I remember from twenty years ago. It is a story about difficult family relationships, and it provides an educational introduction to autism and mental health difficulties. A little bit infomercial and a little bit family counselling session, I found myself thinking more about what the author was trying to teach me than about what the characters were thinking and feeling.

As a teen, I found this kind of writing quite patronising and I don’t feel much differently now. There were some sweet moments here but the pace is incredibly slow and the character development is disappointingly superficial.

JO RAMSEY is a former special education teacher who now writes full-time. She firmly believes that everyone has it in them to be a hero, whether to others or in their own lives, and she tries to write books that encourage teens to be themselves and make a difference. Jo has been writing since age five and has been writing young adult fiction since she was a teen herself; her first YA book was published in 2010. She lives in Massachusetts with her two daughters, her husband, and two cats, one of whom likes to read over her shoulder.

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Dolphins in the Mud by Jo Ramsey to read and review.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Voiceless by E.G. Wilson

Adelaide Te Ngawai was thirteen when Maunga Richards stole her voice.

Addy is plunged into silence when a high school bully inflicts her with an incurable disease that leaves her unable to speak, write, or create. Vox Pox—a man-made malady that’s been terrorizing the city for months. Resilient, Addy fights to survive. To not be silenced. But then her brother, Theo, is infected as well.

Desperate for any information that might help cure Theo, Addy follows Maunga into a newly developed virtual psychoreality simulator and discovers a conspiracy deeper than she’d ever imagined. How far will she go to save her brother?

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Book 1
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Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

E. G. Wilson is a new-to-me author. I'd highly recommend to fans of virtual-reality/gaming/MMORPGs & Dystopian fiction.

At 13, a budding writer, Addie is injected by her bully/older classmate with a virus that silences its victim. Unable to write or speak, Addie loses all of her creativity.

Years later, a virtual reality program is announced, one Addie is desperate to use.

With 500+ silenced victims, Addie uses the program to have a voice and call out the young woman who silenced her.

Voiceless uses a vast virtual reality world, AI, and ghosts imprinted into the program to create a vivid and intriguing story.

All genders, young and young at heart, will enjoy the game-play-esque writing style, mixed with the sense of powerlessness, selflessness, loss, and empowerment, as Addie and her unlikely ally try to stop the one silencing people.

There is an underlying romance thread, but it doesn't involve our narrator.

Thoroughly intrigued, I can't wait to get my hands on the next installment.

Young Adult age-range: 12+

E.G. Wilson cut her authorial teeth writing Sherlock fanfiction at uni when she should really have been studying. She fell into writing science fiction after being inspired by Star Wars, Firefly, and Tolkien's legendarium and has since won NaNoWriMo every year since 2012. She lives in South Canterbury, New Zealand; she loves mountains, hates broad beans, and never wears matching socks.

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Voiceless (Voiceless Duology #1) by E.G. Wilson to read and review.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Trust by Kylie Scott Blog Tour

Being young is all about the experiences: the first time you skip school, the first time you fall in love… the first time someone holds a gun to your head.

After being held hostage during a robbery at the local convenience store, seventeen-year-old Edie finds her attitude about life shattered. Unwilling to put up with the snobbery and bullying at her private school, she enrolls at the local public high school, crossing paths with John. The boy who risked his life to save hers.

While Edie’s beginning to run wild, however, John’s just starting to settle down. After years of partying and dealing drugs with his older brother, he’s going straight—getting to class on time, and thinking about the future.

An unlikely bond grows between the two as John keeps Edie out of trouble and helps her broaden her horizons. But when he helps her out with another first—losing her virginity—their friendship gets complicated.

Meanwhile, Edie and John are pulled back into the dangerous world they narrowly escaped. They were lucky to survive the first time, but this time they have more to lose—each other.

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“You were going to give it up to Duncan Dickerson?” he sneered. “Are you serious?”

I halted, staring at him. This was not good. “How do you know about that?”

