5 Stars, Audio Book, Jay Bell, Narration Rating - 5 Stars, New Adult, Reviewed by Kathie, Self-Published, Young Adult

Audio Review: Something Like Lightning by Jay Bell – Narrated by Kevin R. Free

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Title: Something Like Lightning: Volume 5

Author: Jay Bell

Narrator: Kevin R. Free

Publisher: Self-Published

Run Time: 14 hours and 18 minutes

At a Glance: Jay Bell and Kevin R. Free are both talented craftsmen.  What a great combination!

Reviewed By: Kathie

Blurb: Never stop running. No matter how often life trips you up or how many times your enemies knock you down, just get up and keep on moving until you find where you belong.

Kelly Phillips has been out and proud since he was a young teenager, and thanks to the gay youth group he frequents, he’s never been short on friends or lovers. But when you have almost everything, it’s hard not to focus on what’s just out of reach: a best friend who would be Mr. Right if he wasn’t already Mr. Straight. Or that handsome athlete at school who would be easier to wrangle if not for his angel wings. And then there’s the guy who might be a perfect fit, maybe even a soul mate…if only he wasn’t convinced he didn’t need anyone. Kelly has always been good at running. Now he must learn to chase, which will test not only his endurance but the durability of his heart as well.

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Review: Jay Bell is an auto-buy author for me.  It started with Something like Summer (the eBook published in 2011, the audiobook released in May, 2013), and from that point on, I have read every word of the Something Like series, and have listened to just about all of them. Listening to a Something Like audio is not a small commitment.  Something Like Lightning is 14 hours and 18 minutes, and it’s not a skip-ahead kind of listen. Jay Bell mixes so many characters into his story that if you do try and fast forward, you will miss a plot twist or, in Kelly Phillips’ case, a new opportunity in his love life or career.

The title of this book, Something Like Lightning, really describes the whole feel of the book. Not only is Kelly quick to make decisions, quick to get mad, quick to make judgements, and quick to fall in love, but the other characters are also quick to make decisions: for example, Nathaniel is quick to leave and really, pretty quick to come back to Kelly. What I liked and hated about Kelly was his confidence in himself. Before the accident he was very self-absorbed, but after the accident, he needed that confidence to keep moving forward. What surprised me is that towards the end of the story, I truly liked Kelly and wanted him to have a happy ending. And Nathaniel, who I thought was kind of a hero to go find a hole to bury himself in… what a shortsighted jerk! I know, very strong words from me, but just read or listen to the book. Jay Bell is such a great writer that you become invested in his characters. The next book in the series, Something Like Thunder, is Nathaniel’s story.  I suppose I am going to learn to like him. But really, Jay Bell… Do I have too?

What a talent Kevin R Free has. He doesn’t just tell us a story, he uses his voice to pull us into the world of Jay Bell.  Would I recommend that you purchase this audio and invest 14 hours of your time listening?  You bet I would! Jay Bell and Kevin R. Free are both talented craftsmen.  What a great combination!

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You can buy Something Like Lightning here:

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5 Stars, Nash Summers, Reviewed by Jules, Self-Published, Young Adult

Review: Diamonds by Nash Summers

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Title: Diamonds (Life According to Maps: Book Two)

Author: Nash Summers

Publisher: Self-Published

Pages/Word Count: 70 Pages (approx.)

At a Glance: Maps is truly special; I’ll take any glimpse into his world I can get!

Reviewed By: Jules

Blurb: Maps’ kingdom is crumbling before his eyes.

His parents are forcing him to get a job, there’s a new kid at school who won’t stop staring at him, and his best friend is too busy thinking about girls to help Maps deal with his real problems.

Worst of all,

Maps is lost.

And none of the roads on his map are leading to Lane.

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Review: Maps is back!! I was full on laughing out loud on the first page, and thought I was quite possibly going to highlight the entire book. Seriously, though, Nash Summers has done it again. Diamonds, the second book in what I hope will be a very lonnnnnnng series, will run you through all of the emotions, as did Maps. Mattie ‘Maps’ Wilson is my hero; I sincerely think I could read books about him for the rest of forever. And, the title of the series is perfection. Even though the books are each only around seventy pages in length, you truly do feel like you’re getting a crash course in ‘Life According to Maps’.

This story begins as Lane is away at baseball camp, and Maps feels very unsure as to where they left things. He’s biding his time, driving his parents and his best friend Benji crazy, as per usual, but he honestly feels unbalanced with Lane gone. As hysterical as this book is in so many places, there are also some very real emotions here…some very growing-up type things that both boys are going through. Insecurities, some thoughtless self-centeredness that is typical teenage stuff, and the all-consuming power of young love, all brilliantly showcased with the perfect combination of heart and humor.

I have to mention that we also meet a couple of new players – one in particular, Perry, who I LOVED – which makes me wonder if there really is more to come for these guys, and possibly the secondary characters. A girl can dream, right?

I’ve read quite a bit of this author’s work now, and I marvel at how well she writes such incredibly different types of books. I am absolutely a fan. All of her stuff is great – but, Maps is truly special; I’ll take any glimpse into his world I can get! Diamonds was a wonderful follow-up to the first book – I can’t recommend this series enough.

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You can buy Diamonds here:

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4 Stars, Genta Sebastian, Reviewed by Lisa, Shadoe Publishing, Young Adult

Review: A Man’s Man by Genta Sebastian

Amazon US

Amazon US

Title: A Man’s Man

Author: Genta Sebastian

Publisher: Shadoe Publishing

Pages/Word Count: 152 Pages

At a Glance: With a narrator who isn’t always easy to like, let alone love, A Man’s Man gives its young narrator the room to discover what being a man’s man truly means.

Reviewed By: Lisa

Blurb: “It’s like this, see. My dad’s a fag, his boyfriend’s a queer, and I think I might be gay. I mean, I think it’s catching or something.”

When thirteen year old R.J. decides to turn his dad straight, unintended consequences mess everything up. To make things right he will have to figure out for himself what it means to be A Man’s Man.

(For YA readers age 12-16)

Dividers

Review: The narrator of A Man’s Man, R.J. Davis, is a boy carrying around a lot of hurt and anger. Our evidence? The opening paragraph of the book, which you’ll notice is also the opening paragraph of the blurb.

Written with her intended audience in mind, Sebastian does a fantastic job of keeping things simple and straightforward in this narrative, as well as making these characters and their story relatable to her YA readers. As adults, we often reflect upon how brutal kids can be to one another, but sometimes we have to acknowledge how horrific adults can be too. In snide remarks masked as jokes and extremism masquerading as religion, we’re forced to recognize that hatred, bigotry, and discrimination can be found any and everywhere—even as close as our schools and communities—and this book relays that without sugarcoating it in the slightest.

The author presents these scenarios through R.J.’s narration, and as an adult reader, I don’t mind admitting I cringed at every disparaging remark and nasty epithet flung so carelessly, especially by R.J. himself. This isn’t a comfortable read for those of us who think of ourselves as being politically correct, but this book and its subject aren’t meant to be comfortable, nor is A Man’s Man intended to show anything but the ways R.J.’s relationship with his father is colored by the boy’s perceptions. In that goal, the author succeeds.

After his parents divorced, R.J.’s father moved to Minnesota while R.J. and his mother remained behind in San Diego—a divorce that was instigated by his father finally acknowledging the truth of his own sexuality. Establishing plausibility for R.J.’s bitterness is achieved by tapping into the reader’s empathy for the boy whose parents’ best intentions had left him feeling abandoned by his father; feeling displaced by his father’s partner Stephen (whom R.J. introduces to people as his uncle); feeling betrayed by a father who obviously (in R.J.’s opinion) never loved the mother R.J. adores—a mother who has died too soon. Which leaves the boy feeling abandoned once again, even as he’s exiled to Minnesota to live with a father who not only seems somewhat like a stranger to R.J. but is also the object of the boy’s intense scorn.

We witness R.J.’s grief present as the actions of a boy who is sometimes difficult to like, I don’t mind saying. His attitude certainly makes him an unreliable narrator where Robert and Stephen’s relationship is concerned, a relationship that’s anathema to the boy and, were their community to discover the true nature of the men’s living arrangements, it would open them up to the sort of ridicule they have been disinclined to test. That is, until R.J. makes it his mission to break up Robert and Stephen so his father will be straight again.

As I was reading this book, I found myself wondering how many of the events I should take as dramatic license and how much should be acknowledged as the believable actions of a teenage boy who didn’t grow up with two dads but was introduced to it more or less at a time when he’s only just becoming aware of what sexuality even is—his own included. How much should be acknowledged as the actions of a boy who needed to have his father to himself, weighed against the actions of a boy who equated his father’s being gay as being the direct result of R.J.’s feeling abandoned—when in truth, Robert’s embracing his homosexuality, the subsequent divorce, his moving away and distancing himself from his son were merely the byproducts of two parents whose love for their child and respect for each other was all misinterpreted by a boy who was too young to understand. R.J.’s naïveté rang absolutely true to me in his belief that his dad would quit being gay if only the temptation of the man he loves could be removed from the equation. R.J.’s anger rang true as well, and served to make Robert and Stephen our sympathetic protagonists in the story. Does that make R.J. the antagonist? Yes, absolutely. But this is also a story of redemption and an opportunity for R.J. to grow into his feelings once he learns what being a man’s man truly means.

Although Genta Sebastian’s A Man’s Man is labeled as a Young Adult novella suitable for ages 12 to 16, I can’t begin to tell you how much I appreciated this story from the perspective of an adult. With no action or fantasy in the plot, I’m not sure how well kids will relate to the story, but it’s certainly a lesson that life isn’t always easy, that losing a parent is hard (at any age), that being a teenager sometimes feels impossible, and finding the courage to finally speak up and right a wrong is everything this novella’s title is about.

