Flashback Friday

Flashback Friday and Giveaway: You’re Only Young Once

Flashback Friday

Cheers, everyone, and welcome back to another edition of Flashback Friday. This week we’re focusing on young love, first love, all the angst and wonder to be found in Young Adult/New Adult fiction.

The hardest part about choosing our Flashback Friday recommendations is when we get genre-specific because, let’s face it, every single one of us has more than one favorite book in the genres we frequent. In fact, Sammy and Sadonna have selected the same book this week–and again, I’ve read it and couldn’t agree more! In fact, I could have quite literally chosen any one of about a dozen titles this week, so be sure to watch for this category to show up again at a later date. Because young love, it ain’t kid’s play. ;-)

Congratulations to last week’s Flashback Friday winner, Silke, who selected Dani Alexander’s Shattered Glass. An excellent choice it is, too!

And, as always, click on the Rafflecopter widget below to enter for the chance to win one of this week’s e-titles.

Good luck!


TNA_Signature_JulesI’m so happy to be able to shine a spotlight on this book once again for this week’s Flashback Friday. I read and reviewed Gives Light back in January, and loved it so damn much, I just had to choose it for my contribution to our first ‘Fave YA’ books theme. And, in fact, it’s part of a series! So, if you’re like me, and like to get wrapped up in a world for more than one novel, you’re in luck.

Gives Light is the beginning of Skylar St. Clair’s story, and takes us through how he ended up living with his Granny on the Nettlebush Indian Reservation, as well as how he came to be mute, and how he met and fell in love with Rafael Gives Light.

In my review I described the book as “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,” and I still think that’s a good, albeit a bit simplistic, summation. I was sucked into the story immediately; I couldn’t put it down, in large part due to the author’s fabulous storytelling ability, but mostly because of Sky. Stealing another snippet from my review…my thoughts on Sky:

“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.”

I know I’m supposed to be convincing you guys to go out and read this book…but, scrolling back through my highlights has made me want to read it again! I love reading YA, but I think even if YA isn’t your first choice, or you aren’t sure if you would like it, you should still add Rose Christo’s Gives Light to your reading list. This book has so much heart, and it’s so smart, and funny, and interesting. I can’t imagine anyone not being glad they gave it a try. If nothing else, I promise you that Skylar St. Clair is a character you won’t soon forget.

Gives light“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.


TNA_Signature_SammyBy far and above the best YA series I have read is John Goode’s Foster High Series. So often I feel YA gets a poor rap—I think sometimes readers feel that because a novel is young adult it may not have the same emotional impact an adult read offers.

Maybe With a Chance of Certainty is a coming of age novel like no other. Its story revolves around Kyle, a battered, oft physically abused seventeen-year-old, who lives with a drunken mother and a fear that someday someone will truly see him, will discover he is gay and will force him out into the light of day that he so adroitly avoids. Enter Brad, baseball hero, god of high school fame, the abused and broken seventeen-year-old who steadfastly hides in the closet until he sees Kyle, really sees him and knows…knows that this is what he has been missing…that this boy is one he likes, maybe, with a chance of certainty.

This book is never glib or self-important but it is humorous and self-aware. This book is never trite or condescending but it does dare to look at the smallest of fears and bring them into the light and it does meet us right at the emotional level where we live, and it says we have the right to live there, to feel as we do.

I want to encourage you to explore the YA genre—so many times I have experienced my own teen years played out on the pages of these wonderfully crafted stories. So, please, take a leap, if you have not already done so and scoop up one of these terrific authors today.


TNA_Signature_SadonnaThis is a great series and tells the love story of Kyle and Brad over a number of books.  The first few books cover the main characters finishing their senior year of high school.  There is both an M/M series and a YA version of the first three books, so you can take your pick.

Kyle Stilleno and Brad Greymark are high school students in Foster, TX.  Kyle is keeping his head down trying to get out of town without being noticed.  But it turns out that Brad has noticed him.  He’s the star baseball player and he needs help in History so he gets Kyle to tutor him.  But history is not the only thing they study. :)  This series, much like my last Flashblack Friday, really is a beautiful story of the building of a relationship between these two very different guys.  There are lots of rough moments and very typically teenaged angst-filled drama, but so worth the time to savor these books.

Kyle is probably my favorite YA character that I’ve read so far in M/M.  He’s smarter than most of the adults in this series. :)  He’s raised himself, for the most part – his mother is a bit lost in the parenting department.  The opening lines of Maybe with a Chance of Certainty are some of my favorite lines I’ve read ever in any book.  These words I think speak to so many kids on so many levels.

Brad, in many ways, is Kyle’s opposite. He’s high school royalty, comes from a family with some money (although, as we see, that doesn’t guarantee anything except a roof and three squares a day).  His family is dysfunctional as well, but in a different way.  He’s just as lost in some ways at Kyle, but somehow he knows that if he doesn’t go for this, he will regret it for the rest of his life.  Sometimes he acts without thinking things all the way through, and Kyle is his anchor and his touchstone.

There are wonderful secondary characters, realistic and funny dialogue, tragedy that will make your heart ache and truths that will make you want to punch somebody in the throat.  Just brilliantly written and I highly recommend this series to anyone who loves very well-written and emotional stories.

Maybe with a Chance of CertaintyKyle has worked hard at being the invisible student, toiling through high school in the middle of Nowhere, Texas. Brad is the baseball star at Foster High. Both boys are damaged in ways that the rest of the world can’t see. When they bond over a night of history tutoring, Kyle thinks that maybe his life has taken a turn for the not so lonely.

He finds out quickly that the promise of fairy-tale love is a lie when you’re gay and falling for one of the most popular boys in school, and if being different is a sin in high school, then being gay is the biggest sin of all. Now Kyle and Brad need to come to an understanding amidst the scrutiny of their peers or their fledgling relationship will crash and burn before it ever gets off the ground.


TNA_Signature_CHRISUnintended is one of those rare books that does flashbacks really well. Those flashbacks are what power the story around two of the sweetest boys who unintentionally become friends and then fall in love. This story starts out in the present and goes back to ten years prior. The story shows the start of their relationship ten years in the past, and their lives now as they’re moving into their first house.

While this isn’t a very long story, coming in a just 100 pages, there is a lot of relationship and emotions packed into that space. Both Taylor and Alex are ordinary young men going through the motions of life and end up meeting each other in very normal circumstances. Their relationship, though, is a bit extraordinary because both boys realize almost immediately that they have met someone very special to them. Even though at first they can’t define just how special this person will be in their lives.

I really loved how M.J. O’Shea shows the little things that matter between Taylor and Alex because so many times that’s glossed over in romances. That doesn’t mean they have an easy journey, because they do make some mistakes along the way, including one major one that hurts both of them. It’s how they come out in the end that matters the most, though.

I can’t really tell you how much I enjoyed this book and want others to read it and meet these two awesome characters. Alex will melt your heart, and Taylor will make you want to hug him to death by the end of the story.

