5 Stars, JP Kenwood, Literary Fiction, Reviewed by Lisa, Self-Published

Review: Games of Rome by JP Kenwood

Amazon

Amazon

Title: Games of Rome (Dominus: Book Two)

Author: JP Kenwood

Publisher: Self-Published

Pages/Word Count: 339 Pages

At a Glance: If you love a plotty and well written historical with plenty of intrigue and interesting characters, I can’t recommend this series enough.

Reviewed By: Lisa

Blurb: In this sequel to Dominus, Gaius Fabius Rufus, the victorious general of Rome’s brutal Dacian Wars, finds his loyalties and his affections pulled in different directions. Should he return to Rome and secure his claim to the imperial throne, or remain at his seaside villa and protect his pleasure slave, the fierce Dacian prince, Allerix? Retaliation for the murder of his beloved friend beckons him home, but his desire for justice could put both him and Allerix in mortal danger. As Gaius’s deceptions multiply, another tragedy strikes. Will the Lion of the Lucky IV Legion be forced to sacrifice his besotted heart to achieve his aspirations for supreme power?

Every moment since Allerix’s violent capture has tested the young prince’s fortitude and cunning. If he can kill the triumphant emperor who decimated his Dacian nation, revenge and immortality will be his glorious, everlasting rewards. But to realize his scheme for vengeance, he must deceive the Roman master whose body he lusts, the handsome, arrogant man whom he has grown to adore and admire. Can two former enemies—the conqueror and the conquered—find trust and true love, or are the consequences of war destined to tear them apart? Can Gaius and Allerix survive the perilous games of Rome?

Dominus is a plot-packed erotic m/m fantasy set in ancient Rome during the reign of Emperor Trajan (AD 98-117). Games of Rome is the second book in this alternative history saga—a tumultuous journey of forbidden love, humor, sex, friendship, political intrigue, deception, and murder.

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Review: I love when a book meets every one of my expectations. I love even more when a book exceeds them, and JP Kenwood’s Games of Rome does just that in every way. I was so impressed by the author’s Dominus, and now, that book’s sequel has proven Kenwood’s talent for solid storytelling, building beautiful settings, offering the perfect amount of historical context, creating engaging and layered characters, and tapping into readers’ emotions. I don’t mind admitting this book wrung a few tears from me either. When an author can accomplish that, forming those sorts of attachments between reader and characters, it makes the reading all the more rewarding.

Gaius Fabius Rufus, the Lion of the Lucky Fourth, is many things–Commander, war hero, husband, master, and friend and former lover of Lucius Petronius. Where this book exceeded my expectations is not only that the historical setting is portrayed in such a way that grounds the reader in what feels like an authentic Ancient Rome, but that the book also is a compelling mystery–both in the past and in modern day Rome. Lucius’s murder becomes a central focus of Games of Rome as we watch Gaius grieve, promise retribution, seek absolution while often seeming a walking contradiction–warm and tender one moment, cold and commanding the next, charming and sometimes cruel. Gaius is nothing if not a mercurial man whose arrogance seems to know no bounds–if I’m being honest, he isn’t always easy to like–but is tempered by that ability to charm. Where the book offers a bit of the unexpected, however, is in its supernatural elements. This was so unexpected that I wasn’t certain how I felt about it at first, but it was woven into the storyline in such a way that became integral to the plot, and now I can’t imagine how the story would have been better without it. As for the modern day mystery, this is being teased out in the tiniest of morsels, and this installment has only served to pique my interest even more. Archeology uncovers its share of secrets from the past, though it doesn’t always provide answers. There are definitely more questions than answers right now surrounding the pair of skeletons discovered at a dig site, and I haven’t a clue what JP Kenwood will reveal in further storylines. All I know for sure is that the author baited that hook and I’m hanging on gladly.

From the Emperor to clients to slaves, Gaius has a life filled with a variety of diverse people and experiences, all entrenched in the Ancient Roman culture and portrayed beautifully in these books. I don’t know much about this historical period but can say Kenwood seems to have not only an interest in but an affinity for the era. Ancient Rome dominated, it was the seat of some of the world’s most impressive art and architecture, and the Romans were responsible for many advancements in civilization at the time, but, to our sensibilities, it was also a barbaric time in which people sat in arenas and watched prisoners of war be eaten for sport. Slavery was commonplace – both household servants and pleasure slaves, male and female, owned by both Gaius and his wife, Marcia – and these books feature several prominent slaves in key roles. Sex, for Gauis, is a near sport in itself, where he can display his prowess and dominance and, with one slave in particular, his benevolence, and those moments of contradictory cruel tenderness come to the fore. Alle, a Dacian prince, war prize, and now, Gaius’s most prized possession, has captured his Dominus’s heart and has added another dimension of intrigue to the plot. Their relationship is fraught with complications and questions and potential hazards. Can either of these men manage not to betray each other? I can hardly see how it will be avoided and am anxious to see how their relationship progresses.

One of the more interesting characteristics of this series is Gaius’s marriage, as well as the social contradiction of men having sex with other men. There is no expectation of monogamy in the marriage as is certainly portrayed on Gaius’s part; nor is bisexuality strictly taboo. It was, however, unacceptable for men to engage in a sexual relationship with a peer. Same sex encounters were left strictly between slave and master, which is what adds such a poignant end note to Gaius and Lucius’s affair. I love that these books are informative but not in a textbook way. The author weaves these small details into the plot in a way that makes them all the more interesting, and, when it comes down to it, makes this series unique in the LGBT fiction genre.

If you love a plotty and well written historical with plenty of intrigue and interesting characters, I can’t recommend this series enough.