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You can buy A Man’s Man here:

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4 Stars, Hayden Thorne, Holiday Romance, JMS Books LLC, Paranormal, Queerteen Press, Reviewed by Jennifer, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Urban Fantasy, Young Adult

Review: Desmond and Garrick (Book One) by Hayden Thorne

Title: Desmond and Garrick (Book One)

Author: Hayden Thorne

Publisher: Queerteen Press/JMS Books

Pages/Word Count: 226 Pages

At a Glance: Another fantastic historical YA fantasy from Hayden Thorne.

Reviewed By: Jennifer

Blurb: It’s 1815. Garrick Mortimer is a scholar extraordinaire, an underemployed and starving genius, who agrees to sign on as tutor to Desmond Hathaway, the youngest son of a vampire family living in Yorkshire. Desmond, heartbroken by another boy’s callous treatment of him in school, rebels against Garrick’s attempts at educating him and does everything he could to chase Garrick away, which proves to be a greater challenge than he first thought.

When Desmond’s older brother returns from Italy for a visit and brings with him a small group of talentless and self-absorbed poets, life in Dryden Abbey turns upside-down, mainly when Desmond meets Leigh Blaise Sherbourne, a sullen vampire poet.

Throw into the mix a desperate mother’s plea for grandchildren, a family-owned torture chamber, a cottage-abbey-and-quarter-castle, and a grumpy family magician, and Garrick finds life in the Hathaway household to be a great deal more than he bargained for.

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Review: Hayden Thorne knows how to write historical YA, and historical fantasy YA, so when I had the opportunity to read Desmond and Garrick I was thrilled. First of all, it has a similarly haunting cover of some old building. Without even reading the blurb, I knew the house would play some interesting part in the story, and it did.

The first of a series (at least one other book is out, or soon to be out), Desmond and Garrick focuses on a vampire family and their young son, Desmond, who has been sent out of human schools for “provoking” human boys, like pretty much every young vampire has done. Desperate to change him and get him to settle down, his parents send for a human tutor and find Garrick, a brilliant scholar who detests teaching. But, the idea of working with vampires and learning about their species intrigues him.

What follows is a story as both teacher and pupil grow. Their growth may not necessarily be because of each other, but changes take place. Garrick is drawn more towards tutoring Desmond’s talented younger sister, who shows more promise than Desmond. And Desmond, attempting to get over the human boy he loved and lost, finds himself face to face with his older brother’s friend, Leigh Sherbourne, a vampire poet who both intrigues and repulses Desmond.

Like the author’s other YA books, there is very little romance, and what is there is incredibly slow to start, but also, like the other books, that’s okay. There’s more to this than the romance. Instead, you’ll be drawn to watching the vampire children (who act much younger than fifteen and sixteen) throwing themselves off the top of their home, locking themselves in the torture chamber’s various devices, watching vampire parents adding graveyards and collapsed walls to their cottage-abbey-and-quarter-castle home.

I look forward to the next book, because this one leaves off in spot that suggests this would work well as one long book rather than two (or more) parts of one story.

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You can buy Desmond and Garrick here:

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4.5 Stars, Genre Romance, Harmony Ink Press, Nyrae Dawn, Reviewed by Maryann, Young Adult

Review: The History of Us by Nyrae Dawn

Title: The History of Us

Author: Nyrae Dawn

Publisher: Harmony Ink Press

Pages/Word Count: 184 Pages

At a Glance: Nyrae Dawn is a new author to me, but I will definitely be reading more of her work in the future.

Reviewed By: Maryann

Blurb: Sometimes it’s not about coming out, it’s about settling in.

Eighteen-year-old Bradley Collins came out a year ago and hasn’t looked back since. Who cares if he doesn’t know any other gay people? Bradley has friends and basketball—that’s all he needs. Even if that means always sitting on the sidelines when the guys go out looking for girls.

When cute film-boy TJ tries to flirt with Bradley while his friends are doing their thing, he freaks. Yeah, he’s gay, but he’s never had the opportunity to go out with a boy before. He’s never had to worry about how his friends will react to seeing him with a guy.

Bradley accompanies TJ on a road trip to film TJ’s senior project documentary. In each city they visit, they meet with people from different walks of life, and Bradley learns there’s a whole lot more to being honest about himself than just coming out. He still has to figure out who he really is and learn to be okay with what he discovers.

Dividers

Review: In the history of us by Nyrae Dawn, we meet eighteen-year-old Bradley, who is gay and out but feels lonely and a little bit unsettled in himself. We also meet TJ, a young film guy who tries to befriend and flirt with Bradley. After being convinced to go on a road trip with TJ, Bradley meets gay men from all walks of life, and finally starts to accept himself.

I was really surprised by how much I liked this story. I thought it was going to be your typical, “young guys meet, make out, live happily after” kind of book, and I wasn’t expecting to connect with the characters the way I did. There were a couple, in particular, who I wanted to rap in cotton wool and coddle because they seemed so tired and lonely and broken.

I enjoyed watching Bradley change and grow with every new experience, and was again surprised by the maturity he showed at the end of this book. Nyrae Dawn is a new author to me, but I will definitely be reading more of her work in the future.

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You can buy The History of Us here:

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2 Stars, Harmony Ink Press, Reviewed by Jules, Young Adult

Review: The Geek and His Artist by Hope Ryan

Title: The Geek and His Artist

Author: Hope Ryan

Publisher: Harmony Ink Press

Pages/Word Count: 320 Pages

At a Glance: At the end of the day, this book just wasn’t for me.

Reviewed By: Jules

Blurb: Simon Williams spends his lunch periods drawing his geek and trying not to think about the terrors waiting for him at home. He needs to get away from his abusive father before he suffers the same grisly fate as his mother. Because he’s learned the hard way running away doesn’t work, he’s counting the days until his eighteenth birthday.

Jimmy Bennet should be spending his lunch studying so his senior GPA is good enough to get him into college, but he can’t seem to focus thanks to his distracting artist. When he’s given the opportunity to tutor Simon in Trig and discovers Simon’s home-life nightmare, he wants nothing more than to get Simon out of danger. This need becomes more urgent when Simon comes to school the Monday after their first date with bruises, but it takes a broken leg before Jimmy can convince his boyfriend the Bennets really want him.

But the danger Simon thought was past shows up at the most unexpected time, and he must stand up to the fears he’s held so long to protect not only himself, but the man he wants to spend his life with.

Dividers

Review: I tried with this book…I tried changing my framework – looking at it from a purely YA perspective; i.e. would the things that were bugging me about it have bugged me if I were in the target demographic? Would my fifteen or sixteen year old self have thought the handling of many of the topics was as After-School-Special-ish as my grown-up self did? I tried suspending belief on some of the dramatics, and giving the benefit of the doubt that these things did and could happen… But, at the end of the day, this book just wasn’t for me.

A Geek and His Artist tells the story of two high school kids who have both been watching each other from afar. Jimmy is a smart, sweet, mostly-closeted gay guy who has secretly been admiring “his artist” from a nearby cafeteria table for a few months. Simon is a quiet, artistic, skater boy who has similarly been watching, and drawing, Jimmy, “his geek”, for those same few months. They finally run into each other outside of school during winter break, and soon after begin talking – when Simon needs some tutoring – and then immediately begin a very serious relationship. I’m not kidding when I say immediately. These guys were calling each other “baby” (or, at least Jimmy was using the pet name for Simon, with zero surprise or objection from him) and labeling themselves as boyfriends within hours of their first conversation. And were discussing how serious they were, and actually getting engaged within a few months. Months! And, did I mention they were in high school? Yeah…

Aside from the über sweetness of the book, there was also tons of melodrama that was so completely over-the-top I couldn’t overlook it. Simon’s dad was an abusive prick. Full stop. It was well documented in the story. He even murdered – though he got away with it – Simon’s mother. It was also covered that The Bastard (this is how he was referred to in the book) did not sexually abuse Simon. There was huge worry, and then huge relief, for Jimmy after discovering Simon at least hadn’t been hurt in that way. So, I ask you, WHY did the author feel it was necessary to add the line, “…He, uh, he once told her if she’d had a girl, he might have left her alone.”? Completely unnecessary in my opinion, and added nothing to the story.

Any fondness I might have had for these guys was unfortunately completely overshadowed by the unrealistic gushy-sweetness with which they interacted, and the aforementioned melodrama. I wanted to love this book – I LOVE stories with geeks of all kinds, and artsy boys – and, in fact, I thought the Epilogue was well-done and very cute, but it wasn’t enough to save the book as a whole.

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3 Stars, Jason N. Smith, Mascot Books, Reviewed by Sammy, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Urban Fantasy, Young Adult

Review: Awakening: The Blood Rock Prophecy by Jason N. Smith

Title: Awakening: The Blood Rock Prophecy

Author: Jason N. Smith

Publisher: Mascot Books

Pages/Word Count: 304 Pages

At a Glance: Despite its fairly hefty problems, Awakening: The Blood Rock Prophecy is an interesting story.

Reviewed By: Sammy

Blurb: Addy and Ethan are the best of friends, who happen to be cousins, and who live in the outskirts of the town of Salem, MA. The beginning of their senior year is rocked by the brutal ritualistic murder of two twins in the woods near their homes and the Achachak River. At a school assembly concerning the horrible murders, Addy suffers a seizure and falls into a coma. Her best friend and cousin struggles to find a way to help her while struggling with his own identity in the face of pressure from those around him and the strange dreams and experiences he keeps having.