**Note:** This titles is available only via Amazon

UnintendedTaylor thought he had everything together. He just got into the college of his choice and all he had to do was coast through the rest of the year, enjoy his friends, and wait for freedom. He hasn’t really participated in the gossip about the mysterious and beautiful new boy who just showed up in school, but he had to admit the guy was intriguing.

Alex was completely lonely. His family moved so often that he’d never had a chance to really fit in anywhere. The new guy in town, gorgeous and rich, he was the object of envy, the subject of stares. But he dreamed of having one real friend in a sea of shallow acquaintances. Somebody who actually knew him, not just what he looked like.

They met by accident, when Taylor stumbled into Alex’s room at a party. It only took them one night to decide they were meant to be best friends, and not much longer after that to realize that they were in love.

Taylor, who’d never been with a boy, was afraid of what would happen when he finally admitted to the world that he was in love with Alex. Alex, who wasn’t willing to be a secret much longer, was afraid that his family would pack up and move again before he had the chance to convince Taylor that their love was worth any pain it might cause when it was brought out in public.

In a sweet and sometimes painful story of true love, Unintended answers the question:

“Would you change who you were to be with the one person you were meant to love?”


TNA_Signature_JenniferThere are so many amazing YA titles out there right now, especially in the last few years. Beyond that, however, it does get a little difficult. When I first started reading LGBT fiction, there was a dearth of books for teens with gay themes. The books that were out there were good, but they just weren’t enough.

The Twilight Gods by Hayden Thorne hits so much of what is right with the YA genre. It’s historical, it’s touching, and it’s beautifully written. I’ve reviewed it for The Novel Approach before because it’s a rerelease, but the book actually came out in 2009. Honestly, I’m disappointed I hadn’t read it when it first came out, because this book is just phenomenal.

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 and his older sisters squabbling every chance they get, and trying to outdo each other on the marriage market, Norris is often forgotten. In fact, he’s so forgotten that 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.

When Norris begins to start seeing shadow people, everything in the book starts to slowly fall into place. New characters emerge and Norris begins his journey that is simultaneously beautiful and heartbreaking.

Just writing this review for Flashback Friday makes me want to go back and reread this book! I have no doubt you’ll love it as much as I do!

thetwilightgodsLondon 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.


TNA_Signature_LisaI’m going to start out with a little backstory about this week’s choice.

On August 28, 2012, my mom passed away. For the three weeks she was in the hospital and, ultimately, in hospice care, I was driving three hours round-trip, four to five days a week, to sit at her hospital bedside. To top it off, I’d just lost my sister to cancer five months earlier, I missed my childrens’ first day of school, I missed a lot of time with my own family while taking care of a developmentally disabled brother and a father with dementia—who didn’t understand, and needed frequent reminders, that his wife of 62 years was dying. Suffice to say, the only thing that kept me sane at the time was escaping into books during those long and mind numbing hours sitting and listening to monitors beeping, while wondering when my mom was going to take her final breath.

Now, for the honesty part: I don’t remember much of what I read during this time, but I very much do remember one gorgeous and lyrical Young Adult novel—it resonated so deeply in its beauty and simple truths that during a time when most of what I recall is that the stress was almost too much to bear, I remember this book. The book is Benjamin Alire Sáenz’s Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe.

On August 14th, I wrote a simple review of this book. I’m going to steal a snippet from that review because, at a time in my life when not much made sense, this book spoke to me. Aristotle and Dante made sense of a universe that’s full of mystery and wonder of so many things yet to discover.

Reading Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe taught me that there’s such a thing as too much, and that it’s possible for a book to be written sparely and still be full and abundantly powerful.

Ari Mendoza narrates this story, the story of a fifteen year old loner who meets Dante Quintana in the summer of 1987 and is suddenly not so lonely anymore, though he still feels very much alone with his anger and frustration. This is the story of a boy on the verge of evolution and the slow and sometimes painful discovery that being ashamed of how he feels doesn’t make those feelings inevitably shameful.

• I learned that feeling small and insignificant and inadequate doesn’t make it true.
• I learned it’s possible to run away from something and not even realize you’re running or understand exactly what it is you’re running from.
• I learned that feeling sorry for yourself is the quickest path to loneliness.
• I learned silence can be just as powerful and destructive as anger.
• I learned it’s possible to wear the scars of battle without ever going to war.
• I learned that the most crippling scars of war are the ones that live inside of you.
• I learned there’s a difference between feeling real and feeling valid.
• I learned that a face can be the light in an otherwise dark world.
• I learned that it’s possible to love someone more than you think you’re capable of ever bearing.
• I learned that we all are in a constant state of discovering who we are, no matter our age.
• I learned it’s possible to look for something but not know exactly what it is you’re looking for.
• I learned that love is an instinct and is sometimes directed not by what we say but what we do.
• I learned that hiding from yourself is easier than hiding from the people who see you for who you truly are.
• I learned it’s possible to be so near to someone that it’s impossible to see all they mean to you.
• I learned it’s possible to be ashamed and have no idea why.
• I learned that all the mysteries of the universe can be found in a kiss and can be solved just by holding someone’s hand.

I can’t say for sure whether or not this book would be as impactful if I reread it today as it was at that time in my life, but I can say that at the time, it was a book that moved me deeply.

And the cover…the cover is everything.

Aristotle and DanteAristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common.

But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship—the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be.



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Mia Kerick

Spotlight Tour and Excerpt: A Hard Day’s Night by Mia Kerick

A Hard Day's NightBook Description: High school senior Kalin (Lennon) Macready knows several facts for certain: John Lennon is his hero. Beaumont Finley Danforth (Fin) is his best friend. And—this is the complicated one—he feels more for Fin than mere friendship.

For weeks, Lennon pesters Fin, who like Lennon admits to questioning his sexual orientation, for a commitment to spend twenty-four hours together exploring “the gay side of life.” Each boy will seek to answer the terrifying question, Am I gay? Fin reluctantly agrees. Lennon pre-plans the day, filling the hours with what he assumes “gay life” is all about: funky hairstyles, fancy coffee drinks, shopping for fashionable clothing, boogying to Taylor Swift’s “Shake it Off”, and yes, listening to show tunes.

However, Lennon quickly realizes that in creating his plan he has succumbed to the most common and distorted gay stereotypes. Can he be gay and not fit them? And more importantly, is it possible that spending twenty-four hours together will convince Fin that he’s gay, too? If so, maybe Lennon has a shot at winning the heart of the boy of his dreams.

“A Hard Day’s Night” is a humorous young adult contemporary romance about two boys coming to realize that they don’t have to be a stereotype to be genuine.


Excerpt: I park directly in front of the salon.