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You can buy Games of Rome here:

Amazon US

Amazon US

Smashwords

Smashwords

Barnes & Noble

Barnes & Noble

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5 Stars, Dreamspinner Press, John Goode, Short Story

Review: Save Yourself by John Goode

Small Gems

SaveYourselfTitle: Save Yourself (A Tales From Foster High Story)

Author: John Goode

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 35 Pages

At a Glance: Along with emotionally charged storylines that often have more than their fair share of pathos and grit, a John Goode title is nearly always guaranteed to make you think.

Reviewed By: Sammy

Blurb: Matt Wallace returns to Foster to be with his high school crush, Tyler. They’re finally together, but Tyler’s past is still a mystery to Matt. When the truth comes out, Matt is forced to decide if he can handle learning about what Tyler did, or if he’d be better off to cut ties and run.

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Review: Save Yourself is a sweet snippet for those who follow author John Goode’s Foster High Series. Veering away from the main characters of Kyle and Brad, Mr. Goode focuses this short story on two minor characters in that series, who have been further developed in a former novel, Taking Chances. One of them, Matt Wallace, played a rather significant role in the boys’ life over the course of the series.

A small town is a family in many ways. Some of those ways are life affirming, as when a community rallies around to protect one of its own, but some can be quite negative, especially when it includes grudges long held and secrets that carry such guilt that they threaten to destroy private lives. Matt Wallace carries such a burden and before long, his long-time crush turned new boyfriend will have to see the weight Matt carries and the very real fear that it will destroy their relationship before it ever has a chance to grow.

I have remarked time and again about the strength this author has when it comes to characterization and making his creations leap off the page with such clarity and realism that one could swear they have met those who people his novels in real life. Along with emotionally charged storylines that often have more than their fair share of pathos and grit, a John Goode title is nearly always guaranteed to make you think. His created world is one that pushes you to see just how messed up the real world is, but he also allows for it to be peopled with amazing characters. In allowing for both, this author gives us compelling stories that simply take our breath away and that always extend the hope that we, as a people, can be better than we truly may be.

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You can download Save Yourself for FREE here:

Dreamspinner Press

Dreamspinner Press

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B.R. Sanders, Giveaways, Self-Published

Guest Post and Giveaway: Ariah by B.R. Sanders

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The Novel Approach welcomes author B.R. Sanders today to chat world building in the just released Fantasy novel Ariah. Enjoy! And also be sure to click on the Google Form link to enter for the chance to win one of two e-copies of the book.

Good luck!

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Hi folks! I’m thrilled to appear at The Novel Approach! My second novel, Ariah, is officially released today, so it’s all very exciting all around. I have two ebooks cordoned off for a giveaway for readers here at The Novel Approach—all you need to do is sign up here: http://goo.gl/forms/xe2KMzM6aU! Mobi, Epub and PDF formats are all available! The giveaway will close at midnight tonight, so sign up quick!

Ariah is a queer romantic fantasy novel set in the world of Aerdh. Aerdh is an expansive fantasy universe: over the course of six pieces of published fiction set in Aerdh, I have covered a half dozen cultures and a span of about a hundred fifty years. Aerdh is pretty classically high fantasy on the surface–elves are present, magic permeates the world. But much of my writing is fixated on how the people in Aerdh navigate oppression and marginalization in their lives; Aerdh is as much influenced by the conceits of high fantasy as it is by the themes characteristic of low fantasy.

A recurrent theme in Ariah is family. Ariah meets different kinds of families: functional ones, dysfunctional ones, ones that are somewhere in between. He sees families fall apart and families begin from scratch. The book explores the complexity of family, how being part of a family can be a source of joy for one member and torture for another. How being parented by the same person in the same context can create two very different people. And that’s all within one cultural definition of what a family is.

Over the course of the book, Ariah moves through three unique cultural spaces, each with their own understanding of what constitutes a family. Who counts as a parent? What makes a spouse? Who are your children? What obligations do you have to these people? What are the boundaries, and what happens if you cross them?

Like most Semadran elves, Ariah is raised in a nuclear family–a mother and a father, no siblings, that’s it. Ariah’s experiences make him question assumptions he’s made about families. When he is taken to meet his mentor’s family in the City of Mages, he learns that family can be built from something other than, or at least in addition to, blood ties. It’s there first that he is exposed to queer families with non-biological parents and adopted children. In these families, the glue that bonds the members together is need and loyalty. Nothing so cut-and-dry as genealogy, but something just as real.

Later on, Ariah lives a nomadic clan of elves called the Droma. The Droma understand family in altogether way from the Semadrans or the City-folk. For them, family bonds are loose and fluid. Children are communally raised, and so bond as a large sibling group with little sense of parentage. There are marriages, but beyond that, the clan itself is really the family.

The beauty of writing speculative fiction is that we don’t have to take things for granted. That extends to things like family structures. Family structures don’t come from thin air. They are social constructs–they develop over time in response to the push and pull of cultural and institutional structures. That’s true in the real world, and that’s true in fantasy worlds, too. So, in writing these different family structures that Ariah interacts with, I had to understand why they were different than how he grew up. What did the differences in the family structures reflect about the differences in the cultures more broadly?

Much of it had to do with things like availability of this resource or that group’s social position compared to this other group–a ton of minutia which, maybe, is only interesting to me (although, if you’re interested about anything in particular, feel free to say something in the comments!). Ultimately a lot of it doesn’t bear much on Ariah’s plot, and so is left rattling around in my brain and in my notes. But it’s important that I thought it through. It’s important that I did the work, because the bits that made it into the book enriched the narrative. It gave me a firmer grounding in the world. Besides that, taking the time to understand how and why families developed the way they did in each of these cultures was invaluable for understanding my characters as people.

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Ariah_FrontCoverOnlyBlurb: Ariah’s magical training has been interrupted. Forced to rely on a mentor, Dirva, who is not who he claims to be, and a teacher who is foreign and powerful, Ariah is drawn into a culture wholly different from the elven one that raised him.