Dividers

Review: Jason N. Smith’s debut novel is a daring undertaking to say the least. Presented with multiple points of view that are often tossed back and forth with dizzying speed, the story, nonetheless, is a good one. Unfortunately, the overly flowery and stilted language, particularly by teen characters, makes this story a hard one to always follow. However, before I delve into what worked and what failed to make its mark, I must say that the plotline itself was interesting and, at its base, new and refreshing.

In brief, the story revolves around two cousins who are not all they seem. There is, in fact, a dark past that surrounds them both and ties them together. As two fatal slayings rock the small Salem town in which they live, powers long dormant and a destiny preordained will propel Addy and Ethan into a tailspin of catastrophic proportions. A long lost mother whose witchy powers embrace all that is evil is intent on retrieving the two children who had been ripped from her at birth. Immediately exiled after as a punishment for breaking the basic rules, which maintain the careful balance between god and evil, Arabella is trapped between worlds. But her followers have enabled her to finally breach the cell holding her, and she has returned to earth with a vengeance, wreaking death and turmoil in her wake.

Now Ethan and Addy are in a race to discover their own rich powers, and somehow find a safe haven in which to learn and grow into their abilities. But the question remains as to whom they can actually trust, for each step toward safe ground is rife with betrayal and danger. Will the two teens discover their power in time to stop Arabella from snatching them up and using their gifts to further her own evil domination?

What my bare bones synopsis does not tell you is the incredible layers of background given about the various ancestries and histories of past generations that bring the reader to understand what is happening in the present day. Because the author opted to skip around in laying down this ancestral groundwork, there is a real sense of confusion as each new chapter unfolds in this lengthy novel. First, it is not apparent who is telling the story due to the fact that almost every chapter is narrated by someone different from the previous. Also, we skip about in time from the present day to several hundred years in the past, making it truly difficult to assimilate all the history being given. The switching point of view is perhaps the most frustrating aspect of this story. I found myself needing to go back and reread a few pages at times after I had finally figured out who was narrating. However, once I got the abrupt transition, the rest of the chapter flowed well and the chapters tied together, never losing the basic vein of the plot.

There were times—particularly late in the novel—when the language usage became less stilted and more age appropriate. Often I felt the teen “voice” was so formal and out of sync. Whether due to a lack of contractions (did not rather than didn’t, for instance) or the overly flowery and highbrow word usage, Addy and Ethan rarely sounded their age. In fact, there were many times when I stumbled over the lengthy descriptive passages and the way the inner thought patterns of the two teens seemed to come over more like a Victorian gothic novel rather than a modern day paranormal story.

Unfortunately, this dated language was also coupled with a retelling of something that had already been explained or experienced by a previous narrator. Basically what began to happen was one character would suss out a key fact and assimilate it completely, and then, in the next chapter, regurgitate the exact experience in order to explain it to another character. I felt some good editing should have caught this pattern that, in my opinion, really slowed the overall pacing of the story.

However, despite these fairly hefty problems, there was, at its heart, the making of a really good story here. The latter third of this novel moved very swiftly and introduced a new coven that had other young adults whose interactions were much more contemporary and fit the character’s age and background. These last few chapters is where this author hit his stride and that makes me eager to watch for future stories that hopefully will have cleaner editing and a less chaotic format of delivery.

At its core, Awakening: The Blood Rock Prophecy by Jason N. Smith was an interesting story. I do believe this is an author to watch. He definitely has a gift for weaving dramatic and intriguing ideas into a richly detailed plot. I think with a healthy dose of self-editing and more relaxed dialogue we could see some fascinating stories by this author in the future.

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You can buy Awakening: The Blood Rock Prophecy here:

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4 Stars, Audio Book, Narration Rating - 3 Stars, Perie Wolford, Reviewed by Maryann, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Urban Fantasy, Young Adult

Audio Review: Encounter by Perie Wolford – Narrated by William Turbett

Title: Encounter (Encounters: Book One)

Author: Perie Wolford

Narrator:: William Turbett

Publisher: Self-Published

Run Time: 3 Hours and 3 Minutes

At a Glance: Encounter is a unique sci-fi story for Young Adults. Perie Wolford created a mystery with tension and excitement.

Reviewed By: Maryann

Blurb: It’s time to face the unknown.

In an attempt to prove to the world that crop circles are man-made and aliens don’t really exist, Ricky and his team of young enthusiasts (including one particular enthusiast, Josh, who is hopelessly in love with Ricky) start falsifying the phenomenon by creating their own crop circles. Their endeavors prove pretty much successful, but only until the day when Ricky sees his unique circle design replicated throughout the country by forces unknown.

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Review: Ricky McAllister and Josh Cullen, with friends Ann and Mike, set out to prove that crop circles are not made by aliens but are manmade. Ricky has established a vlog where they post a lot of information and videos, and he is also the mastermind behind creating some intricate crop circles, while Josh is the expert at the videotaping. Ricky also invites Emily Bridget into the fold, an intern from Washington DC doing research on the crop circles, who tends to cause a lot of tension between Josh and Ricky.

When the first crop circle doesn’t create the results Ricky is looking for, and he finds out Emily is leaving, he feels he needs to do more. Ricky creates a bigger circle, which leads the team into a dangerous situation. When Ricky’s crop circle makes the news, and others begin to show up with his design, he heads to California to see the biggest one, with Emily and Josh in tow. The action reaches its peak when Josh discovers Emily is not who she says she is, sending him and Ricky on the run from government agents. It’s not until Josh and Ricky are locked inside a military truck that they realize the kind of friendship they really have.

Encounter is a unique sci-fi story for Young Adults. Perie Wolford created a mystery with tension and excitement. The ending is very much a surprise and left me wanting to find out what happened to Ricky and Josh, and if there is a future for them. I don’t read many Young Adult books, and while I found Josh to be somewhat immature in handling his feelings towards Ricky, and that Ricky handled the situation much better, I will definitely be watching for book two.

I found the narration of the story by William Turbett to be fair. I would have liked a stronger distinction between characters tones, and pauses where the story went into different timeframes, but I really liked the eerie music at the end, during the credits, which fit the theme of this story.

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You can buy Encounter here:

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5 Stars, Hayden Thorne, Historical Romance, Queerteen Press, Reviewed by Jennifer, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Urban Fantasy, Young Adult

Review: Ansel of Pryor House by Hayden Thorne

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Title: Ansel of Pryor House

Author: Hayden Thorne

Publisher: Queerteen Press/JMS Books

Pages/Word Count: 116 Pages

At a Glance: Another excellent YA historical fantasy from the author of The Twilight Gods.

Reviewed By: Jennifer

Blurb: Fifteen-year-old Ansel Tunnicliffe has lived a harsh life. Abandoned by his mother and his siblings to a drunk and abusive father, Ansel knows nothing more than hunger, fear, pain, and loneliness in his short life.

One evening, a wealthy stranger appears, challenges Mr. Tunnicliffe to a game of cards, and easily wins. The prize? Ansel. The terrified boy is whisked away to a remote and mysterious house, whose stern and aristocratic mistress takes Ansel in for a purpose that remains elusive to him.

Little by little, however, Ansel discovers additional secrets in every magical room of Pryor House — secrets that are somehow linked to him and Miss Peveler’s strange interest in his welfare. One of those secrets also turns out to be a young boy who haunts Ansel’s lonely hours and who may very well hold the key to Ansel’s future and the shadowy history of Pryor House.

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Review: Fans of Hayden Thorne’s YA historical fantasy should read this book. Although it’s short, it’s another wonderful tale that focuses on a young man, his harsh life, and the magic that changes it. Though in many ways different, this short novel reminded me of The Twilight Gods in that there is an older, magical benefactress who guides a mistreated young man to meet his destiny. If you’re looking for a romance, this book has some, but not until the very end, which follows along with the author’s style.

Reading this book transported me to another time. Pryor House came to life for me on the pages, and I felt like I was there. And it’s not just any house, but this one is just as much a character as Ansel, Cedric, Miss Peveler, and the other few characters.

And that brings me to my next point. There are very few characters present throughout this book. Not even many background characters, unlike other novels by this author. The focus is on Ansel and his self-discovery with the aid of Miss Peveler and the house. And while there is dialogue, the novel isn’t laden with it. Instead, there are beautiful descriptions which I have found is the standard for Hayden Thorne.

My only issue with the book is that it was too short. I wanted more! The epilogue was excellent because it filled in the gaps I was worried about, and it provided that small touch of romance I hoped for. Seeing Ansel come into himself and move beyond his horrible past was heartwarming.

If you’re looking for a novella with a lot of action, set Ansel of Pryor House aside for a rainy day, but definitely come back to it because you don’t want to miss out. I look forward to more books in this style from the author.

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5 Stars, Audio Book, David Levithan, Full Cast Audio, Narration Rating, Narration Rating - 5 Stars, Reviewed by Lisa, Young Adult

Audio Review: Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan – Performed by Nicholas Robideau and the Full Cast Family

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Title: Boy Meets Boy

Author: David Levithan

Narrator:: Nicholas Robideau and the Full Cast Family

Publisher: Full Cast Audio

Run Time: 5 Hours, 56 Minutes

At a Glance: I’ve never heard an audiobook performance like this, and don’t know that I’ll ever hear another like it again.

Reviewed By: Lisa

Blurb: What if you went to a school where it was actually all right to be who you really are? That’s the enchanting place David Levithan has created in his highly acclaimed first novel. But even if the gay kids and the straight kids all get along just fine, even if it’s all right for the quarterback to be a cross dresser named Infinite Darlene and the cheerleaders to ride Harleys into the pep rally, the road to true love is still a strange and winding path, as Paul discovers when he meets the boy of his dreams. Charming, funny, delightful, and utterly heartwarming, this YA novel speaks with clarity and depth about our need to love and be loved.