“The Best Little Hair House in Westfield?” Fin looks at me incredulously but doesn’t dish out a criticism. My dear friend Fin has great difficulty with that whole “calling it like he sees it” thing.
“I didn’t name the place,” I mutter as I jump out of the Jeep. After shaking his curly blond head a couple of times in what-did-I-get-myself-into disbelief, Fin does the same.
I’ll be sorry to see those pretty curls on the floor of the beauty salon, but we’re gonna endure our mutual makeover, one way or another.
In my opinion, having mutual makeovers spells togetherness as well as exploring our more feminine sides. “Come on. We have both of the salon’s haircutters booked for the next hour.” Then I mumble in a manner designed to be intentionally incoherent, “And we have a makeup artist for the following forty-five minutes….” Fin doesn’t hear this part and I think it’s for the best.
“Daaahlings, you must be Lennon and Fin….” Richard, I assume, since I recognize his sing-song voice from the phone call I made to set up our appointments, greets us at the door, air-kissing me and Fin, on both cheeks. I know immediately that if my goal is to immerse Fin and me in all things homosexual, we are in the right place. I find it hard to tear my eyes off Fin as he checks out the salon. I’ll sum up the salon’s décor like this: rainbow-glitter-velvet-jelly-bean-explosion. And I’m pretty sure that Fin, coming from a lifestyle enhanced by the subtle shades of Williams-Sonoma and Restoration Hardware, has never laid eyes on anything quite this… this vibrant. And Richard’s lilting voice one more time sings out proudly, “Welcome to the Hair House!”
At this point, Fin, with extremely wide eyes, checks out the slick-haired narrow-eyed man who is going to beautify him. Not that Fin needs any enhancement in that department, whatsoever, because even if I weren’t gay, I’d recognize that Fin is a stunner. “I… um… thank you,” he says and offers his hand, which Richard grasps, lifts dramatically to his lips, and kisses very slowly.
“And I must insist that you call me Chard—all of my dearest friends do,” the stylist utters, a glimmer of hopefulness blatant in his sly, dark eyes.
Fin’s lips move but no sound comes out. He’s probably trying to formulate the words for what he is thinking: Are you kidding me—you call yourself Chard? Hahahaha!! But with no success, as Fin, like I mentioned before, has trouble with calling upside-down black heart shapes with tiny stems what they are—yeah, spades.


Mia KerickAbout the Author: 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, CoolDudes Publishing, 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. Now marital equality is the law of the land!! WOOT!! 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.

Author Links: Website || Facebook || Amazon || Author Page

Buy Links: Amazon || AllRomance E-Books

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Cheryl Headford, Giveaways

Character Interview and Giveaway: The Hostage Blog Tour with Cheryl Headford


Please join us in welcoming author Cheryl Headford to The Novel Approach today, on the Hostage blog tour. Enjoy the character interview with Rowan Gabriel that Cheryl’s chosen to share with you, and then be sure to click on the Rafflecopter widget below for the chance to win a copy of the book.

Good luck!


Q: What or who is the greatest love of your life?

Rowan: That’s one I don’t need to think about. Astrin Raphael. It’s crazy how far we’ve swung. I hated him for so long, and looking back I have no idea why. It’s so strange to think that I hated him for so much longer than I’ve loved him. I’m working on that one.

Q: What is your favourite journey?

Rowan: Well, this is a no–brainer also. The journey Astrin and I took into the heart of enemy country to rescue his father and my uncle. Again with hindsight I can hardly believe it ever happened. Was I really that stupid to get caught up with Astrin’s whole ‘vision’ think? It could all have ended in disaster but, even with the danger, the uncertainty, and almost losing Astrin, it was absolutlely the time of my life. We camped, we partied, we got caught up in a revolution, we spent the night in a tent city in the desert. I’ve never felt so alive.

Q: What is your most marked characteristic?

Rowan: My temper, I guess. And my impulsiveness. According to my uncle they’re a dangerous combination, and they’ve got me into trouble more than once.

Q: When and where were you the happiest?

Rowan: Here and now. *Glances over at Astrin, who’s talking animatedly to some of the guys. A look of dreamy intensity crosses Rowan’s face, until Astrin glances up and they both freeze for a moment. Astrin looks away first, a delicate blush colouring his pale face* Yeah. Right here. Right now.

Q: What is it that you most dislike?

Rowan: Stupid people. Really, I’ve got no patience for stupidity. Or people who want to spoil things for others. *Glances at Astrin* Okay, yeah, I was one of those, but… Actually, I was stupid and I wanted to spoil things for someone else, but Astrin saved me from myself.

Q: What is your greatest fear?

Rowan: That I lose Astrin. My whole world turned upside down when he came into my life. Everything changed and without him I’d be lost. I gave up everything for him, and gladly, but without him where would I go? What would I do?

Q: Tell me something about Astrin

Rowan: He’s amazing. I can hardly believe that when all this started he was only seventeen. It’s always been easy to forget he’s almost two years younger than I am. He’s the one with the level head, with all the resourcefulness. He’s always so calm and sensible, and it’s amazing how he always seems to know exactly the right thing to say and do. *Rowan chuckles* House Gabriel is supposed to be the one that has the gifts with diplomacy and leadership. I think in this case, Astrin got all my share of that, as well as all his Raphael sweetness.

Q: What is your greatest regret?

Rowan: That Astrin was hurt because of me. I was such a blind, angry fool. I wouldn’t listen to anyone but my anger, and it took Astrin almost dying for me to realize how stupid and wrong I was. I treated him appallingly in the first days. He was lost, confused and ill, and I abused him. I convinced him he was a bad person, that he was worthless, when absolutely the opposite was true. I’m utterly ashamed of how I acted and I’m in awe that Astrin was able to get past that so quickly and completely. He’s the best person I know.

Q: Which living person do you most admire?

Rowan: Apart from Astrin, my uncle Charles. He’s always looked out for me, and has had a far clearer vision of what I am and what I could become, than I have. He was our greatest champion because he could see that Astrin was the one who brought me to my full potential, as I do to him.

Q: What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

Rowan: Chastity *Grins*

Q: On what occasions do you lie?

Rowan: Astrin hates lying. I’m more…open minded. Lying has its place. Even Astrin lies sometimes, but only when he absolutely has to, usually in a diplomatic way. As far as I know Astrin has never lied to me. Have I lied to him? Um….

Q: Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

Rowan: *Glances at Astrin and chuckles* You’re such hard work, Raphael.

Q: What is your motto?

Rowan: Motto? I don’t think I have a motto. I guess it would be something like ‘Grab life by the throat and try not to put your foot in it’

*Astrin appears at his side and burrows under his arm. “Maybe you’d do better with something like ‘Think before you act’*

Well yeah, but that might take away my impulsive charm.

*Astrin reaches up to pat his cheek* “Don’t worry. I’ll always find you charming.”


HostageLGBlurb: Astrin Raphael wakes up in a strange place, frightened and confused. He is told to trust someone who seems to hate him, and he tries—he really tries. However, things change rapidly when he discovers his friend is actually his archenemy, Rowan Gabriel, whose abusive behavior stems from a deeply ingrained, if unwarranted, hatred over something that happened many years before, and simply wasn’t Astrin’s fault.

When Rowan’s uncle and Astrin’s father are kidnapped by Strebo Michael, the two crown princes are catapulted into an adventure that forces them to work together, and along the way their feelings for each other grow. Rowan is quick to let his hate go, but Astrin can’t release his inhibitions. It takes Astrin almost dying from a poisoned dagger before he finally accepts Rowan’s love.