As his friendship with Dirva’s brother blossoms into a surprising romance, and he slowly learns how to control the dangerous magic in his blood, life finally appears to be coming together for Ariah—but love and security are cut short by a tyrannical military empire bent on expanding its borders.

War, betrayal, passion, and confusion follow Ariah as his perilous journey leads him beyond the walls of the Empire, and into unfamiliar territory within himself. Along the way, he’ll discover just how much he’s willing to give up to find his place in the world, and he’ll learn what it means to sacrifice himself for freedom—and for love.

Buy Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Smashwords

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Author Bio: B R Sanders is a white, genderqueer writer who lives and works in Denver, CO, with their family and two cats. Outside of writing, B has worked as a research psychologist, a labor organizer and a K-12 public education data specialist.

Social Media Links:Blog | ● On Twitter: @b_r_sanders | ● On Facebook | ● Subscribe to newsletter: http://eepurl.com/bgYFjf | ● Amazon author page | ● Goodreads author page

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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.

TNA_Signature_Jennifer






You can buy Banshee here:

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3 Stars, Jaidon Wells, Less Than Three Press, Reviewed by Jennifer, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Urban Fantasy, Short Story

Review: Everyone’s a Casualty by Jaidon Wells

Title: Everyone’s a Casualty 

Author: Jaidon Wells

Publisher: Less Than Three Press

Pages/Word Count: 41 Pages

At a Glance: Short story with interesting characters but is difficult to follow.

Blurb: Joel is more in love with a fantasy world, and one of his own characters, than he is with his own life. He spends his days slipping between reality and the world on the other side of his bedroom door, drifting from day to day with no sense of direction.

But something is haunting the world he’s created, and when it slips out into the real world Joel must choose: surrender the world he loves, or tear it down.

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Review: Sometimes it’s difficult to describe something you’ve read. This is one of those times. Everyone’s a Casualty is a short story with a character who lives for his fantasy world. He struggles with adjusting to reality, and throughout the story it’s hard to tell exactly what reality is.

Joel is a writer and he has created this circus-like world, with characters who are part machine and have two heads, shapeshift, etc. But something he hasn’t created gets into his world and starts to take it down. Joel has to solve the mystery and discover what it is, or risk losing the world he loves so much.

While the idea of the story was interesting, it was so fast paced I had a difficult time understanding what was happening. Often my reaction fell along the lines of, “What the hell did I just read?” I did like Joel and I felt for him, though, because sometimes fantasy is better than reality, and I’d like to be there, too.

The ending lost me, though. I thought I had some things figured out, but then it twisted and I really don’t know. I guess this is just one of those stories I didn’t get. Is Joel mentally unstable? Has his world completely consumed him? Has he finally stepped back into reality? Was it all just a story he wrote? I would love to hear what other readers think!

TNA_Signature_Jennifer

 

 

 

You can buy Everyone’s a Casualty here:

All Romance eBooks

All Romance eBooks

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5 Stars, BDSM/Kink/Erotica, Kol Anderson, Reviewed by Lynn, Self-Published, Short Story

Review: Control by Kol Anderson

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Title: Control

Author: Kol Anderson

Publisher: Self-Published

Pages/Word Count: 37 Pages

At a Glance: Don’t let this one pass you by.

Reviewed By: Lynn

Blurb: Justin loves Daniel Madsen but Daniel wants nothing more to do with him than use him as a booty call. Daniel is always the one with control of whatever form of relationship they have. But when Justin finds out a dark secret about Daniel’s life, Daniel might have to give up control and see what Justin’s all about.

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Review: Here we have another great read from Kol Anderson. I don’t think I’m ever going to get tired of reading his stories. That being said, I know his books aren’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea, and that’s okay. But I gotta say, you’re missing out on some really great stuff.

This story is told by Justin, a man obsessed with Daniel, a controlling Dom who merely uses Justin to shell out his brand of pleasure and pain. Daniel is cold and emotionally shut down during their casual sexual encounters (essentially, a booty call), but Justin thrives on it, and he wants more. He needs more. He goes out and he gets what he wants.

I find that I am strangely fascinated by these two fantastically unique characters. I wanted Justin to run for his life, especially after he knows what Daniel truly is. But, as the story moves along and we really see them together as a couple, I came to the conclusion that these two men actually belong to one another. It’s a bizarre love story, but a love story all the same.

I give credit to the author for taking Justin and Daniel and the reader to the limit, especially the sex scenes. I found myself cringing at times, some of the pain given out was pretty intense. But I also felt the tenderness and connection. I’m telling you, in spite of what these two are all about, I was really wanting a happy ending. Was I going to get it? I didn’t think so.

For being such a short read, this story feels complete. You get all the information you need here in thirty-seven pages. I like the fact there’s an epilogue that wraps everything up. Of course, it’s with a punch to the gut and a holy shit moment, but then, it’s Kol Anderson. I didn’t expect anything less. With Control, he’s at his finest, giving us a twisted tale along with an unconventional storyline.

I love the darker reads and this author definitely delivers. For those of you who are already fans, and to those who want to take a plunge into his world, don’t let this one pass you by.






You can buy Control here:

Amazon UK

Amazon UK

Amazon CA

Amazon CA

Amazon AU

Amazon AU

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5 Stars, Joseph Lance Tonlet, Literary Fiction, Reviewed by Lynn, Self-Published

Review: Brothers LaFon by Joseph Lance Tonlet

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Title: Brothers LaFon (Part One)

Author: Joseph Lance Tonlet

Publisher: Self-Published

Pages/Word Count: 56 Pages

At a Glance: This is a strong beginning of a series.

Reviewed By: Lynn

Blurb: Alexander LaFon lives a nightmare, but he deals with it. Deals with the fact that his mother abandoned him as an infant, deals with the fact that his father is never home, and deals with the fact that his older brother, Jeremiah, tortures him.

He dreams of escaping his mobile-home prison and finding a normal life. Of breaking free of his agony, finding a woman to love, becoming a teacher.