“Anders overheard you and Hang talking.”


“Well?” he demanded, acting all authoritarian. Idiot.

“To be fair, I didn’t know his last name was Dickerson,” I said. “That’s unfortunate. Though, I wasn’t actually planning on marrying him, so...”

“Not funny.”

I shrugged.

“You barely know the guy.”

“Um, yeah. None of your concern. We’re not talking about this.” How mortifying! My face burned bright. People should just gather around and cook s’mores. “I appreciate that we’re friends. You mean a lot to me. But this is going to have to fall under definitely none of your damn business, so go away please.”

“We’re talking about it.” He advanced a step.

“No we are not.” And I retreated.

“You were going to let a complete stranger touch you.” Advance.

Retreat. “People do it all the time. You do it all the time.”

“But you don’t,” he said, taking the final step, backing me up against the side of his car and getting all in my face. “Edie, this is your first time we’re talking about. Isn’t it?”

“Yes, and it’s going to be messy and painful and probably horribly embarrassing and I just want it over and done with.” I tried to meet his eyes but failed, settling for a spot on his right shoulder. “You’re not a girl; you wouldn’t understand. Also, last time I checked, you’re not the gatekeeper of my hymen, John Cole. So back the fuck off.”

He said nothing.

Deep, calming breaths. “Look, someday I’ll meet someone I really like and we’ll have a deep and meaningful relationship and go at it like bunnies. But I don’t want to be the dumb virgin in that scenario.”

He slowly shook his head.

“Also, I do not want to die a virgin.”

“What? What the hell are you talking about?”

“Hey, you and I both know death can occur at any time.”

“This is crazy.”

“I’m seeing a therapist!” I told his shoulder. “I don’t know if you noticed, but I’m a little bit messed up these days. It’s hard for me to trust people. That’s not going to change anytime soon.”

He screwed up his face at me. “Wha—”

“I’m just trying to be practical.”

“Well, you’re being ridiculous. None of this makes sense.”

“It does to me.”

Again, he said nothing.

In fact, he said nothing for so long that I finally looked him in the eye. The anger had left him, replaced by an emotion I didn’t recognize. Worst of all, he still smelled like summer. A little sweat and the open night air, everything I loved. Liked. I meant liked.

“What?” I said, finally.

He let loose a breath. “I’ll do it.”

Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

Commentary on the cover (placed at the start of the review for a reason): While it's an awesome cover (it caught my interests), it's more befitting an older book in a different genre. I fear it will have readers one-clicking, then feeling as if it's not-as-advertised, as it looks like a musician/tattoo/biker/badass type read in the New Adult or Adult genres. I realize this cover represents John (not our narrator), but it gives off a sex-laden appeal, not representative of the content. Our narrator is a 17-year-old girl, and it takes place in a high school, with the usual content represented in a young adult novel. As example, no first kisses being had before the 58% mark, with a handful after. Not that that is a bad thing, just that the cover gives off a different vibe.

Kylie Scott is a new-to-me author. From word one, I was hooked. I couldn't put it down – I was being bombarded with chatter around me, a loud TV, and two dogs barking at each other, and I continued to read without any of those distractions pulling me from the story. I took a break around the 50% mark to go check out what else the author had penned and to go tell my fellow reviewers how great the book was. Then I finished the book in the privacy of my own bedroom, refusing to be interrupted.

Layers upon layers of emotion, this novel had one of the best developed characterizations I've come across. Edie is our 17-year-old narrator – a chubby teenage girl who loves to wear the color black, read books, and binge-watch TV. Edie represents a large population of girls who are always designated as the sidekick. Non-athletic, not a joiner, being chubby, going to an all-girls private school, she's bullied. Not meek, she keeps her mouth shut in order not to feed the bullies.