When they return home, their problems continue as their Houses try to negotiate a way for the young men to be together. It soon becomes clear at least one of them will need to relinquish his throne.

Buy Links: Harmony Ink Press (ebook) || Harmony Ink Press (Paperback) || Amazon US || Amazon UK || All Romance eBooks


AboutTheAuthor Creative Minds

Cheryl Headford was born into a poor mining family in the South Wales Valleys. Until she was sixteen, the toilet was at the bottom of the garden and the bath hung on the wall. Her refrigerator was a stone slab in the pantry, and there was a black lead fireplace in the kitchen. They look lovely in a museum but aren’t so much fun to clean.

Cheryl has always been a storyteller. As a child, she’d make up stories for her nieces, nephews, and cousin, and they’d explore the imaginary worlds she created, in play.

Later in life, Cheryl became the storyteller for a reenactment group who traveled widely, giving a taste of life in the Iron Age. As well as having an opportunity to run around hitting people with a sword, she had an opportunity to tell stories of all kinds, sometimes of her own making, to all kinds of people. The criticism was sometimes harsh, especially from the children, but the reward enormous.

It was there she began to appreciate the power of stories and the primal need to hear them. In ancient times, the wandering bard was the only source of news and the storyteller the heart of the village, keeping the lore and the magic alive. Although much of the magic has been lost, the stories still provide a link to the part of us that wants to believe that it’s still there, somewhere.

In present times, Cheryl lives in a terraced house in the Valleys with her son, dog, hamster, and two cats. Her daughter has deserted her for the big city, but they’re still close. She’s never been happier since she was made redundant and is able to devote herself entirely to her twin loves of writing and art.

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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.


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.





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.


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.



You can buy The Geek and His Artist here:

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Giveaways, J.C. Lillis

Flashback Friday: Excerpt and Giveaway – How to Repair a Mechanical Heart by J.C. Lillis

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I’m chuffed to bits to have author J.C. Lillis with us today to help celebrate the release of How to Repair a Mechanical Heart in print.

I first read this book back in November of 2012 and fell instantly in love with Brandon, Abel, and all the wacky and wonderful characters who populate this delightful story about coming out, accepting yourself, and then falling in love with your best friend. All set alongside the Castaway Planet shipping fandom.

J.C. has brought you an excerpt from the book and is also giving the chance for one lucky reader to win a copy of it – In PRINT to a US resident OR in E-BOOK to an International winner. You can enter the contest by clicking on the Rafflecopter widget below.

Good luck!


HtRaMHBlurb: The summer after high school graduation, two cute and snarky boys hit the road in an RV. Their mission: follow the traveling fan convention for Castaway Planet, the cult sci-fi show they’re both obsessed with. BRANDON irons his t-shirts, loves the dapper and reserved Castaway android Sim, and hides his pesky Catholic guilt from his out-and-proud roadtrip partner, Abel. ABEL collects funny belt buckles, loves Castaway‘s brave and dashing Captain Cadmus, has a hot boyfriend with a phoenix tattoo, and has nothing to hide—except his epic crush on Brandon. During their six-week cross-country adventure, Brandon and Abel post new entries on their Castaway Planet fan vlog, spar with an online community of slash fiction writers, meet their TV idols, play with their action figures, uncover big secrets, and maybe possibly fall in love. Can two fanboys face down their obstacles and write themselves a real-life romance—or is fiction the only thing bringing them together?

Available At: Amazon | Barnes & Noble


Excerpt: Here’s a peek at Brandon & Abel’s first vlog post of the trip; they’re recording in Abel’s kitchen just before they take off. I picked this scene because a.) it sets up the whole road trip, b.) it’s a nice intro to their dynamic, and c.) it is SUPER geeky, so if you tolerate/appreciate this level of geek, it’s a pretty sure sign you’ll enjoy the rest of the book. (WARNING: It might make you hungry for Cookie Crisp.)

~J.C. Lillis


“You ready, partner?” he says.

“We’re unveiling now?”

“We have to. The girls’ve been trolling us all morning. Wait’ll you see.”

Abel and I hunch in front of his laptop at the glass kitchen table, next to a stack of cruddy glasses and plates I very much want to scrub. He’s crunching Cookie Crisp from a china bowl that probably cost more than my car. His limited-edition Plastic Cadmus grips the pocket of Abel’s robe with his super-ripped hero arms and I side-eye him; even three inches tall, Cadmus is a smug bastard. No one’s home besides us, as usual. Abel’s dad’s at Mercy fitting someone with a new heart, his mom and little sister are in Boston on their book tour, and his brother Jacob’s at some school in New York for musical geniuses with bad attitudes.

“Don’t worry. You look lovely.” Abel slides on his shades with the red steel frames, an exact replica of Cadmus’s. “You’ve got that cute all-American khakis-and-flip-flops thing going on. You’re like Volleyball Ken.”

I sip my water. “Now with Eye-Rolling Action.”

“Do I have sex hair?”


“Brandon, seriously. Wait’ll you meet Kade. Best five days of my life!”

“Please spare every detail.”

“Cynicism gives you blackheads. Studies show.”

I tip my chin at the laptop. “Let’s go.”

He grins and hits record.

Bonjour, fellow Casties.” He musses his hair and turns on his best news-anchor purr. “It’s your two favorite recappers, coming at you live from my kitchen on May the twenty-ninth, a day that will forever live in infamy. Say hello to my distinguished fellow commentator, Brandon—”

“Hi guys.”

“—currently obscuring his cute little abs with the baggiest Castaway Planet t-shirt in recorded history.”

“It’s comfy.”

“What are you hiding under there?”

“Secrets. Many secrets.”

Abel rips off his shades and cocks an eyebrow. I let out a snort. I picture a handful of strangers watching this at home, thinking my secret is cool and mysterious like a jagged scar across my chest, and not dull and heavy like I gave up church but not the angst.

“Anyway, guys.” Abel pops one last Cookie Crisp. “Today we unveil that Super-Secret Summer Spectacular we’ve been teasing y’all about, ‘cause we know how our fifteen fans like, follow our every move and have shrines and shit.”

“My shrines are bigger.” I grin.

“Whatever. Here’s the deal. You real fans who come here and watch our episode recaps every week are A-plus, right, ‘cause you love Castaway Planet as much as we do and you’ve got more than ten brain cells to your name. But as we all know, there’s one faction of the fandom…”

“One very vocal faction.”

“…that is, and we say this with love, STONE COLD CRACKERS WITH A SIDE ORDER OF CRAZY FRIES. I am referring, of course, to—”

He plunks Plastic Cadmus in front of the camera. I do the same with Plastic Sim.

Cadsim shippers.”

I perform a cartoony shudder.