But some horrors you can never outrun. There’s nowhere to hide. Some nightmares chase you in your sleep and steal your freedom like a brutal thief. Some brothers never give up and never answer why.

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Review: Wow, just wow. This is my first time reading this author and he’s got me hooked. I’m definitely going to be reading more from him in the future. This brotherly bond has to be, hands down, the most warped, heinous and blood curdling relationship I’ve ever read, and I loved every minute of it. I know, I’m warped, it’s okay.

In the stories I’ve read that have a twisted brother relationship, there has always been a reason to the question of ‘why?’ Why are they behaving this way? Why do they do the things they’re doing? With this one, however, there is no complex backstory or sympathetic yet unjustifiable reason offered for Miah’s sickening behavior towards his younger brother, Alex. At least in this first installment, anyway. Oh yeah, “I don’t like you” is the only response we get. Chilling.

The author makes you totally empathize with Alex by putting us in his shoes and his head while these traumatizing events are going on, feeling the emotions right along with him, the pain, the hurt and most of all the immense fear he feels around his brother. I just wanted to yank him out of the book to stop him from being hurt. He’s a gentle person who only wants to be loved and doesn’t understand his brother’s hatred towards him. But this is where my head goes while reading stories like this: what happened to make Miah into this monster? Was he born psychotic? Was he abused in some way early in life? Why does he need this control over Alex? We are privy to Miah’s thoughts too, and his lack of feelings for his brother is frightening. He gets pleasure from causing his brother pain, that much we know. What we don’t know are the whys. This leads me to think the author purposely left out any explanation to Miah’s behavior, and I’m okay with that. It’s a serial, there’s more to this story.

With this being such a short read, the author makes it seem like a novel. There’s so much story here. It starts out with them as adults and transports us back to when they were kids. I can tell you, it got my heart beating with fear for Alex because I knew it wasn’t going to be pretty; what it was is downright disturbing. We then come full circle to present day. Alex has severed ties with his brother, leaving for college right after high school, and never looking back. But Miah has set in motion a series of events that brings Alex to him. With an ending that had me screaming for Alex to run, I can only imagine what the author has planned for these two. I await anxiously for part two.

Now, as I read in the acknowledgements, I see the author lists Kol Anderson as one of his inspirations. I’ve read all of Mr. Anderson’s books and can see his influence in this story. The similarities I’ve picked up on are how both authors make you have a love/hate relationship with the bad guy. For me, there is always a reason as to why a person becomes who they are. My hope is that Mr. Tonlet give us some kind of resolution behind Miah’s actions towards his brother. Will it condone his behavior, absolutely not. But I believe it’ll make us understand the why of it.

This is a strong beginning of a series. The author does a great job of whetting the reader’s appetite and left me wanting more. I know this isn’t going to be for everyone, but for those like me who love a dark, gritty read, don’t miss out. Read. This. Now.

I will give a warning here, this isn’t for the faint of heart or those with triggers. There’s physical abuse, animal abuse/killing, incest and dub-con sex.






You can buy Brothers LaFon here:

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CoolDudes Publishing, Giveaways, Mia Kerick

Guest Post and Giveaway: The Inclination Blog Tour With Mia Kerick

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The Novel Approach welcomes Mia Kerick on the Inclination blog tour. For her visit, I asked Mia this question:

Religion is a divisive topic that, in one way or another, always seems to be in the forefront of social issues in the LGBT community. Why did you want to take on such a weighty subject in a Young Adult book, and what would you say is the primary message you hope readers will take away from Inclination?

Check out what Mia has to say on the subject, then be sure to click on the Rafflecopter widget below for the chance to win one of three e-books from Mia’s backlist.

Good luck!

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Mia: Raised a strict Catholic, I struggled since childhood with the rules-oriented nature of my religion. But knowing the rules, and living by them are two different stories. I have long struggled with the nature of the rules in Christianity, but only recently have I thought to examine the intentions behind these rules. And this struggle began when I was a teen, as many major life tend to issues show themselves at this time, which is in short why I addressed a weighty topic like this in a YA novel. And as a teen and a young adult, my major source of stress in this rules-following arena was, like Anthony, in regard to sexuality. Not in regard to my orientation, but in regard to my thoughts and actions.

In preparing to write Inclination, which had a working title of His Way, I did A LOT of research about same-sex behavior, and scriptural passages regarding this, found in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible, so my remarks will focus on Gay Christianity, rather than on other religions. This is not meant to exclude other religions from the discussion; however, I only want to speak about the specific topic I studied.I will repeat, I did A LOT of research. Maybe too much. This led to my first few drafts of Inclination sounding a little textbook-ish—Christian doctrine textbook, if you know what I mean. In respect to LGBT Christianity, I learned much of the pertinent Biblical passages from many different sources that pointed out both sides of the issue. My kitchen island workspace much resembled David’s chaotic kitchen table in the novel.A research project that matters more that an A grade or pat on your head from your parents because you did a good job… for David, and for myself, to some extent, this was a research paper about salvation.

In the course of my research, I watched a video where gay and lesbian Christian teens (not actors) were interviewed about their lives as homosexuals in Christian churches. What I saw made me cry. These kids LOVED GOD more than I can put into words, but they suffered as if they were evil sinners, or destined to be sinners, if they acted on their orientations. These teens were desperate, guilty, heartbroken. Many were trying to be something they were not—heterosexual. They wanted to be straight. They prayed that they could and would be changed, but to no avail. Others had given up on Christianity because they just couldn’t manage to stifle their true sexuality. Some prepared themselves to live a life alone, with no intimate companion. Others attempted to take their own lives.

I asked myself, how can I NOT address this subject as a Young Adult novel?