Yes, her insecurities infect a portion of her thought process, not in a redundant way. But, for anyone who has ever been overweight/other insecurities, you know it's at the forefront of your mind at all times, so this was also a realistic portrayal of a larger girl. In high school, you can be a bit chubby, and everyone treats you like you're morbidly obese, because most of the kids haven't filled out into their adult shapes yet, still small like children while you're shaped like a grown woman. In the real world, we all wish we were that size again, the size we were bullied over – laughing. Edie represents us big girls, and the author did an excellent job with the mindset.

Edie's grabbing some Oreos and Doritos from a convenience store, with her BFF in the car in her jammies, refueling for another binge-watch session, and life changes at an instant. Without going into detail, I will say the following events were beyond realistic, transporting me into the book with Edie and her fellow captives.

In the aftermath, Kylie Scott creates a gut-wrenching read filled with realistic human emotions. Instead of ignoring how the event would change who the characters are at their very cores, using it as a vehicle to drive straight into romance, it's fully fleshed out realism that isn't romanticized.

It's hammered home how Edie and John's lives will never be the same – this will forever be riding shotgun with them through life. Survivor’s guilt. Panic attacks. Nightmares. Wondering if there was something they should have done differently. Woulda/shoulda/coulda of the wrong place at the right time. The blame game.

Edie changes, sees everything through a different lens, and this filtered into every aspect of her life. Instead of focusing on the romance, the author spotlights her characters' evolution, which draws the two survivors together.

Nothing forced. Nothing instantaneous. Edie and John grow together, their personalities complementing one another in the perfect balance. A slow-burn romance, where true friendship is built and felt by the reader, with the angsty feel of a teenager's first venture into love.

I highly recommend to more mature young adults and older readers too. While it does have sexual situations and romance, they are not the focus of the novel itself – while on the page, it's quick and to the point. However, if you're a fan of the author's other works, expecting an angst-filled New Adult read, with sex and tension and lust and hot bad guys, don't judge a book by its cover. This truly is a young adult read, with young adult issues/mentality/maturity, set in a high school, with curfews and meddlesome mothers. It's a raw, dark, and gritty read, realistic, but not in the way the cover suggests.

Young Adult age-range: parental discretion advised – mature young adults+, due to realistic violent situations, drug-use, and age-appropriate sexual situations. I could have handled this book at age 12-14, but another peer may have had to wait until 16+. With the novel's content, it's dependent on the emotional maturity of the reader.

I was sucked in from the first chapter and couldn't put it down until I finished. I am not a huge Young Adult reader but I love throwing one in every once and a while, especially after a heavier, darker read. I thought Trust would be a perfect light read. I was so invested and had such a hangover. It may not have been the light choice I was hoping for, but it blew anything else out of the water. Edie was different and made for such an interesting character.

Trust is heart-pounding suspense. I loved every aspect of this read. Ms. Scott is such a word wizard that she can come out swinging in any genre she chooses and knock it out of the park.

Trust was my first introduction to the author Kylie Scott and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised how much I ended up liking this book. As a reader in my twenties who enjoys reading Young Adult books, it can sometimes be a challenge to find book that won't just make me feel like I'm too old to be reading it, but Trust can easily be enjoyed by young and old readers. Edie, the main character, was refreshing and easy to relate to. I loved seeing all the ways she grew over the course of the story. I think older YA readers will have no trouble getting sucked into Trust, but younger readers should be prepared for some mature themes, such as alcohol/drugs and violence. Although the main character, Edie, is a 17-year-old high school student, I felt like this book seemed to border a little between a YA read and drifting a bit into the New Adult genre. Nevertheless, I enjoyed reading Trust and I will be looking to see what other gems Kylie Scott has hidden away!

4 STARS for Trust

Edie gets caught up in a violent convenience store robbery while doing a midnight snack run. John, a high school student and local drug dealer, is also in the store at the time of the robbery and tries to talk the robber down.