Dividers

Review: David Levithan’s Boy Meets Boy is the first LGBT Young Adult novel I read after discovering there was such a thing as gay fiction. I had never read anything like it before and have never read a book like it since. Now, after having listened to the audio performance of the book by Nicholas Robideau and the Full Cast Family, I can also say I’ve never listened to anything like it before and doubt I’ll ever listen to anything like it again.

The audio version of this extraordinary novel is the closest a book can get to a movie without the enhanced visual of film, but that in no way means there’s an absence of imagery in its telling. David Levithan’s wordsmithing coupled with the vocal performances of this delightful cast offers a wealth of enchantment for the reader’s/listener’s imagination. While I never cease to be impressed by a single narrator’s use of accents and cadence to delineate characters during an audio reading, I must say there’s nothing quite like hearing an entire crew of vocal actors bring a book to life, complete with piano accompaniment at just the right moments.

Paul, who is the narrator of his story, has known from the moment he became aware of himself as an autonomous being that he’s gay. It wasn’t, however, until his kindergarten teacher wrote on his progress report, “PAUL IS DEFINITELY GAY AND HAS A GOOD SENSE OF SELF,” that he knew there was a word for his liking boys instead of girls. Paul was gleeful to share his new-found knowledge with his parents, of course, and his parents and kindergarten teacher were equally cheerful in their support of little Paul, encouraging his already well-grounded confidence in the fact that he was a-okay.

From kindergarten through the earliest years of elementary school, when Paul became the first openly gay third grade class president, running on the campaign slogan, “VOTE FOR ME … I’M GAY!”, and on into his sophomore year of high school, we follow Paul and his two best friends, Tony and Joni, as they grow up, and, sadly, begin to grow apart as teenage trials encroach upon them to spoil the nirvana of their childhoods.

Joni has a boyfriend, Paul’s working on getting a boyfriend, and poor Tony just has to hide the fact he’s gay from his ultra-religious parents. While these scenarios aren’t at all new in YA fiction, the magic Levithan weaves in the story to keep it fresh and vibrant is creating a high school unlike any you’ve ever witnessed before. It’s a place where Infinite Darlene (portrayed to campy perfection!) is the quarterback of the football team and also happens to be the Homecoming Queen; the cheerleaders all ride Harleys at the pep rallies; and the LGBT and straight kids don’t clash over being LGBT or straight. They clash over things like love and jealousy and the random angst of simply being a teenager.

In a meet-cute worthy of a Hepburn/Grant film, Paul and Noah’s chance encounter in a book store leads to little but an exchange of names and the discovery that Noah’s a new student at Paul’s school, and from there, Paul makes it his mission to find this beautiful new student, to get to know him better, and to hopefully make Noah his. Paul’s efforts are sweet and sincere, everything this book is, and more.

Synaesthesia plays its role in Boy Meets Boy not only in the audio performance for the reader but also as Noah teaches Paul to paint music: melodies and lyrics becoming colors and shapes. There are made up languages shared by friends, a love of words meant to fire the emotions and inspire the imagination, which carry the reader through the trials and tribulations Paul encounters on his way to boyfriend-dom. His ex, Kyle, wants Noah back now that Kyle has finally accepted he’s bisexual and realizes he let Paul go for all the wrong reasons. And Paul, being Paul, wants nothing more than for Kyle not to feel bad for arsing things up, stepping headlong into one of the classic blunders of teenage wrong-headedness—kissing Kyle to try and make him feel better.

With a fellow student laying odds on Paul’s love life—A.) he’ll end up with Noah, B.) he’ll end up with Kyle, C.) he’ll end up making a complete mess of everything and fall into the abyss of the unloved and unwanted—we follow Paul through a charming, clever, comedic and touching story filled with wacky and wonderful characters who populate this splendiferous and singular world Levithan built with his colorful and charismatic storytelling. If you love Young Adult fiction at all, strap on your sense of humor and read Boy Meets Boy. If you love Young Adult fiction and audiobooks, you absolutely can’t go wrong listening to Nicholas Robideau and the Full Cast Family bring Paul and his co-stars to life. Both the story and the performances of this book are stellar, casting their spell on us on the way to Paul’s happy ending.

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4 Stars, Alex Pendragon, Erotica, Loose Id, New Adult, Reviewed by Lana, Young Adult

Review: Jock Auction by Alex Pendragon

Title: Jock Auction

Author: Alex Pendragon

Publisher: Loose Id

Pages/Word Count: 264Pages

At a Glance: There were some things in Jock Auction that rubbed me the wrong way, but the writing and character development is good.

Reviewed By: Lana

Blurb: Sexy high-school footballer Kyle has two big blind-spots: first, he assumes he’s straight, and second, he doesn’t know quite how much his shy, geeky classmate Craig lusts after him. When the two are thrown together after a charity slave auction, however, how incredible the sex is turns out to be hard to miss. Problem is, Kyle’s awakened sexuality is on a collision course with his hot teammates, and not everyone in his conservative Midwestern town is quite so open-minded.

When Kyle unexpectedly gets up close and personal with another closeted jock, and realizes in the process that there’s more than just teenage hormones between himself and Craig, he’s faced with a choice: walk away, or fight for what until now he didn’t know he wanted. Meanwhile, Craig is learning that there’s more to his appetite for athletic guys than playing the meek submissive, and Kyle’s mea-culpa arrives right on time for him to explore some of the kinks he never knew he had.

Hard bodies meet even harder truths as two very different guys discover that, while you can buy someone’s time, you still have to win their heart.

Dividers

Review: Jock Auction is a hot and dirty tale of awakening teenage sexuality, and discovering who you are and what you want. This is just the type of story that I love to read. I enjoyed it, but one little thing kept me from total immersion.

The action takes place in high school. A jock and a twink get thrown together at a charity event. The twink, Craig, buys Kyle, the jock, and you can probably guess the rest. Craig confesses his attraction to straight boy Kyle, and Kyle, just for fun, decides to play a little with Craig. Kyle doesn’t do it maliciously, just for a laugh, but the tables get turned and he realizes that he likes what he and Craig are doing.

The scene started out with the boys talking, and then Craig kissing Kyle. Kyle is not averse to it, even taking it further because he gets turned on by Craig being turned on. Their interactions from the beginning are hot and steamy, as you can just imagine what two horny eighteen-year-olds can get up to. This was all good for me, but then it went a bit south. Now, here’s the big BUT—there was not once any mention of condoms or any talk about using them or not using them. I get that this is fiction and there shouldn’t be any preaching or downers, i.e., stopping and putting on a condom, but for me this just didn’t work. These boys were not a couple, it was their first time, and to me, there was absolutely no reality in no condoms. To top it off, later on Kyle has sex with another boy and again, no condoms and no mention of them. This just rubbed me the wrong way, and I was cringing throughout the story. This totally broke the fantasy for me.

Apart from that, the writing was very good, good character development and good supporting cast. The sex is hot and borders on some Dom/sub stuff. But again, the whole condom thing was a big distraction for me.

Jock Auction is not a typical coming-out story. It’s worth a try if you’re in the mood for something different.

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4 Stars, Hayden Thorne, Queerteen Press, Reviewed by Jennifer, Young Adult

Review: Banshee by Hayden Thorne

Title: Banshee

Author: Hayden Thorne

Publisher: Queerteen Press/JMS Books

Pages/Word Count: 228 Pages

At a Glance: Fantastic narrator and a terrifying ghost that kept me awake at night.

Reviewed By: Jennifer

Blurb: Nathaniel Wakeman is the only child and son of a modest vicar, who lives in the quiet and idyllic confines of the Isle of Wight. When his maternal grandfather dies, Natty’s mother reconnects with her estranged and wealthy brother and his family in hopes of raising Natty up in the world, to urge him to go beyond the humble life he’s always known.

Though his cousins show no particular regard for him, one of them, at least, lures him away from his retired life and introduces him to the world—and to the son of a baron from Somerset, Miles Lovell. Natty gradually finds himself drawn toward the older and worldlier gentleman and returns to his father’s vicarage a changed young man. He also seems to have attracted the attention of a ghost, one that has followed him back to the island.

Haunted by a woman in white, who seems to appear when he’s at his weakest, Natty struggles with his own nature and with his family’s increasing difficulties. His mother is distant, hiding things from him as she never has, and his father is aging before his eyes. Quarrels between his parents grow more and more frequent, and Natty’s increasing terror of familiar and beloved footpaths add to the spiraling tension at home.

While Natty tries to find his place in the world, his childhood is crumbling around him, and he becomes more and more convinced that his persistent ghost is a harbinger of doom.

Dividers

Review: It’s incredibly rare for me to find a book that actually scares me. The traditional horror novels just don’t do it for me. Stephen King? Nope. Read the books that scared my coworkers, and I didn’t even bat an eye and slept just fine at night. In fact, before this book, there was only one other novel that scared me enough to make me want to sleep completely buried under covers with the lights on.

Banshee is not about the traditional Irish banshee most readers may be familiar with, but don’t let that put you off. Hayden Thorne has written a fantastic novel here, with a wonderful narrator, Nathaniel, and a plot that will leave you in suspense until the very last page.

Nathaniel, or Natty, as his family calls him, is a seventeen year old boy living in the nineteenth century. He is slowly awakening to his sexuality after meeting his cousin’s friend, Miles Lovell, a few years his senior. Given the time period, I didn’t have much hope for them to be honest, but the slow dawning of knowledge was a breath of fresh air in a genre that usually has teens falling in love quickly. It takes Natty most of the book to discover who he is and just what it is he wants. And I liked that.

The historical setting is breathtaking. I was there with Natty and his friends as he traversed the footpaths, and whenever the ghost made her appearance, I was breathless with him. My heart pounded, and I felt as if the two of us were running in fear together.