So, what message would I like readers to come away with after reading Inclination? The big picture message I hope readers take is that God loves gay Christians. But that is a big picture, and I realize that many Christians look to the Bible for the specifics. So, I hope readers will read with an open mind through David’s basic explanations to Anthony of very detailed scriptural analysis. I hope readers will see that the Bible is subject to human interpretation. And that it is not illogical to interpret that the intention of the Scripture is not as simple as “you shall not lie with a man as with a woman,” but that it is referring to a behavior far more complicated. And for those as detail-obsessed as I can be, that even when you get down to the nitty-gritty of the scripture, you will be able to see that there is a way of understanding the “clobber passages” (the passages that seem to condemn homosexuality) that is not at all anti-gay, but is instead, anti-excessive lustfulness, anti-selfishness, anti-inhospitality. And that readers will trust in what they know of Jesus—that he is not even slightly obsessed by the rules but instead by the essence of Christianity, which is love.

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1741016Blurb: Sixteen-year-old Anthony Duck-Young Del Vecchio is a nice Catholic boy with a very big problem. It’s not the challenge of fitting in as the lone adopted South Korean in a close-knit family of Italian-Americans. Nor is it being the one introverted son in a family jam-packed with gregarious daughters. Anthony’s problem is far more serious—he is the only gay kid in Our Way, his church’s youth group. As a high school junior, Anthony has finally come to accept his sexual orientation, but he struggles to determine if a gay man can live as a faithful Christian. And as he faces his dilemma, there are complications. After confiding his gayness to his intolerant adult youth group leader, he’s asked to find a new organization with which to worship. He’s beaten up in the church parking lot by a fanatical teen. His former best pal bullies him in the locker room. His Catholic friends even stage an intervention to lead him back to the “right path.” Meanwhile, Anthony develops romantic feelings for David Gandy, an emo, out and proud junior at his high school, who seems to have all the answers about how someone can be gay and Christian, too.

Will Anthony be able to balance his family, friends and new feelings for David with his changing beliefs about his faith so he can live a satisfying life and not risk his soul in the process?

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Mia KerickAuthor Bio: Mia Kerick is the mother of four exceptional children—all named after saints—and five nonpedigreed cats—all named after the next best thing to saints, Boston Red Sox players. Her husband of twenty-two years has been told by many that he has the patience of Job, but don’t ask Mia about that, as it is a sensitive subject.

Mia focuses her stories on the emotional growth of troubled young people and their relationships, and she believes that physical intimacy has a place in a love story, but not until it is firmly established as a love story. As a teen, Mia filled spiral-bound notebooks with romantic tales of tortured heroes (most of whom happened to strongly resemble lead vocalists of 1980s big-hair bands) and stuffed them under her mattress for safekeeping. She is thankful to Dreamspinner Press, Harmony Ink Press, Cool Dudes, and CreateSpace for providing her with alternate places to stash her stories.

Mia is a social liberal and cheers for each and every victory made in the name of human rights, especially marital equality. Her only major regret: never having taken typing or computer class in school, destining her to a life consumed with two-fingered pecking and constant prayer to the Gods of Technology.

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5 Stars, Andrea Speed, DSP Publications, Mystery/Suspense/Action Thriller, Reviewed by Lisa, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Urban Fantasy

Release Day Review: Infected: Paris by Andrea Speed

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Title: Infected: Paris

Author: Andrea Speed

Publisher: DSP Publications

Pages/Word Count: 120 Pages

At a Glance: This book is nothing less than a gift to the series’ faithful readers.

Reviewed By: Lisa

Blurb: In a world where a werecat virus has changed society, Roan McKichan, a born infected and ex-cop, works as a private detective trying to solve crimes involving other infecteds.

Roan is working a frustrating stalker case, with no shortage of suspects and little solid evidence, when he comes across a startling eyewitness living in his car across the street from the scene. A tiger-strain infected, the only one Roan’s ever met, Paris Lehane is a former Canadian golden boy who suffered a breakdown after becoming infected in college.

While Roan’s ex, Diego “Dee” Cole, warns against falling for the infected Paris, a man doomed to die, Roan struggles with his attraction and the knowledge that no happily ever after is possible for them.

But is the knowledge enough to discourage him from following his heart? Roan helps Paris out of homelessness, and maybe a special hospital can help Paris with the infection, but Roan’s got his hands full with this case, and there’s no end in sight.

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Review: If you’re a fan of this series and have been following it from Book One, you’ve been waiting for Infected: Paris a long damn time. If you have yet to begin reading the Infected series, then consider yourself lucky because you get to start where it all began. And I have to say I almost envy you getting to experiences these books where it started for Roan McKichan and Paris Lehane. Almost…because this book is nothing less than a gift to the series’ faithful readers.

In a present day Seattle where werecats and humans grudgingly and not always peacefully co-exist, Roan, the ex-cop, now private investigator, is working a case involving the harassment of a woman who’s hired him to try and figure out who’s tormenting her. Andrea Speed has built this world around not only Roan’s investigative prowess but around the deadly virus that is nothing like the romanticized concept of shifters found in so much speculative fiction. The humans who’re infected with the werecat virus lose all trace of humanity in cat form. It isn’t always pretty, but it is always a rush to witness as a part of Roan’s evolution. What has happened as a complement to the mystery and Urban Fantasy of the world of the infected is that Speed has introduced a cast of characters for Roan to play off of who reveal him as a smartass, a non-conformist, a loyal friend and the guy you most want to have your back in a fight. And, perhaps most importantly, he is a survivor. Roan is nothing if not an anarchist of the law of probability that says he should be dead by now.

While these books are not romances in what some would consider the strictest definition of the M/M genre, make no mistake the relationship Roan and Paris built is nothing less than romantic simply because of its foreordained path, one that Andrea Speed adheres to without apology and without diverting from her own canon. In this book, though, rather than in hindsight, we get to see firsthand how Roan and Paris met, what brought them together and how Roan really stood no chance whatsoever against Paris’s infinite charms. And, for those of us who know of the life and home they built together, Infected: Paris is a poignant prologue to two men who found a home in each other in spite of the odds against them. It is a reminder of how much they truly love each other and how much they were willing to endure. And how, in the world Speed has created, you live fully or die trying because in this world, today may be all there is.