Following the incident, Edie changes schools and discovers John sitting in the seat behind her in class. A friendship develops between John and Edie and we see that while the near-death experience has scared John straight, it has done the opposite to Edie. She realises that life can end in an instant and things that once seemed scary or important, are less so now.

Trust is told entirely from Edie's point of view, but it is John's story as much as it is hers. Their shared experience leads to friendship as they help each other get through life after the trauma.

Trust is a gripping story. At no time did my mind wander or did I get distracted. The story had my complete attention, so much so that walking home from work I pulled out my e-reader while waiting for traffic lights to change, just so I could read an extra paragraph or two. I didn't want to put this book down, and would recommend it to older teens and adults. Trust is brilliant and gets 5 stars from me.

Age recommendation: 16+

I've been a Kylie Scott fan for a bit now after devouring her Stage Dive series and was happy to have a new book from her that wasn't part of another series. But, I was sure not expecting Trust to be so darn amazing and yet remain young adult. I was blown away!!!

Starting at the Drop Stop convenience store for some pre-movie binge snacks, 17-year-old Edie finds herself in the middle of a hold up and hostage situation by a crazed meth head. After the clerk was shot and killed, only Edie, John, and his friend are left to fight for their lives from drug crazed Chris, the robber. John and Chris sort of know each other from certain drug circles and John tries to talk Chris down and help Edie and Malcom get out alive. All hell breaks loose right from the first few chapters and I was sucked into the story so hard I think I might have hickeys. This was an amazing emotional journey dealing with life changing events in a young adult's early maturity.

After being bullied and overweight in her old private girls’ school, Edie refuses to be this person any longer. Changing schools and trying to put the attack that ended two young lives but spared hers behind her, Edie is on the cusp of realizing what's real and what's really important. Having a gun shoved in your mouth will do that to a girl. Forging a bond with John, the boy who saved her life that fateful night, is the only thing that's keeping Edie sorta sane. They are the only people who know how it felt to be there and go through that experience.

John has a tainted past, he was a low-key pot dealer and not the best student in school. Just drifting through life. But after the attack at the store, he's decided his life is worth way more than he's been giving it. Trying to change and become worthy of the life he was spared, John finds himself facing bad press and old grudges that die hard by teachers and parents. Trying to prove himself to them and stay out of trouble is harder than it seems. Edie is the only solace in his new life, someone he can talk with about what happened and how it's left him unable to sleep.

Edie and John were one of the best romances I've read in a while and we're still talking young adult here! John is experienced, Edie is not. John is gorgeous and Edie is just another chunky girl in the mix of so many others. But she and John have a bond that no one can break. The relationship has the classic stalls and starts, miscues, and missed opportunities, but it's done so perfectly (along with several sneaky parallel plot issues happening in the book Edie happens to be reading!!) I was groaning in agony, shaking my head in sympathy, but all with my nose pressed to my Kindle.

One of the best slow-burn relationships I've read in a while. Lots of spark for Young Adult, but not too much detail on the steamy scenes. I'd still say a more mature YA audience recommended due to the violence and a little due to the sexual contact.

There is amazing poignant emotion being played out by these two characters. I FELT for them! I cheered for Edie finding her spine against the mean girls at school, I was angered by the teacher's dismissal of John's hard work, I empathized with Edie's poor mom trying to keep it together after what her child went through. These young adults lived through a horrific, life changing event and came out alive, they are forever changed and this is the story of how they live through it. This book pulled it all out of me and left me longing for more. Hats off to Kylie Scott here, this book is a 10!

Kylie is a New York Times and USA Today best-selling author. She was voted Australian Romance Writer of the year, 2013 & 2014, by the Australian Romance Writer’s Association and her books have been translated into eleven different languages. She is a long time fan of romance, rock music, and B-grade horror films. Based in Queensland, Australia with her two children and husband, she reads, writes and never dithers around on the internet. You can learn more about Kylie from her website.

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Trust by Kylie Scott to read and review for this tour.