“Guys, I don’t know if you’re following our ginormous flamewar with Miss Maxima and her minions at the Cadsim fanjournal.” Abel sighs. “The slash fiction was bad enough, but these rejects have been calling it canon since the crystal-spider-cave episode, and that we cannot abide. Look, maybe it’s semi-tempting to think they had secret sexytimes when they’re stuck in the cave and there’s that ‘meaningful look’ and the fadeout, but people? Captain James P. Cadmus is a blazing hot male specimen who can kill a sixty-pound alien spider with his bare hands, and Sim is a freakin’-damn ANDROID—”

“Who’s way too good for Cadmus.”

“That statement is too ludicrous to acknowledge,” Abel huffs, petting Plastic Cadmus’s plastic head. “Anyway, our feud with the crazypants Cadsim girls? Officially ends this summer. We at the Screw Your Sensors vlog have made a wager. Hold up the CastieCon tickets, Bran.”

I fan them out. Abel explains the bet, which basically goes like this: we hit the six tour stops the Castaway Planet convention makes this summer, go to the Q&As with all five main cast members plus the showrunner, and ask them what they think Cadmus and Sim did in the cave scene after the fadeout. If a majority of them agree that no hookup happened, the Cadsim girls have to run an all-caps disclaimer on every one of their fanfics, forever.

“Brandon, tell them what it says.” Abel slides me a printout.

“PLEASE NOTE: A legitimate Cadsim hookup has been definitively disproven by the cast and creator of Castaway Planet, as well as professional Internet gods Brandon Page and Abel McNaughton. I freely admit I am a dingbat with zero respect for canon or for Cadmus or Sim as characters; I just want to see hot boys get it on. Read at your own risk.”

“That’s right. However, on the extreme off chance we lose? Miss Maxima, the Queen Bitch mod of the Cadsim community, will select a scene from one of their rotten little fanfics and we’ll act it out on camera—”

“—Within. Reason.” Why did I say yes to this?

“Right. Strictly first base, pervs. We’re gay but not for each other.” He scrolls through the Cadsim fic archive on his phone. “For instance, we won’t do the one where Dr. Lagarde plants a ‘sex chip’ in Sim’s brain and he and Cadmus do it in a hammock.”

“For crap’s sake.” I facepalm.

“Nor will we perform the futurefic where they’re back on Earth and get stuck in an elevator during a blackout.”

“Or any other elevator fic.”

“Or hurt/comfort fic.”

“Or alternate-universe steampunk fic.”

“So we better make damn sure we come out on top.”

“Sim likes the top.”

It just shoots out. I feel my ears redden; when I slip and say something flirty, it sounds like an elephant trying to bark.

Abel cracks up and stops the recording right there. He hits upload before I can object.

“On that note, Tin Man,” he says. “I have a little…surprise.”

He reaches in his robe and rummages. My left leg starts jittering. Last time Abel surprised me it was my birthday, and he slipped a special card under my windshield wiper: Sim’s head taped to a cutout of a gym rat in a leopard thong.

This time it’s just a small silver envelope.

“Open it,” he sings.


J.C. LillisAbout the Author: So about me. I am a veteran of eight tempestuous Internet fandoms, three Catholic schools, and countless crushes on fictional characters. I live in Baltimore with my awesome and patient family and a ragtag band of tropical fish, some of which will probably be dead by the time you read this. I obsess over thrift store art, homemade dollhouses, second-tier 80s sitcoms, koi ponds, retrofuturism, Game of Thrones, Edward Gorey, and peanut butter and banana sandwiches.

My mom still has my first batch of homemade books. I wrote them when I was six or seven, on stapled pieces of construction paper. They were about a family of talking silverware, a gray shoe who lost her mate, and my father’s grim adventures at his office and in “Giantland” (vastly different locales, though in both places he was shouted at by the disembodied head of his boss). I’ve been trying to top the Giantland story ever since. Maybe this will be my year.

Contact me at jclillisbooks AT gmail DOT com with questions/comments/haiku.

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Excerpt and Audiobook Giveaway: Sam Dorsey and Gay Popcorn by Perie Wolford


We’re so pleased to welcome back author Perie Wolford today, with an excerpt from and giveaway of his latest audiobook release, Sam Dorsey and Gay Popcorn, narrated by Joel Leslie.

Take a look at the little tease he’s sent along, and then click on the Rafflecopter widget below to enter for the chance to win one of SEVEN copies of the audio.

Good luck!


Sam DorseyBlurbs: Book 1 – Sam Dorsey and His Sixteen Candles

Sam never liked his birthdays because not a single one of them was happy. When he turned one, he fell face-down into his birthday cake. When he turned five, he broke his left arm When he turned seven, he broke his right arm and his left leg. When he turned 12, his house caught fire. Now Sam is about to turn 16 and he is dreading the day. The only birthday wish he has is for Jake who is the Mr. Popular of Arcadia High to even acknowledge his existence, or better yet give him a happy-birthday kiss.

But Sam knows that it’s not going to happen. Or is it?

Book 2 – Sam Dorsey and His Dirty Dancing

Sam is turning 17 this year and he is being pushed towards adulthood too fast. He has a whole bunch of grown-up problems on his hands now. Like how to make a distant relationship with your boyfriend work? Or how to stop yourself from cheating on your boyfriend with a hot friend who wants to be more than friends? Or how to detach yourself from your parents and follow your dreams independently? But all that is just too much for a 17-year-old to handle. So Sam finds himself gravitating towards Eric, a little daredevil who introduces him to fun things, like stealing, lying, drinking, smoking, and having sex.

But we know that things like that can lead you into trouble. Sam doesn’t know about that though, and he is headed towards a disaster. Somebody is just going to have to show him the right way.

Available At: Audible | Amazon


Excerpt: The year is 1985. The month is April. The day is Monday.

And also, it is my birthday.

Thankfully, I’m not awake just yet. The bright, obnoxiously cheerful morning light is coming through my window, but I’m still there in my bed snoozing away, peaceful and happy; not yet aware that my least favorite day of the year has settled into existence all around me.

I fell asleep watching Sixteen Candles on VHS last night and, as always, it captured my heart. Now I’m blissfully dreaming about Jake…

Only, it’s not Jake from the movie. It’s Jake from my school, Jake Timbers, and just like his fictional namesake, Jake is a jock, the permanent and unrivaled king of Arcadia High. He has an expensive and totally drool-worthy car, a gigantic horde of friends and followers who warship him, and a majorly sexy girlfriend.

I’m not a fan of hers.

Anyway, Jake is jogging across the school’s Football Stadium, which coincidentally has his name plastered on it due to his father’s “charitable donation” a couple years back. I suspect it was more about appearances than charity, but it provides me a nice viewing angle, so I’m cool with it either way.

Jake is the quarterback, an overrated position in my opinion, but he’s definitely good at it—I’d even heard rumors about him being scouted by universities, practically unheard of considering he’s only a sophomore. He’s not as bulky as the defensive players on the team, but he’s still very muscular, lithe and quick, with perfectly toned throwing arms. During the spring, before the weather gets too hot, he often comes out here to jog and warm up after school. Most of these days I am lurking nearby, doing some warming up of my own if you catch my drift.

Luckily he doesn’t know about that.