Before the heavy drugs, the debilitating headaches, before the virus child evolved into the hybrid he is today; before Holden and Dylan and the hockey team who has adopted Roan as friend and brother, there was a genesis to this world, and this is it. The guy who is a cynic about everything but loving and committing to one man begins here. For fans, it’s a 120 page love letter that comes down to the final page, final paragraph… and then we are reminded of what lies ahead.

And yes, I cried, so thanks for that again, Andrea Speed.






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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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4 Stars, Alexis Hall, Fairy Tale/Mythology/Folk Lore, Reviewed by Jennifer, Riptide Publishing, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Urban Fantasy

Review: Sand and Ruin and Gold by Alexis Hall

Title: Sand and Ruin and Gold

Author: Alexis Hall

Publisher: Riptide Publishing

Pages/Word Count: 48 Pages

At a Glance: An interesting twist on mermaids in a dystopian-esque setting.

Blurb: Once upon a time . . . that’s how the old stories always begin.

Once upon a time there was a king of a fallen kingdom. He was just and he was beloved. Or so the numbers said. One day, he gathered together the greatest, wisest minds in all the land—not sorcerers, but scientists—and he bade them fashion him a son. A prince. A perfect prince to embody his father’s legacy.

The scientists each brought the prince a gift: beauty, strength, ambition, intellect, pride. But they must have forgotten something because when he saw the mermaids dance at the Cirque de la Mer, he ran away to join them.

For a year, he trained them, performed with them, thought he was happy. For a year he thought he was free. But then Nerites came: A merman who refused to be tamed. A captive from another kingdom. A beast in a glass cage.

The old stories always end with happy ever after. But this isn’t one of the old stories. This is a story of princes and monsters.

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Review: Most readers will probably be able to read this short story in an hour or two, but even though it’s so short, I thought it was a good read with a fresh approach to the legend of mermaids.

Set in what appears to be a dystopian world, the story is told in the first person narrative, but the narrator never gives his name. In fact, none of the human characters are named. There are, if I remember correctly, eight named characters in the entire book, and they are all mer creatures. There isn’t even any dialogue. The entire story is written as a reflection by the narrator on his experiences with Cirque de la Mer and the mer creatures.

I must admit the cover drew me in. It’s stunning. And when you read the book, it’s clear that the artist paid attention to the author’s description of the merman Nerites because all of the details appear to be there. It’s beautiful.

There are many different takes on the mermaid mythos, and this one adds a new twist to it. At least new to me. In what I’ve read, mer creatures are beautiful, intelligent creatures capable of human speech and complex, human-like relationships. Not so in this story. Sure, they’re beautiful, mystical creatures that draw crowds, but they’re monsters. Beasts. They have a matriarchal society, but they behave as other wild animals do. They are violent. Vicious. They do not speak. They are caged animals in a Sea-World like environment where they perform for the crowds on a daily basis.

While this might sound like it wouldn’t belong in the M/M genre, the author has twisted the story. Somehow the narrator and Nerites form a bond and while it may not be love, they certainly lust after one another. The narrator may not understand what is happening, but as a reader, you see that the caged animals may not be complete animals at all. Just different from humans.

As I read this, I couldn’t help but think about the whales and dolphins that are kept in aquariums around the world. They are intelligent in their own way, even if we cannot understand them. Is it right to keep them caged like the mermaids and mermen in this story? Perhaps not.

It’s amazing how such a short fantasy story about a prince who neglected his duty and ran off to work with mermaids got me thinking so much in such a short span of time.

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5 Stars, DSP Publications, Felicitas Ivey, Reviewed by Jennifer, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Urban Fantasy

Review: Dreamlands by Felicitas Ivey

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Title: Dreamlands

Author: Felicitas Ivey

Publisher: DSP Publications

Pages/Word Count: 290 Pages

At a Glance: Fantasy and urban fantasy collide in the most epic way possible

Blurb: The Trust and its battle-hardened recruits are fighting a horrific war, a war between the humans of this world and the demons of the Dreamlands. In this shadowy battle, Keno Inuzaka is merely a pawn: first an innocent bystander imprisoned and abused by the Trust, then a captive of a demononi when taken to the Dreamlands.

But oni SamojirouAboshi treats the human with unexpected care and respect, and the demon only just earns Keno’s trust when a team from the Trust arrives to exploit the Dreamlands’ magic.

As the war spreads across both worlds, Keno is torn between them. If he survives, he faces a decision: go home and carve out a new life under the Trust’s thumb… or stay in the Dreamlands and find freedom in love.

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Review: Oh my God, this book. I stayed up way too late reading it when I had to work the next morning, and after I had been sick for days, but it doesn’t matter; it was so worth it.

Felicitas Ivey has created an imaginative, beautiful world where mythology lives on, and an alternate, urban fantasy world for us where sometimes those demons from the Dreamlands cross over into ours. The creatures are fantastic and vivid, the characters are engaging, and the situations are explosive.

The story is told through the perspectives of three very different characters: Samojirou, and oni from the Dreamlands; Keno, a young man kidnapped by the Trust, abused by them, and then kidnapped by the “demons”; and Mason, a TC from the Trust who is starting to question everything that happens. Each voice is unique because of the different ways they interact with the world. There are secondary characters that are just as strong, who you either love or loathe and want to die in the most vicious way possible.

I should warn readers that the story does not start off pleasant. Both the world of the Trust and the world of the Dreamlands can be brutal. Ironically (or maybe not), it’s our world that seems to be worse even though the Dreamlands are filled with monsters and demons. When reading this, the line between monster and human starts to blur and you start to question, what makes a monster? As I said, the story does not start off in a lovely happy place. There is violence, gore, and rape. The rape is not shown on the page, though, but is mentioned several times as it drives some of the characters throughout the novel.