As for the ghost, the description of the spirit and its mannerisms, or lack thereof, was what terrified me so much. It just stands there, watching Natty. To me that’s more terrifying than if it actually moves. Kudos to the author for keeping me up so late at night. I honestly was afraid to look in the dark corners of my room for fear of seeing the spirit pulled from the pages. And I couldn’t sleep with any part of my body hanging off my bed, afraid that I, like Natty, would feel the icy tips of her fingers trailing across her skin.

I highly recommend this book. Even if you’re not a fan of young adult novels, you really should give this one a chance. It’s not your typical YA romance—in fact there’s very little romance to begin with—and it’s just so well written readers of all ages will love it.

Just make sure you read it during the day.

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5 Stars, Hayden Thorne, Queerteen Press, Reviewed by Jennifer, Young Adult

Review: The Twilight Gods by Hayden Thorne

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Title: The Twilight Gods

Author: Hayden Thorne

Publisher: Queerteen Press/JMS Books

Pages/Word Count: 200 Pages

At a Glance: A beautiful story that absolutely must be read.

Reviewed By: Jennifer

Blurb: London during the Great Exhibition of 1851 is a new world of technological advances, eye-popping inventions, and glimpses of exotic treasures from the East. For fifteen-year-old Norris Woodhead, it’s a time of spectral figures mingling with London’s daily crowds and an old rectory in a far corner of the English countryside — a great house literally caught in time, where answers to curious little mysteries await him.

Confined by his family’s financial woes, Norris suffers a lonely and unsatisfying time till the day he (and only he) notices “shadow-people” in the streets. Then a strange widow appears, rents a vacant room in the house, and takes him under her wing. She becomes his guardian, slowly revealing those shadows’ secrets, Norris’ connection with them, and the life-altering choices he has to face in the end.

The Twilight Gods is a retelling of the Native American folktale, “The Girl Who Married a Ghost.” Set in Victorian England, it’s an alternative perspective on a gay teen’s coming-out process, with Norris’ journey of self-discovery couched in magical and supernatural terms and imagery.

Dividers

Review: I love Victorian literature, and right now I’m actually studying it for a graduate course I am in, so reading this novel by Hayden Thorne featuring that period and including the Great Exhibition was timely. And, I must say this novel is incredibly well researched.

That said I’m not sure how to review this book. I absolutely loved it, and that’s the problem. The book was so good I want to gush and gush for days about it, but at the same time I want other readers to discover how wonderful it is for themselves, because there’s so much wonder and beauty in this young adult novel.

Norris is a sympathetic character. The youngest of four, his family struggles financially. Between his older brother trying to save enough to propose to the girl he loves, to his older sisters squabbling every chance they can get and trying to outdo each other on the marriage market, Norris is often forgotten. In fact, he’s so forgotten he doesn’t even go to school; instead, the family has one of their tenants tutoring Norris with old books that are falling apart. And Norris just wants an education. He wants to learn science so he can properly tinker with things and make them work.

One day he starts to see the shadow-people. I’ll admit I had an idea of what they were at first, and I thought it was brilliant. I become so engaged with the story and with Norris attempting to discover who they were that I stayed up until 4AM to finish. I’m so glad I didn’t have to work the next day. I just couldn’t put the book down.

Mrs. Cavendish is a mysterious character, and I loved her for everything she did for Norris. She takes him under her wing and helps him learn about himself. And then there’s Tom. I loved Tom. The rectory is such a wonderful place; I wish it existed because even today, in the twenty-first century, there are people who need it.

While beautiful, I thought the ending was heartbreaking. The choices Norris must make are difficult, and while perfect for the nineteenth century, sadly they are choices people still feel they must make today. It broke my heart and I sobbed through the last few pages. It was perfectly bittersweet.

I don’t want to say any more, for fear of giving away too much. But I will say this. I will be buying a paperback copy of The Twilight Gods for my classroom and for my personal shelves. I adored it and want my students to read it, too.

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4 Stars, Hayden Thorne, Queerteen Press, Reviewed by Jennifer, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Urban Fantasy, Young Adult

Review: Wollstone by Hayden Thorne

Title: Wollstone

Author: Hayden Thorne

Publisher: Queerteen Press (JMS Books)

Pages/Word Count: 236 Pages

At a Glance: Beautiful descriptions in what feels like a timeless setting, but a little slow paced for me.

Reviewed By: Jennifer

Blurb: The moment Emil Gogean sets foot inside Wollstone Academy’s fairy tale-like campus, he realizes his freshman year in high school is bound to be a very strange one. The school itself, a uniquely romanticized boarding school for boys, boasts remarkable elements that appear to be deliberate — as though a hidden power has chosen woodland details, a chapel ruin, and school masters who seem to hearken back to a long-gone age, with a clear purpose in mind.

When strange things begin to happen to Emil, an unnerving warning from his late grandmother returns to haunt him. A warning about Emil attracting the attention of the king of the dead.

Strange faces in wood patterns and mullioned windows. The apparition of a boy among the trees. The unfathomable feeling of sadness permeating the idyllic environment. Emil gradually learns that Wollstone is more than just a school, that the answers to a three-hundred-year-old mystery surrounding a tragic romance lie in the ruined stones of a small chapel and in Nature itself. And that Emil, whose appearance in school has set certain wheels in motion, will have to place himself at the mercy of three mysterious students if he wishes to learn the truth about Wollstone, the boy lost in the woods, and himself.

Dividers

Review: If there is an author who writes more beautiful descriptions of a setting, I would be hard-pressed to find them. I had known of Hayden Thorne for several years before finally having the opportunity to sit down and read one of the author’s novels. Wollstone is a beautifully descriptive novel of an all boys school in the middle of a woodland.

It’s clear that this author excels at setting. Everything is so vivid I felt as if I were there with Emil on campus, following him as he wandered the paths, found the chapel, and explored the woods. I often found myself sighing, wishing a place like that existed for me to explore. Especially the ruined chapel on the school grounds. How amazing would it be to have something like that to explore?

That said, I did have difficulty with some of the novel. It is slower paced, which isn’t a bad thing, but it’s not what I’m used to. I’m used to teen novels that have a faster pace to the plot. Thorne does not rush and lets the story unfold slowly. Sometimes a little too slowly, though it also invokes a timeless quality. There were several times when I forgot exactly when the story took place. It’s supposed to be the present, I think, but at the same time I felt as if I were in the fifties, or sometime else entirely. It could have been the descriptions of the uniforms and the attitude of the teachers, but that’s the effect it gave. And given the surroundings of the school, I think that was the author’s intent.

While I liked the characters, at times I struggled with the dialogue, which there isn’t much of. Emil is often alone—which is fine, I like characters who are introspective or loners—but he talks to himself a lot. There were times when he was muttering or saying things in situations where I felt that it just seemed strange for a fifteen-year-old boy to be saying or doing. That said, things also aren’t always what they appear. As the story progressed it did start to make sense to me, but it wasn’t until about halfway through the book that I caught on to things. I won’t give away more than that, because I don’t want to ruin anything, but the details are slowly revealed if you pay attention to everything, from Emil’s thoughts of his grandmother to the books he reads. However, some of the other characters also had similar dialogue that to me felt dated. As a teacher, I raised my eyebrow at some of their choice phrases, as I’ve never heard any of my boys say anything like Emil, Jamie, Victor, or the other boys. But, that could have also been the author’s choice to keep teenage vulgarities out of the writing.

That said, I did enjoy the novel. It was slow moving, but it brought me to a different time and place. I was transported onto a beautiful campus I wish I was a part of. Also, the cover? Absolutely gorgeous. Not that it influenced me or anything, but it’s exactly how I pictured the chapel to be. Whoever did the cover got it perfect.

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5 Stars, Cody Kennedy, Harmony Ink Press, Reviewed by Sammy, Young Adult

Release Day Review: Slaying Isidore’s Dragons by C. Kennedy

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Title: Slaying Isidore’s Dragons

Author: C. Kennedy

Publisher: Harmony Ink Press

Pages/Word Count: 350 Pages

At a Glance: I highly recommend this novel to you.

Reviewed By: Sammy

Blurb: Follow the burgeoning love of two teens during the worst year of their lives. Irish-born Declan David de Quirke II is the son of two ambassadors, one Irish and one American. He is ‘out’ to his parents but to no one else. French-born Jean Isidore de Sauveterre is also the son of two ambassadors, one Catalan and one Parisian. His four half brothers have been told to cure him of his homosexuality. Both teens have lost a parent in a London car bombing.

Declan and Isidore meet at the beginning of their senior year at a private academy in the United States. Declan is immediately smitten with Isidore and becomes his knight in shining armor. Isidore wants to keep what is left of his sanity and needs Declan’s love to do it. One is beaten, one is drugged, one is nearly raped, one has been raped. They are harassed by professors and police, and have fights at school, but none of it compares to running for their lives. When the headmaster’s popular son attempts suicide and someone tries to assassinate Declan’s mother, they are thrown headlong into chaos, betrayal, conspiracy, allegations of sexual coercion, even murder. And one of them carries a secret that may get them killed.

Dividers

Review: Occasionally an author will leave an afterword, a final note of sorts for the reader to digest and more fully understand what they have just read, experienced. In Slaying Isidore’s Dragons, the closing statement by Cody Kennedy defines the reason for why he writes this particular story. Not only is it a list of resources available to those who possibly are enduring, or have endured, abuse, but it is also a love letter of sorts. Kennedy reminds victims of abuse that life can be different, that healing can take place, and that there is a better life waiting for them. He challenges us to get involved and not stand by when we suspect or see abuse taking place. This is the overriding theme in this novel, and it is wrapped in a lush story of love that takes an unflinching look at how abuse may come in many forms.