Sometimes I wish he did though. It’s hard work keeping my feelings to myself all the time. Not owning up to them just makes me feel like I’m telling the entire world one long and continuous lie, ya know? But that lie is necessary; for more reasons than one.

So yeah…no confessions from me, just admiration from afar.

In this particular dream Jake is wearing those standard tiny red gym shorts; the ones that are incredibly aerodynamic and leave very little to the imagination. I don’t know who the hell invented them and made them standard issue, but that person definitely has my gratitude. He’s also wearing a RunAround T-shirt that is becoming increasingly wet as his workout intensifies.

And soon enough, almost like clockwork, he sheds the shirt and begins to cool his heated body in the morning breeze.

I look on, as I often do (in my dreams and in real life), with multiple forms of envy.

Jake is only 16, like I am. But unlike me, he already has the body of a grown man. I guess he has sports to thank for that, or his parents’ good genes, or both. In any case, those muscles he has on his chest are fantastic. I can’t keep myself from staring at them.

Unfortunately, he notices me noticing.

He is headed my way now and my heart is working overtime. Relax, Sam, relax!

He approaches me.

Suddenly I am frozen. I’m like a statue. A statue with a blitz of meaningless mind babble: What’s wrong with me? God, I’m sweating. Is it noticeable? I think I’m paralyzed. What do I do?!

He smiles at me deviously. Then, unbelievably, he takes my hand and puts it onto his chest!

“What are you doing?” I ask, my voice octaves higher than it should be. I can feel the warmth of his skin under my fingertips. His heart is beating steadily beneath them.

No. This cannot be happening.

“I wanted to feel you on my skin,” he says, confident, not at all shy. He’s not angry or ashamed, just smoldering.

“Don’t you like it?” he stares up at me with twinkling blue eyes. The kind you—well I—can’t help but get lost in.

“Yeah,” I breathe out stupidly.

His eyes are locked on mine, a sultry smile playing smoothly across his handsome face.

“Touch me…” he says finally, trailing off in a way that makes my imagination run wild.

“I already am touching you,” I manage to choke out, not willing to acknowledge the sexy notes in his voice, but still hoping they ring true.

“No,” he whispers with a crooked smile. “Touch me there…”

He takes my hand and lowers it right down his torso, my fingertips barely brushing against slick washboard abs until…Oh Lord! That is too much.

No… No… Ahhhh!


“Sam! Get up! You’ll be late for school!”

And just like that reality comes crashing down around me like an eighteen-wheeler.

“Coming Mom!” I shout, trying to shake the memory of skin against skin.

Tentatively, I reach down into my shorts and yep, there’s all the evidence right there—a lot of it too. Ya know, I totally get that a wet dream is perfectly normal and everything, but that doesn’t make it any less awkward, especially factoring in the subject of said wet dream. Sighing and feeling completely less than stellar, I close my eyes, partly ashamed of my fantasy and overall infatuation with Jake Timbers and equally ashamed of my shame. Like, why does everything have to be so weird and messed up and complicated? Why can’t I just feel what I feel and be done with it?

It takes me a couple of minutes to brace myself and get up from the bed. For one thing, there’s an unfortunate amount of sticky goo in my pants that I have to go take care of. And also, I’m not looking forward to today at all. A happy birthday? Not likely.

I reach down into the drawer of my desk and take out a hidden stack of photos. No, it’s not porn! I don’t keep my porn in the drawers. Even I’m not that lame. It’s my own personal collection of ghosts from birthdays past. I keep them here as a reminder of all those truly gag-worthy moments; lest I forget and try to actually enjoy my birthday.

My birthdays have never been happy. Exhibit A: Here is a photo of me when I turned one. I’m such a cute little blue-eyed baby you say? Wrong! The next thing you know that cute baby-boy is gonna fall face-down into his cheerfully-colored birthday cake. Exhibit B: a photo of me turning five. I look so radiant and happy on my new bike you say? Wrong again! Don’t be fooled. There I am a couple hours later with a cast on my left arm. Exhibit C: here is the one where I turned seven with a cast on both my arm and my leg. I don’t even remember how that happened; that’s how used to these experiences I am. But what really takes the cake (pun intended) is the day I turned twelve. My house totally went up in flames, but alas, there’s no picture for that, just one very sad news-clipping.

Most times it doesn’t really bother me. Over the years I’ve just slowly come to the conclusion that this particular day of the year is cursed for me; like my very own personal Friday the 13th. Usually I can just hunker down and make it through the worst of it. But now I am turning sixteen, a relatively “important” number, and I just can’t shake the feeling that something is about to go horribly, wretchedly wrong.


Dressed now, casually as usual in my Run DMC T-shirt and jeans, I make my way downstairs, following the smell of the freshly-cooked pancakes. Ron and Julia, my younger siblings, are perched at the table and shoveling food into their mouths. Dad has already left for work, thank God. Not that I don’t like my old man or anything. It’s just that there’s one less person at the table to wish me happy birthday. Which is definitely a good thing, believe me. My evil birthday gremlins can smell well-wishes from a mile away.

“Well, look who finally decided to show up,” Ron says, glancing up from his plate. He’s twelve now and totally in need of a major chill pill. He doesn’t have a respectful bone in his body.

“Don’t talk to him like that, you dipstick,” Julia says, defending me in her own weirdly inappropriate way. “It’s his birthday!”

“Oh yeah? And what he was doing upstairs so long, giving himself a birthday present?” Ron snaps.

“Shut your mouth you dweeb-o-rama!” she counters and smacks his forehead with her spoon.

“Make me!” Ron lifts up his spoon eagerly, ready to retaliate.

“I will, believe me,” Julia replies, deadly calm.

“Come on, I’m ready for it!”

“That’s enough! Ron, you be nice!” my mother finally snaps at him, effectively shutting down the argument. Must be some super-secret Mom power or something.

“Okay, okay, keep your wig on,” Ron says, getting up to place his plate in the sink. “It is his birthday. I better keep myself away. I wouldn’t want to get my hair set on fire or anything.”

I cringe. Eleven; I’d almost forgotten about that one since it didn’t directly happen to me. That year my birthday candles had effectively turned a six year old Ron into a human torch. Needless to say, there are no longer any candles on my birthday cakes, and now there’s a fire extinguisher in our house. Two actually.

I sit down at the table and wait for the bombs to start dropping. Julia is not much of a threat. She’s not gonna wish me a happy birthday since she knows good and well that I don’t like it, but my mom doesn’t believe in the curse. My muscles tense up in preparation.

It’s already starting. I watch in horror as she abandons her pan on the stove, and approaches me, planting her standard “birthday kiss” on my forehead. The next thing you know the words are gonna leave her mouth… happy

I brace myself, but suddenly the phone starts ringing, cutting her off midsentence. Thank the sweet lord!

She goes to pick it up, her mane of feathered blonde hair trailing several inches behind her.  “Hello?” she answers.