While there is a romance element to Dreamlands, it is not the focus, so if you’re looking for straight up romance, or fantasy with a heavy romance element, this is not the book for you. But I think you should give it a chance anyway, because the book is that awesome. And while this is the first in a series (and what looks like it could be a very long one!), if you don’t want to get invested in a lengthy series no worries; the novel ends in a place where this could stand alone. While I want to read more—and believe me, I most definitely will read more—I am completely satisfied with the ending. I want more of the characters, but all of the threads were closed up by the end of the book and I wasn’t left hanging. It was such a relief to read a book like that!

I cannot recommend this book highly enough. I look forward to seeing more of the characters in this series and watching Samojirou and Keno’s relationship progress even more.

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5 Stars, Joseph Hansen, Mystery/Suspense/Action Thriller, Reviewed by Lisa, University of Wisconsin Press

Review: Death Claims by Joseph Hansen

Title: Death Claims (A Dave Brandstetter Mystery: Book Two)

Author: Joseph Hansen

Publisher: University of Wisconsin Press

Pages/Word Count: 170 Pages

At a Glance: Fast pace and a taut plot make for masterful storytelling

Blurb: Death Claims is the second of Joseph Hansen’s acclaimed mysteries featuring ruggedly masculine Dave Brandstetter, a gay insurance investigator. When John Oats’s body is found washed up on a beach, his young lover April Stannard is sure it was no accident. Brandstetter agrees: Oats’s college-age son, the beneficiary of the life insurance, has gone missing.

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Review: The ever pragmatic Dave Brandstetter is back in Death Claims, the second book in Joseph Hansen’s critically acclaimed Dave Brandstetter mystery series. Originally published in 1973, these books translate well to the contemporary audience, and are made even more exceptional by the fact the stories’ hero solves the mysteries with nothing more than a keen mind and sharp eye for detail—no computers, no cell phones, just a suspicious mind that demands the truth. They are as timeless as murder is in human history, and it’s with sheer tenacity the investigator leads readers through layer upon layer of motive and suspects before he leads us to the end, solving the cases which reveal the person you might have least expected but are entirely plausible in their guilt. The beauty of these complex cases is that by the time Brandstetter puts all the pieces of the puzzle together, the final piece, the one missing link, is the one which makes perfect sense.

The death in this installment of the series involves what appears to be an accidental drowning, which, as this is a mystery and there needs to be a case for Dave to investigate, turns out to have been no accident. As he sleuths his way through what others believe is the obvious, it appears the victim’s son and beneficiary has the most motive and opportunity to have murdered his sire, especially after their recent parting of the ways. The template for this investigation, however, doesn’t align with the clues Dave unearths as he speaks with those whose lives intersected with those of the victim, John Oats. Why would Peter, with whom the elder Oats had enjoyed such a loving and easy relationship, suddenly kill his father?

John Oats’s death was not a crime of passion but a premeditated murder, as suggested by the composition of the clues surrounding the victim’s final hours. The deeper Dave digs, the more evidence is revealed that nothing should be taken at face value, and it’s his world-weary skepticism that keeps him bulldogging his way to the truth. Breaking and entering, probable cause, illegal search and seizure: these things don’t mean much to Dave. All that matters to him is getting at the truth, and this is what he does, and does so well, to engage and entertain readers. And I must say, in the end, Death Claims is the only book I’ve ever read that comes to an effective and satisfying conclusion…and still feels like it ended in a cliffhanger. What a well played literary technique that was, because I’m now the proud owner of book three in the series.

As a side note in the margins of this novel’s plot, there is a character who figured prominently in Fadeout with whom Dave is just beginning a relationship. Doug Sawyer is no stranger to loss himself—both he and Dave have lost men they loved deeply—and while I caution you that this is not a romance or a relationship driven novel, there are some things revealed about Dave through his interactions with Doug which soften some of this hardnosed and dogged detective’s harder edges. It makes Dave himself a bit less of a mystery.

If you’ve ever run across a series that has made you think to yourself, I wish I’d discovered these books years ago, this is that series for me. There is a formula to them that will never be stale, not as long as there is murder afoot and a great mystery to be solved.






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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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Christopher Koehler, Giveaways, Harmony Ink Press

Exclusive Excerpt and Giveaway: Poz by Christopher Koehler

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The Novel Approach is happy to be a stop on Christopher Koehler’s Poz Blog Tour. Enjoy this exclusive excerpt, then enter for a chance to win a $25 Gift Card by clicking on the Rafflecopter widget below.

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PozFSTitle: Poz

Series: The Lives of Remy and Michael: Book One

Author: Christopher Koehler

Publisher: Harmony Ink Press

Publication Date: 8 Jan 2015

Cover Artist: Paul Richmond

Genre: Contemporary, Gay, Young Adult

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 Pa-cific. 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.

Buy Links: Dreamspinner/Harmony Ink | Amazon US | Amazon UK | All Romance eBooks

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Excerpt: In this excerpt, Remy and the rest of the Capital City Junior Crew are in San Diego for the Crew Classic. The Crew Classic (crewclassic.org), a real regatta, takes place every April on Mission Bay and is a lot fun…assuming the weather cooperates. I’ve seen it go both ways, and rumor has it one year the rain and chop were so bad the Coast Guard had to pull a racing shell out of the water because it had been swamped and was unrowable. The cox’n allegedly bowed to the referees’ stand before diving into the water…

(Edited for context)

I didn’t sleep during all of my down time. I watched races I wasn’t in, like those of colleges I wanted to attend. Coach Lodestone told me he had been in contact with coaches at those schools all year. My performance at the Youth Nationals later this summer would clinch any deals and possibly secure an early admission or two, but I knew there had been eyes on me during the heats. Since I had not known who, when, or where, I had managed not to freak out, but it had been added pressure. If any of those coaches had joined Lodestone to watch my races, they had disappeared by the time those races ended, saving me from mortification, but only temporarily. Lodestone took me around to meet all of them.