The story is Isidore’s yet without his Declan, we would be discussing a very different kind of novel altogether. Enduring years of abuse by an uncaring and selfish father, and four evil half brothers, Isidore finally meets someone who can stand up to the impenetrable wall of pain and loneliness that has been methodically built around his life, and dares to defy those who have carefully erected and maintained it. Being a diplomat’s kid himself, Declan understands the system and can find ways around it with the help of his remarkable mother, Sorcha.

Together these two will sweep into Isidore’s life and create a safe haven for him, manipulating his father into giving them temporary custody of his son, and allowing Isidore to live an abuse free life for the first time. But life is never that simple, and there are other forces at work who seek to destroy Isidore, or, at the very least, return him to the hell he endured at a mental institute when he attempted to end a life that was marked by near constant rape and beatings. Nowhere seems safe for either boy or their close friends. Espionage, intrigue, assassinations all plague every step the boys take, and Declan finds himself assuring Isidore over and over that he will do all in his power to keep him safe.

In a book of this length and scope, a one-paragraph synopsis barely touches the surface of the intricate plot Slaying Isidore’s Dragons is built on. Suffice it to say this novel is a page-turner from beginning to end. From the fast paced action and the disturbing unfolding of Isidore’s history, this is a story that grips you from the first page on, and never lets up. The true strength of this book lies in the way in which the writer unflinchingly exposes abuse and what it does to the heart, soul and mind of its victim. However, as it takes a searing look at the life of the abused, we are reminded page after page that abuse does not define Isidore, it does not sully the compassionate, loving person he is, it does not define who he is or diminish him whatsoever. Rather, it highlights Isidore’s amazing strength and endurance, his bravery and intelligence.

Declan “comes out” in this novel to his friends and the world community. His mother has always supported who he is, but living life as ambassador and son has made her caution Declan to be discreet. In many ways, meeting Isidore teaches Declan what true honor and courage are, and allows him to boldly state who he is and whom he loves. Each time Declan stands up to a bully in this novel, he pushes back the walls surrounding Isidore and gives him room to breathe, creating a safe haven where he can find his strength and begin to heal. Their relationship is a thing of true beauty, and watching it unfold in the chapters of this novel reminds us of how sweet first love can be.

While Slaying Isidore’s Dragons is most assuredly a young adult novel, never does it flinch away from the sexual aspect of the young lovers’ lives. While there is limited on-page experiences, those moments are written with such care and tenderness that one almost weeps at the first time experiences for these boys. Always attempting to be realistic, there are varying responses from the parents of these gay young men who choose, or are forced by circumstances, to come out during this story, some accepting and loving, others harsh and hateful. Not once can it be said that Slaying Isidore’s Dragons wraps itself in anything less than reality. These are flesh and blood characters who repeatedly must pull from extraordinary reserves of strength in order to survive. As such, they love fiercely and completely.

Awww me, there is so much to this novel I have barely given you the beginning of why it is such an outstanding read. This bold, sweeping saga is a compelling story of redemptive love and healing grace. The people who inhabit Cody Kennedy’s Slaying Isidore’s Dragons are heartbreakingly real and heroic, and their story is so important. I highly recommend this novel to you. It is one that will impact your life in so many ways and remind you that we must all be dragon slayers.






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5 Stars, Harmony Ink Press, Raine O'Tierney, Reviewed by Sammy, Young Adult

Review: I’ll Always Miss You by Raine O’Tierney

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Title: I’ll Always Miss You

Author: Raine O’Tierney

Publisher: Harmony Ink Press

Pages/Word Count: 256 Pages

At a Glance: I can say with surety that I highly recommend I’ll Always Miss You.

Reviewed By: Sammy

Blurb: Isa Zaman might forgive his parents for taking in a friend’s son if only he wasn’t the most boring teenager in the universe. Macklin “Mackie” Cormack’s only interests are reading and the outdoors. Yeah, right. Isa’s convinced Mackie is either a pyro or a klepto. Plus, as a white kid, Mackie looks ridiculous in the Zamans’ Arab American household. Forced to share a bedroom, the boys keep butting heads until an absurd fight finally breaks the tension between them.

Isa’s just starting to figure life out: this new houseguest, his cultural identity, school, and even girls, when the entire family is uprooted from their home for reasons Isa can’t understand. They move from their tiny city apartment to a giant, old house in a small town, hours away from everything he’s ever known. Oh, and the new house? It’s probably haunted, or so says the blank-faced ten-year-old next door. As if things weren’t weird enough, Isa’s friendship with Mackie suddenly takes a strange turn down a path Isa’s not sure he’s ready to follow. It turns out Mackie Cormack isn’t nearly as boring as Isa once imagined.

Dividers

Review: In my experience, it is rare to find an adult author who can fully and convincingly capture the rhythm and voice of a teenage boy or girl. It takes remarkable observation skills to embody characters with that certain something that makes them believably young and yet old beyond their years. It is more than a snarky or affected, indifferent tone that is called for; it is an entire way of thinking, an emotional spectrum that is rife with confusion, self-doubt, and a roller coaster of emotions. Raine O’Tierney is able to capture all that and more. Her story, I’ll Always Miss You, is a coming of age tour de force that left me completely satisfied and eager to read more by this incredible author.

Isa is on the cusp of age fifteen, and is at odds with his mother on the best of days. Surrounded by older and younger sisters, he feels a keen sense of need to rediscover his mid-eastern heritage. His parents have been discussing adopting another child, so it is quite a shock to Isa when they inform him there will be a boy coming to live with them—a sixteen-year-old boy named Macklin. Mackie has been bounced in and out of foster homes for several years. His mother is unfit (read crazy), and his father is in the military.

There is a distant connection between Isa’s family and Mackie’s, and so they agree to foster him indefinitely. Immediately Isa feels real stirrings of jealousy and anger over being left out of the decision—one that would give him not only a roommate but apparently someone he would have to befriend whether he wanted to or not.

To say that the beginning of their time together was rocky is an understatement. However, despite the rough beginning, these two boys become friends, and then something more. When the family moves closer to Isa’s older sister, they buy a house that has quite a reputation. Apparently it is haunted and sure enough, before long strange things begin to happen at Isa’s new home. The story now takes a decidedly sinister turn, weaving a ghost story into the slow building first love trope. The two story lines work so very well together, and the writing at this point exceeds what was already an interesting and entertaining story. With quirky and surprisingly compassionate secondary characters, the novel goes hurtling toward conclusion, and it’s exciting ending leaves one just a bit overwhelmed in all the good ways.

I found myself respecting and appreciating the pacing of this novel. Isa had such doubts and the idea that he may be bisexual, or even possibly gay, did not come swiftly or easily to him. Mackie was so stalwart and forgiving. He hid so much of himself and reluctantly let Isa in, always keeping an eye toward the door and the idea that this home may not be his to keep for very long. Watching this love story unfold against the backdrop of teenage angst and self-discovery was so compelling. The subtle introduction of the mystery elements and the ongoing ghost story added just the right amount of creepiness to give this story an interesting twist.

I was so impressed by this story. I felt there was such a level of integrity in the characters that it made this story completely realistic and engaging. I can say with surety that I highly recommend Raine O’Tierney’s I’ll Always Miss You. It will no doubt be touted as one of the top YA stories of 2015.






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3.5 Stars, Harmony Ink Press, Reviewed by Pia, Robbie Michaels, Young Adult

Review: Caught by Robbie Michaels

Title: Caught

Author: Robbie Michaels

Publisher: Harmony Ink Press

Pages/Word Count: 190 Pages

At a Glance: Robbie Michaels did a really good job with this book

Blurb: Caught in the Act: Book One

When Adam’s father catches him in bed with his best friend, he rips Adam away from his comfortable life in the city and sends him to a farm in the country, hoping some hard work will “fix” him. Adam is supposed to work with Ben, a hostile young man who clearly doesn’t want him there, no matter how hard Adam tries to prove himself. When Ben kisses him, Adam is shocked and delighted but terrified his father will once again pull him away from a home he’s grown to like.

As their relationship grows in secret, Ben promises to stay with Adam when school starts to help him get to know the place and the people. However, Amelia, a young woman Ben had dated, latches on to Ben again. Adam is furious at being abandoned to fend for himself on his first day in a new school. A physical confrontation with Amelia lands Adam in trouble again, and his father’s involvement complicates all their lives. Betrayal and an uncertain future threaten Adam and Ben’s budding summer relationship.

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Review: Caught is a really enjoyable novel. I thought for a Young Adult book that it was well balanced, considering all the things that were going on.

While I liked Adam and thought he was a believable teenage boy who gets hurt by his best friend, is relocated to the middle of nowhere by his dad, and is used as free labour by the neighbours’, the jury is still out on Ben. He goes from mean and barely tolerating Adam, to totally in love and dedicated—until school starts and his ex-girlfriend comes back into the picture—then it’s like a whole new Ben. I got whiplash trying to keep up.

One of the things I thought was a bit off with this book was that after getting caught making out with a boy in his bedroom by his dad, Adam’s mum (who we hardly meet) doesn’t seem to have much of an opinion on what’s happening. Another issue is Adam’s dad: if you’re going to move yourself and your son halfway across the country because you don’t want your son to be gay, and you feel you’ve let him down and not been the best dad you could have been, then wouldn’t you actually spend time with him and not just fob him off to the neighbours’ place?

One thing I loved about this book is that even though it’s a YA novel and the sex scenes aren’t overly graphic, it still manages to be kinda sexy. I think it’s awesome that Adam and Ben switch around their sexual roles so often.

I think Robbie Michaels did a really good job with this book, and I can’t wait for the next one.