It’s Uncle Jack calling, I’m sure. Their entire family of seven is gonna be moving into one of the houses on our street today. They’ve been talking about it forever, but I never actually thought they would go through with it. The thought of having so many relatives in close proximity is infinitely nauseating to me, but I guess there’s really not much I can do about it. I’m still gonna be coerced into celebrating with everyone tonight—even my grandparents are coming.

And of course they’re all too damn loving and thoughtful to completely forget my birthday even exists.

Immediately I start stuffing my face with pancakes in hopes that I’ll be able to avoid any sort of conversation with my uncle. You see, Uncle Jack is a man of very few words, most of those words being rather unpleasant.

Case in point:

“Sam, honey, Uncle Jack is asking if you could help him move the furniture in this afternoon,” my mom tells me still holding the phone to her ear.

I sigh dramatically, of course he is. It’s not like he has five kids of his own to do it or anything.

I nod sullenly and she relays the information to Uncle Jack. I catch Julia’s eye from across the table and she gives me a sympathetic smile that does manage to make me feel a little better.

Chewing fast, I swallow my last bite of pancake and jump up from the table. I manage to pat my sister’s head affectionately and give my mother a quick kiss on the cheek in one fluid motion and then make a beeline for the door.

“Honey?” she shouts after me, but I’m already outside.

“I’ll be late for the bus,” I shout as the door closes.

As soon as I’m in the clear I indulge myself in a small victory smile.

Mission accomplished! She didn’t say it. Now I have to make sure nobody else does either.



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Cody Kennedy, GayRomLit, Giveaways

Guest Post and Giveaway: The Countdown to GRL 2015 with Cody Kennedy

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Today, we’re so pleased to welcome author Cody Kennedy on the official Countdown to GayRomLit 2015 blog tour.

Enjoy Cody’s guest post, then be sure to click on the Rafflecopter widget below for a chance to win an e-copy of Slaying Isidore’s Dragons and a signed .jpg image of the book’s title page.

Good luck!


Hollywood DandelionsHi, I’m Cody Kennedy, and I’m getting ready for GayRomLit Retreat! This will be my first time attending GRL, and I am very excited! A very special thanks to Lisa Horan and all the wonderful people at The Novel Approach for supporting GayRomLit, our books, and us!

For those of you who aren’t familiar with my books and me, here is a little about me:

Raised on the mean streets and back lots of Hollywood by a Yoda-look-alike grandfather, Cody doesn’t conform, doesn’t fit in, is epic awkward, and lives to perfect a deep-seated oppositional defiance disorder. In a constant state of fascination with the trivial, Cody contemplates such weighty questions as If time and space are curved, then where do all the straight people come from? When not writing, Cody can be found taming waves on western shores, pondering the nutritional value of sunsets, appreciating the much-maligned dandelion, unhooking guide ropes from stanchions, and marveling at all things ordinary.

ALL.OF.IT.IS.TRUE. One thing the above short bio doesn’t tell you is that I am old! Yes! It’s true! I’ll likely be the eldest author at GRL—is there an award for that?—and I write for the youngest crowd! I write for young adults, yet my stories deal with the very real, adult problems our youth deal with today. Rebel that I am my books also contain violence or the inference of violence, sex or the inference of sex, and music. I score my books. Please do not mock me. It’s a plight. Here is the music playlist for my newest novel, Slaying Isidore’s Dragons.

Raised in Hollywood, I spent way too much time on film sets growing up, but it gave me a unique perspective on storytelling. You’ll find more dialogue and action in my books than narrative. I also like to give readers a thrill. You’ll find twists and turns in my stories, the periodic Boo!, and at least one ‘are you phreakin’ kidding me?’ moment. I mean that in the nicest possible way. I have a wild imagination and look to bring imagination to life and give readers the best possible reading experience. You’ll also find three other things in my books. Romance, hope, and a happily ever after.

The Supreme Court’s recent decision legalizing gay marriage is an historic event, to be sure. But it’s more than that. It ensures that every generation alive today lives in a time of profound change—not only one of change in perspective, but also one of behavior and the law. Now, more than ever before. As authors, we bring awareness to the world. That makes me proud and I hope to bring you works that inspire you, give you strength and, above all, give you hope.

Enter for a chance to win an e-copy and signed .jpg image of Slaying Isidore’s Dragons. I look forward to meeting you at GayRomLit!

Stop by my Blog with questions or comments, or simply share what’s on your mind.

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Here’s a little about my latest novel, Slaying Isidore’s Dragons


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. Read Chapter One of Slaying Isidore’s Dragons

Slaying Isidore’s Dragons is available in ebook and print from:

Dreamspinner/Harmony Ink Press

Amazon     GooglePlay     Barnes & Noble

OmniLit/ARe     Beam-eBooks in Europe



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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

Audio Gem

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.


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.


You can buy Boy Meets Boy here:



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

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

TNA Page Turner Resized

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.


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.

You can buy Slaying Isidore’s Dragons here:

All Romance eBooks

All Romance eBooks

Harmony Ink Press, K.D. Worth

Guest Post and Giveaway: The Grim Life by K.D. Worth

KD Worth

The Novel Approach welcomes author Deanna Wadsworth today, writing as her Young Adult alter ego K.D. Worth, and talking a bit about her new Harmony Ink Press novel The Grim Life.

K.D. is also offering the chance for one lucky reader to win an e-copy of the book. To enter for a chance to win, just click on the Rafflecopter widget below.

Good luck!


Thank you for hosting me a The Novel Approach!

I just love being here again….oh wait! K.D.Worth has never been here before. But my other alias, Deanna Wadsworth has been here before. But my new YA author name KD Worth with a new novel THE GRIM LIFE has never been her ebefore.

So why the new penname?

People ask me all the time why I decided to write YA with a different pen name. Well I have one big reason: Reader expectation.

If a reader picks up a Deanna Wadsworth book they are going to get lots of sex. And that is not the case in THE GRIM LIFE.

But more than just a lack of erotic content, there is a strong religious aspect of THE GRIM LIFEand I didn’t want to shock readers.

Religious, you say?

This from the mind of candy flavored cum?!

Yes, if Anne Rice can do it, so can I. Hey, aren’t each of us as layered as Shrek’s onion?

In THE GRIM LIFE my hero Kody Michaels is in a crisis of faith. He is a Christian college student (so I think that might make my book NA) who feels like being gay is a betrayal of his faith. I mean, that’s all he’s been told. In the beginning of the book Kody feels like he cannot keep trying to please everyone, including God, if he is being true to himself, so he decides to end his own life.

Enter Max Shaw a 16 year old grim reaper (or does that make my book YA?) who is sent to reap Kody’s soul. Instead he saves him—a big no-no for a reaper. It’s not his call to decide who lives and who dies. Max’s only job is to get their souls to heaven. But Max wants to convince Kody that God loves him just the way he is and he’s totally falling for him.See, Max has the inside scoop on what God does and does not approve of. He works of an angel named Slade who answers directly to God.

But what is the Big Guy gonna say when he learns that Max defied the rules of being a reaper just to save Kody? These two lost teens are thrown together in what seems like an accidental meeting, and they only have so much time before another reaper comes to finish what Max didn’t.