I also watched Mikey’s races. I had my eye on him, and not just because I was trying to figure out what we were to each other. I stood next to Lodestone while Mikey raced. I liked him as a person, but more important, I respected him as a coach. Then there was the undeniable hotness factor. Okay, I came into my height early, but Lodestone? He rowed at the University of Washington, and the Huskies grow them big up there or something. Lodestone was not only way over six feet tall, but my brother once told me Lodestone looked more like he was built for certain positions in football that took bulk and muscles than for crew, which needed lean strength. I mean, his shoulders were out to there. Also, he was hairy in all the right places, like beard shadow right after shaving hairy. It was awesome. He was also straight as a plank. The only thing that kept me from hating his girlfriend was that she was not only brilliant, but she was sweet as she was smart. I mean, she was deaf, and I’d started learning some basic sign language—she was that beautiful a person. Or I had that big a case of hero worship for my coach. It could’ve gone either way.

Lodestone watched the races and didn’t acknowledge my presence. I didn’t take it personally. This was his job, after all. “Do your prerace walk while you were waiting for the trailer?” he said eventually.

At least he knew I was there. I lived for these moments with my coach. It felt like he treated me as an equal, even if only for a little while. “Coach. Please.”

He laughed. “What was I thinking? Of course you did.”

“And dragged most of my boat along for the ride. Something new this year, though.”
“Oh?” He finally glanced down at me.

“Cisco dragged Mikey and some of the other junior varsity with us.”

Lodestone didn’t say anything for a moment. “Interesting. What do you think they got out of it?”

I glanced at my watch and then checked the schedule. I looked out at the water, squinting through the glare of the afternoon sun. There they were. There he was. “He’s varsity next year.”

“Oh, you think so, do you, Coach Babcock?” Lodestone said, laughing.

I flushed. “No, seriously. If you haven’t watched him on the ergs, you’re falling down on the job—”

“Strong words, oarsman.”

I stood my ground. “They’re true, sir. His numbers have dropped steadily this season. At the same time, his erg technique has improved. He’s a match for anyone on our squad.”

“Ergs don’t float.” Lodestone’s voice was quiet, almost too quiet, like he was getting angry or I’d just overstepped my bounds, but dammit, he was the one who’d encouraged me to watch and analyze other rowers. If he didn’t like the results, he had only himself to blame.

“No, they don’t, but boats do, and you’re watching his right now, same as me. Tell me you don’t see someone who’s better than most of his boat,” I said, “and he’s in the A boat.”

Lodestone stayed silent, watching the rest of the race through binoculars. I didn’t have any, so I could only follow Mikey until they passed beyond my ability to make out any useful detail.

“Perhaps I was too hasty in my dismissal,” Lodestone said, dropping his binoculars at last. “You’ve given this a lot of thought, and more importantly, you’ve been watching his form.” He eyed me appraisingly. “And here I thought you’d just been watching his body.”

I turned red, and not just red, scalded lobster red. Even as a kid, I had blushed hard. “Guess you heard?”

“You could say that.” Lodestone put his arm across my shoulder, laughing. He had a ready laugh, at least with me. “Remy, if you don’t want anyone to know, you shouldn’t cuddle on the team bus, to say nothing of the fact that one of the chaperones found you two asleep in each other’s arms this morning. If it’s any consolation, the entire girls’ team thinks it’s adorable. The boys’ team is a bit more divided. Varsity backs you, like it always has. Junior varsity? That’s another issue, but word on the street is there’s more than one rower who’s simply jealous.”

“Aww, jeez.” I had only thought I couldn’t be any more embarrassed. “Wait… of who, me or Mikey?”

Lodestone snickered. “Like I’d tell you. Just enjoy it, okay? That’s part of the fun of being young. Now, about your outspoken advocacy….”

“Hey, you taught me to watch other rowers and made me ride in launches to observe,” I said.

“Yes, but I never thought it’d come back to bite me in the ass this soon.”

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Author BioAbout Christopher: Christopher Koehler learned to read late (or so his teachers thought) but never looked back. It was not, however, until he was nearly done with grad school in the history of science that he realized that he needed to spend his life writing and not on the publish-or-perish treadmill. At risk of being thought frivolous, he found that academic writing sucked all the fun out of putting pen to paper.

Christopher is also something of a hothouse flower. Inside of almost unreal conditions he thrives to set the results of his imagination free, and for most of his life he has been lucky enough to be surrounded by people who encouraged both that tendency and the writing. Chief among them is his long-suffering husband of twenty-two years and counting.

When it comes to writing, Christopher follows Anne Lamott’s advice: “You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.” So while he writes fiction, at times he ruthlessly mines his past for character traits and situations. Reality is far stranger than fiction.

Christopher loves many genres of fiction and nonfiction, but he’s especially fond of romances, because it is in them that human emotions and relations, at least most of the ones fit to be dis-cussed publicly, are laid bare.

Writing is his passion and his life, but when Christopher is not doing that, he’s an at-home dad and oarsman with a slightly disturbing interest in manners and other ways people behave badly.

Visit him at http://christopherkoehler.net/blog or follow him on Twitter @christopherink.

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Tour Dates:

7 Jan – Prism Book Alliance

9 Jan – Cody Kennedy

10 Jan – The Novel Approach

14 Jan – JP Barnaby

15 Jan – Love Bytes

19 Jan – GGR Reviews

21 Jan – Hearts on Fire Reviews

22 Jan – MM Good Book Reviews

26 Jan – James Erich

28 Jan – Joyfully Jay

2 Feb – Rainbow Gold Reviews

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