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5 Stars, New Adult, Reviewed by Jules, Rose Christo, Self-Published, Young Adult

Review: Gives Light by Rose Christo

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15810499Title: Gives Light (Books One through Four)

Author: Rose Cristo

Publisher: Self-Published

Pages/Word Count: 285 Pages

At a Glance: Some of the best YA I’ve read in the genre

Blurb: “Skylar is my name, tragically.”

Sixteen-year-old Skylar is witty, empathetic, sensitive–and mute. Skylar hasn’t uttered a single word since his mother died eleven years ago, a senseless tragedy he’s grateful he doesn’t have to talk about.

When Skylar’s father mysteriously vanishes one summer afternoon, Skylar is placed in the temporary custody of his only remaining relative, an estranged grandmother living on an Indian reservation in the middle of arid Arizona.

Adapting to a brand new culture is the least of Skylar’s qualms. Because Skylar’s mother did not die a peaceful death. Skylar’s mother was murdered eleven years ago on the Nettlebush Reserve. And her murderer left behind a son.

And he is like nothing Skylar has ever known.

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Review: It’s going to be difficult to sum up my feelings on these books. Part of me wants to be all fangirly and crazy…GIVES LIGHT IS AMAAAAAAAAAZING!!! And part of me wants to be more serious…Gives Light is an important piece of literature that is at once a beautiful coming-of-age love story, and also an extremely thoughtful book dealing with several pressing Native American issues. Hopefully I’ll be able to find a balance between the two. ;)

The series, initially meant to be a trilogy, I believe, now contains six books. I’m mainly going to be discussing the first book, Gives Light, but will touch on the other two in the original trilogy, Looks Over and St. Clair, and then briefly on the fourth book, Why the Star Stands Still.

I’m gonna say it again – Gives Light is amazing. I was immediately taken with our hero, sixteen-year-old Skylar St. Clair. In Skylar, Rose Christo has created one of the most positive, loveable, funny, down-to-earth characters I have ever read. Sky’s attitude, wit, and zest for life are unparalleled, especially for someone who has had to overcome so much adversity, perhaps worst of all being the fact that he is mute. He runs at everything head-on, and won’t be brought down. I love him. Plain and simple.

The first book deals with the mystery surrounding Sky’s missing father, his reintroduction to his Granny, who he hasn’t seen in eleven years (since his mother’s death on the reservation), and learning about the ways of his people, the Shoshone. He makes some wonderful friends along the way, including the most unlikely friend of all, the son of the man who killed his mother and took away his voice. Rafael Gives Light.

Rafael and Skylar are perfect together. Their friendship is so easygoing, so natural. Sky has never felt truly comfortable or like himself around anyone but his dad – until Rafael. Rafael knows what Skylar is thinking without him having to work to explain, and he gets Sky in a way that no one else does. Personality-wise, though, they are veritable opposites. Rafael is as brooding and sharp-edged as Skylar is positive and relaxed. One perfectly complimenting the other…the darkness and the light.

Throughout the story, Rafael and Sky support each other, protect each other, and learn what it means to be gay and to be falling in love for the first time. Their love story is beyond beautifully written. One constant through all of the books is how pure and true their connection and love for each other are, and how perfectly their interactions are written. Whether it’s a swoony love scene, or an argument, or some bit of witty banter – because God, are they funny – Rose Christo nails it.

Gives Light is also a fascinating history lesson. Another constant throughout the series is the amount of knowledge the author imparts. From the laws and the history behind them, to the rich culture and customs of not only the Shoshone, but other plains tribes, she paints an incredibly vivid picture. I can see the Nettlebush reservation so clearly in my head. The grotto where Sky, Rafael, Annie, Aubrey, and Zeke hang out, the badlands, the firepit where the nightly dinners take place…they are all perfectly etched in my mind. The imagery in this series is unforgettable.

The next two books, Looks Over and St. Clair, continue on with the trials and tribulations of the tribe, as well as the maturing relationship between Sky and Rafael. The storyline with Sky’s dad moves to the front burner, and we see the kids moving into their final year of high school. The angst also ramps up as the story moves along, especially in St. Clair. And I found the fourth book, Why the Star Stands Still, to be fairly dark overall, though it was nice to see Sky and Rafael all grown up.

There are so many fabulous moments in these books, too many to count. I definitely got good use out of my Kindle’s highlighter! I can’t recommend this series enough. Some of the best YA I’ve read in the genre. These books, and these characters, are going to stay with me for a long time.






You can buy Gives Light, Looks Over, St. Clair, and Why the Star Stands Still via the following links:

Gives Light – Amazon US | Gives Light – Barnes & Noble | Gives Light – Smashwords

Looks Over – Amazon US | Looks Over – Barnes & Noble | Looks Over – Smashwords

St. Clair – Amazon US | St. Clair – Barnes & Noble | St. Clair – Smashwords

Why the Star Stands Still – Amazon US | Why the Star Stands Still – Barnes & Noble | Why the Star Stands Still – Smashwords

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5 Stars, Agatha Bird, Harmony Ink Press, Paranormal Romance, Reviewed by Jennifer, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Urban Fantasy, Young Adult

Review: Recipe for Magic by Agatha Bird

Title: Recipe for Magic

Author: Agatha Bird

Publisher: Harmony Ink Press

Pages/Word Count: 64 Pages

At a Glance: A wonderful fantasy with snarky teens and a well-developed world

Blurb: Connor Roth is a fire mage who’s going places. He’s powerful, popular, and he has a plan. But his plan for fame and glory is disrupted when the Oracle sticks him with Landyn Glendower for Senior Trial. This is an act unprecedented in their school’s history. Landyn is a water mage, and everyone knows mages with opposing elements can’t work magic together.
Connor is left with a choice: work alone and fail or swallow his pride and work with Landyn to find a way to combine their magic in a display the Archmages will never forget—if they don’t get kicked out of school in the process.

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Review:This review is for a young adult title from Harmony Ink Press, an imprint of Dreamspinner Press. That said: I could read an entire series with Connor and Landyn. This 64 page novella is NOWHERE NEAR long enough, and yet despite this, what is on the page is wonderful. The world is well developed and understandable, and the characters are unforgettable. Connor and Landyn are distinct and have their own voices. Both have strong personalities, just as strong as the fire and water magic they control.

I’ve never read Agatha Bird before but just from this book, I can tell she has skill. For example, all of the snide comments and riffs the characters give each other fit their type of magic, and it’s never forced. No, it fits seamlessly in the story. I laughed so many times and highlighted more of this book than is strictly necessary. One of my favorite scenes is between Landyn and Connor fighting about being paired together. They’re bickering, of course, and after Connor asks how Landyn would feel about having no eyebrows, Landyn returns with this gem: “How do you feel about toilets exploding on you at every opportunity for the rest of your life?” HA! Maybe it’s my juvenile sense of humor (I am a teacher), but I was rolling.

They often refer to their elements when cursing each other or their emotions. Connor mentions the “scorched earth of his hope.” Dugan calls Landyn a “puddle-licker.” Little details like these just made the book so much more awesome. I really wish I had written this book. I just finished it and I already want to go back in and read it again.

Now, a plea to the author: Can we please have a series with these two, post trial? Because I will be the first one to buy the books.

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5 Stars, Hayden Thorne, Queerteen Press, Reviewed by Lisa, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Urban Fantasy, Young Adult

Review: Henning Book Two: Prince of Wintergrave by Hayden Thorne

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Title: Henning Book 2: Prince of Wintergrave

Author: Hayden Thorne

Publisher: Queerteen Press

Pages/Word Count: 166 Pages

At a Glance: Suspense, plot twists, and even a few tears make this a great read

Blurb: Being a prince in a past life yields no benefits in the present, Henning has quickly learned. His concerned housemates have made themselves his official, overbearing chaperones, Ellery appears to despise him, and Henning’s limited movements slowly wear down his nerves. With his awakening process turning out to be more of a zombie-like stagger, the stakes rise inevitably as undead attacks not only increase in frequency, but also in danger levels.

Henning finds some relief in the company of Alan Scott — a handsome, smart young man he meets in a store, who displays an earnest interest in Henning. He gradually tears Henning’s heartbroken attention away from Ellery, offering him promises of happiness as can only be defined in a boy’s first love.

In the meantime, danger now spills over to threaten innocent civilians as they get dragged into monster attacks, making it difficult for Henning and his companions to fight back while raising troubling questions about the walls between worlds being torn down by dark magic. It also reveals the effect of a soul bond on Henning and Ellery’s awakening — that is, each boy’s awakening is affected by the other, and the mystery of how and why only get muddier.

As Henning and his companions scramble for answers, it’s a mad race against time when things happen that make them suspect Varian of crossing over to their world, searching for Henning.

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Review: One of the things that can be difficult about reading a Young Adult romance, as an adult, is keeping the world-weary cynicism we’ve accumulated over the years from casting a shadow over the memories of what it felt like to fall in love for the very first time, to get our very first kiss. One of the great things about an author who captures those things, not to mention the pangs of unrequited love, so well, is that in spite of the wisdom we’ve gained through those years, we can journey back to a time in our lives when everything seemed like it could be both amazing and the end of the world at the same time, and the only thing that mattered was being in the moment because the future was little more than a vague notion that didn’t exist much past tomorrow.

Henning Book Two: Prince of Wintergrave picks up with all the danger, action, and drama, not to mention teenage angst, that left us hanging when Book One ended. Henning Babkis, our hero prince, is every bit as engaging in the continuation of his story. An evil has crossed over from Wintergrave into this world, and has brought with him his undead minions to help capture young Henning for nefarious purposes. Hayden Thorne ups the tension in this storyline because we, the reader, know the danger Henning faces, and from whom, but we’re helpless to warn him to be careful, and it was so great getting emotionally invested and involved in the story in this way.

It’s refreshing to read a Young Adult novel that portrays positive adult role models along with its realistically portrayed teens. Henning may be orphaned but he has a family who has taken him in, and love and accept him unconditionally. He behaves like a teenager, too, which is somewhat of a pet peeve of mine—when young adult characters think, behave, and speak like adults rather than teens. Henning has concerns far greater than grades and guys, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t worry about those everyday things alongside the fact that his “Extreme Husband” doesn’t remember him. The fact there’s a villain who feasts on a human’s very essence, not to mention wanting to do bad things to Henning, adds an extra layer of intrigue to the story and keeps the page-turning at maximum eagerness to see what will happen next, which is why the book has earned the Page Turner designation.

Henning’s relationship with Ellery Thomas, the boy to whom Henning is soul bonded, unfolds slowly and in a believable way, with no quick fixes and, thankfully, no unrealistic promises of forever after at the end. These boys don’t fight every step of the way through this book for their relationship; they fight to save each other and those they love, the end result being, then, that they realize there is a “they” that might be worth working on too. It was the ideal resolution to their storyline.

In a surprise twist, one I didn’t expect until it happened during the climax of the book, is a poignant moment that didn’t merely bring tears to my eyes, they spilled and left be a bit of a weepy mess, something that doesn’t happen to me often enough to skip mentioning. When I’m that emotionally invested in a book, the author has done his or her job, and done it well.

With its strong characterizations, fantastical premise and brisk paced action, Henning, Books One and Two, are novels aimed at a teen audience that even a big kid at heart can love too. Henning was wrong about one thing, though—his life, what we got to see of it, didn’t make for a sucky memoir, and I’m so glad he shared it.

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5 Stars, Christopher Koehler, Harmony Ink Press, Reviewed by Jackie, Young Adult

Review: Poz by Christopher Koehler

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Title: Poz

Author: Christopher Koehler

Publisher: Harmony Ink Press

Pages/Word Count: 200 Pages

At a Glance: Highly Recommended

Blurb: Remy Babcock and Mikey Castelreigh are stalwart members of the Capital City Rowing Club’s junior crew, pulling their hardest to earn scholarships to rowing powerhouses like California Pacific. Just a couple of all-American boys, they face the usual pressures of life in an academic hothouse and playing a varsity sport. Add to that the stifling confines of the closet, and sometimes life isn’t always easy, even in the golden bubble of their accepting community. Because Remy and Mikey have a secret: they’re both gay. While Mikey has never hidden it, Remy is a parka and a pair of mittens away from Narnia.

Mikey has always been open about wanting more than friendship, but Remy is as uncomfortable in his own skin as he is a demon on the water. After their signals cross, and a man mistakes Remy for a college student, Remy takes the plunge and hooks up with him. After a furious Mikey cuts Remy off, Remy falls to the pressure of teenage life, wanting to be more and needing it now. In his innocence and naiveté, Remy makes mistakes that have life-long consequences. When Remy falls in the midst of the most important regatta of his life, he can only hope Mikey will be there to catch him when he needs it most.

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Review: Since I first found Christopher Koehler’s books on Amazon, I have been totally and completely hooked on them. I think I literally did an enthusiastic happy dance each and every time a new CalPac Crew book came out. I found out this year at GRL that there would be a new book in the universe the rowing books were set in. Needless to say, I was ecstatic.

The only thing that gave me any sort of pause on this book was the fact that it deals with sixteen to eighteen year olds. Some of the YA books seem to miss the mark with me, so I was a little torn. It turns out that I shouldn’t have worried, though, and I should have just trusted Mr. Koehler. This book was a winner from the first chapter all the way to the end.

This book truly does run the gamut of emotions, and I experienced every single one. I was happy, sad, mad, scared and even a little disbelieving at certain points. Jeremy “Remy” Babcock has what appears to be a good life. He has both parents, a twin brother who loves him, a best friend, and he is on a fast track for a full ride to college for rowing. The biggest problem, in his opinion, is the fact that he is gay and has no idea if his family will support him or not. Lucky for Remy, his best friend Mikey and his rowing crew support him, and for a while that was enough.

Mikey Castelreigh has never really been in the closet, but he also hasn’t taken out any ads in the local paper. Mikey is a year younger than Remy, but they have been friends for most of their lives. It was a relief for both boys when they realized they were gay. They were best friends who shared a difficult secret. How awesome is that? Well, it can be good and, as it turns out, it can be bad also.

Remy has kept Mikey firmly in the “friend zone”, but Mikey has been feeling much more than friendly towards him for a while. When Remy takes a closer look at his relationship with Mikey, he realizes that Mikey hasn’t really been in that friend zone for a while. Well, who knew? When Mikey and Remy try to discuss taking their relationship to the next level, the hotheadedness of youth leads to a severing of their friendship, which sends Remy on a downward spiral that results in him making life-altering mistakes.

Taking the journey of acceptance with Remy was not fun most of the time. When his parents are confronted with Remy’s mistakes, his sexuality and their role in his acting out, it makes for a very emotional time for everyone. From the beginning of the book I felt a connection with Remy. There was just something about this character that drew me in and begged for me to listen to his story. Throw in a bad relationship with some well-meaning but totally oblivious parents, a fraternal twin who is all you could hope for in a brother, and a best friend that will always be his most important person, and you end up with a book that will break your heart and have you laughing along at the same time.

As a parent, this book makes me realize that even as open and honest as I am with my kids, I could be inadvertently hurting more than helping at times. It seems at times that no matter how much we love and accept our children, we can do harm even while trying to protect them. Remy and his family both learned a hard lesson in this book, but I feel this is a topic that has to be covered with our youth.

I would highly recommend this book for any kid who feels like their parents just don’t understand them. I would hope they would get the message that when life pushes us, we don’t always have to push back harder. Sometimes we just bend so we can snap back and be stronger.






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3 Stars, Harmony Ink Press, Jay Jordan Hawke, Reviewed by Pia, Young Adult

Review: A Scout Is Brave by Jay Jordan Hawke

Title: A Scout Is Brave

Author: Jay Jordan Hawke

Publisher: Harmony Ink Press

Pages/Word Count: 180 Pages

At a Glance: A difficult book to get through, but ends well

Blurb: Sequel to Pukawiss The Outcast: The Two-spirit Chronicles: Book Two

In the months following the brutal murder of Matthew Shepard, fourteen-year-old Joshua, a half Native American boy, is new to a Boy Scout troop and spending a week camping in northern Wisconsin. The weaker kids in the troop soon realize Joshua is not afraid to stand up to the troop’s ruthless bullies. Joshua’s bravery and kindness is infectious, and the bullied Scouts quickly find their own inner strength.

Joshua, however, is plagued by self-doubt as he realizes he has feelings for Cody, the son of the troop’s harsh and puritanical Scoutmaster. The two discover they have more in common than Scouting as they share their deepest secrets and develop a close friendship. That friendship faces its greatest challenge as the homophobic bullies claim a “faggot” has “infected” their troop. As if struggling to come to terms with his sexuality while dealing with hatred and bigotry isn’t enough, Joshua discovers the camp holds another dark mystery, one that will make him summon all his courage and learn for the first time what it truly means to be brave.

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Review: In Jay Jordan Hawke’s <A Scout Is Brave, we meet up with Joshua Ishkoday, a 14 yr old part-Native American teenager who Is forced by his mother, a strict Protestant, to join the Boy Scouts as a way to discourage him from embracing his Native American heritage. It quickly becomes clear that Joshua isn’t intimidated by the bullies at camp, and is more than willing to stand up for himself and the younger/weaker kids in his troop.

I’m finding this book hard to review, and it was almost a DNF for me, not because it’s a bad book because it’s not, and I’m glad I read it, but I was just so disappointed with the adults in the story. Most of the grownups in this book, especially the scout leader, were immature bigots and just plain mean. I kind of wanted to shake them a little bit. I wouldn’t want my kids within a hundred yards of any of them, and I think it’s sad that not one adult was there for the guys. Another thing that kept tripping me up was that a lot of the time I forgot that Josh and his friends were in the 11-14 year old age range because they come across so confident, and the way they spoke made them sound years older than they were.

One of the things I really liked about A Scout Is Brave was how well Jay Jordan Hawke wrote the bullies and their gang. They were very believable and so was the dynamic of their group. I love that Josh sticks up for the younger kids and stands up to the bullies, and even when the bullies push back, Josh still doesn’t back down or shy away.

So, like I said, this book was really hard to read, but in the end I’m happy I did.








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4 Stars, Harmony Ink Press, Reviewed by Sammy, Sam Kadence, Young Adult

Review: Unicorns and Rainbow Poop by Sam Kadence

Title: Unicorns and Rainbow Poop

Author: Sam Kadence

Publisher: Harmony Ink Press

Pages/Word Count: 260 Pages

Rating: 4 Stars

Blurb: Ex-boyband member Dane Karlson is struggling to overcome an eating disorder and a body dismorphic disorder. Continue reading

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3 Stars, Harmony Ink Press, Reviewed by Jules, Young Adult, Zoe Lynne

Review: Carnival – Decatur by Zoe Lynne

Title: Carnival – Decatur

Author: Zoe Lynne

Publisher: Harmony Ink Press

Pages/Word Count: 202 Pages

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb: A Harmony Ink Press Young Adult Title

In a world of lights, music, fanfare and fun, there’s not a lot left to the mundane, and nothing can be truer for four special boys whose lives intertwine in a most unusual, unexpected way. They all have secrets and supernatural powers that set them apart from the average small town high-schooler. Continue reading

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