Not enough angst for ya?

How about we throw in misguided spirits of dead folks stuck in purgatory taking over dead bodies??

Yeah, and all of it written in dual first person, I definitely needed a new pen name!

I brought along an excerpt of THE GRIM LIFE and I hope you all think about checking it out!



Author BioAbout the Author: K.D. Worth has always considered herself to have the heart of a teenager with an old soul. When not talking to the characters living in her head, she loves to hang out at her favorite townie bar then go dancing and partying with her husband and friends. There is always music playing in her home, and if it’s too loud you’re too old! On the flip side, K.D. enjoys spending time in her vegetable garden, canning the food she grows, and making homemade jams and jellies. She also is known to crochet washcloths and blankets for her closest friends and smiles when they tease her for her “grandmotherly” ways. These two different sides to her personality create a layered tapestry of life experience that brings depth and believability to the characters she writes. She loves to hear from her fans almost as much as she loves her cocker spaniels. You can find her on Facebook or get updates about upcoming books on her website.

Facebook | Twitter: @kdworth_author | Website | AMAZON | Harmony Ink Press | Dreamspinner Press | All Romance | Barnes & Noble



Max Shaw is dead.

Well, sort of.

After dying on prom night, Max was recruited by a mysterious tattooed angel named Slade to join a group of teenage reapers. Cocky and sarcastic, Max thinks he has his afterlife together, but the moment Slade assigns him to his first suicide case, everything changes.

Christian college student Kody Michaels is struggling to make sense of his life and his faith. After a failed suicide attempt at an antigay camp, Kody is determined not to fail again. Tired of disappointing his family and God, he is going to end his life once and for all.

But in a split-second decision, Max saves Kody—defying the rules of a reaper.

Max believes his only concern is convincing Kody that God loves him just the way he is, so he can save him from a hellish afterlife as a shade. Little does Max know, some shades have found a way to walk among the living as wraiths. These evil wraiths know Kody has been slated for death, and they have another, darker purpose for him.

Max has only one night to save Kody before one of Slade’s team finishes the job Max lacked the courage to complete.

AMAZON | Harmony Ink Press | Dreamspinner Press | All Romance | Barnes & Noble


EXCERPT: Some days being a reaper was the worst job in the universe.

Most of the time I’m okay with being dead, though I won’t lie, it took me a while to accept my new life would never be that of a normal teenager. The night Slade recruited me and the authorities carted my mortal remains off to the morgue for my parents to identify, my life had taken a very strange twist.

Weird and depressing but wonderful at times too.

I didn’t know the exact number of reapers on this side of life who helped people pass over, but there were a lot of us. I answered directly to Slade. If you caught those rare glimpses of his real power, he was one scary reaper/angel. He’d never clarified what he was, so I usually went with angel. In a weird way, it sort of suited him, despite his fixation with motorcycle attire and ink. I figured out real quick his tattoos changed according to mood, as did his weapon choice. One day he toted cowboy guns and another, a samurai sword. No amount of incessant questioning ever produced an answer as to why an angel needed weapons, but it didn’t stop me from asking.

Slade wrangled a team of dead youths, each of us around my death age of sixteen. He’d confided in me once that when he saw my spirit standing in the road, he knew I was no ordinary death. I was special and had a bigger purpose.

As far as I could tell, however, I was no different than my fellow reapers. Slade often said, “Max, it takes a special soul to do what we do, and you’re one of the best I’ve ever seen.”

But tonight I hated my job.

I really, really hated it.

Every day, members of our team received files with our charges—aka a list of those we would deliver to heaven. Cases sometimes changed midshift, and then Slade would send us somewhere else, but more often than not everything went as expected, and we reapers rarely saw our boss. Slade was off doing literally only God knew what. All holy missions were on a need-to-know basis, and frankly, we had all been told many times, we did not need to know.

Depending on how complicated the crossover was expected to be, a reaper could help up to thirty people in one shift. Young humans and accidental deaths like mine took the most time. Generally, the elderly were more than ready to head up to the big golf course in the sky, and their cases, paperwork and all, could be wrapped up in less than half an hour.

Yet today I had been given one charge—Kody Michaels.

Our caseload had been unusually light recently, but I’d never been given one death for a shift. I should’ve suspected something wasn’t right.

Now, staring at Kody standing on a bridge, I suddenly understood.

My first suicide.

Damn you, Slade.

Quite a bit taller than me, Kody had dark brown hair and a slim build. His face was screwed up in a horrific agony as he studied the long drop to the river below. He muttered nonsensical noises under his breath, whimpers or maybe a prayer? I had no idea. Whatever he said, he was quite fervent about it, and his desperation sent a stab of grief through me.

I covered my mouth with a hand, fighting back the unexpected swell of human emotions I shouldn’t have anymore. But no amount of training could’ve prevented the achy sensation of hopelessness from surfacing. Kody’s shaking hands gripped the railing of the bridge, his blue eyes locked on the rushing water below.

Swallowing the lump in my throat, I looked down to the boy’s chosen fate. The river ran high from heavy rains, but not high enough to hide the large rocks jutting up like swords, ready to end a life. I shivered with trepidation and a suddenly cool breeze.

Movement near the edge of the riverbank caught my eye.

I squinted into the darkness and swore something moved, shifting within the shadows. Was someone down there? But when I blinked, the shadow was gone. Probably just an animal or the moonlight playing tricks on my eyes.

Furiously, I wiped tears from my face, trying to get ahold of myself. But when I saw Kody’s face, they just kept coming. Reapers weren’t supposed to hurt for our charges because we didn’t fear death.

We were death.

The roar of an engine startled me, and I jumped as a car approached us.

The headlights illuminated Kody in a macabre image, every detail seared onto my memory—the purple T-shirt, the slim-fit jeans. His shoes were untied, and his long eyelashes were matted with tears. When the light flashed across the wetness on his red cheeks, I saw something in his eyes—a wish that the driver might stop and help him? Had he been praying after all?

But there was no saving his mortal life.

Not if I was already here.

In less than an instant, the motorist was gone, never even slowing. I had not imagined the glimpse of lucidity and hope in Kody’s eyes. When the red taillights faded into the night, however, the boy’s helpless sob filled the air—a sound which would haunt me the rest of my days.

Why hadn’t Slade warned me? He hadn’t been into the office in months, but twenty minutes ago he’d hand-delivered me Kody’s file. And he hadn’t said a thing! No suggestions, no advice, nothing!

Unequipped to deal with this kind of death, I’d never been given an assignment as young as Kody. The file said he’d just turned eighteen—two years older than I’d been when I’d died. What would drive a boy so close to my own age to suicide? What was so bad in his life that he would chose to end it rather than live? I would give anything to live again, to have one more day….

That thought was like a slap in the face.

My own lost youth barreled in on me, drawing old memories to the surface. All this time, I’d believed I had come to grips with my death, but seeing this kid throwing away all the chances I would never have brought a rush of unresolved emotions back with a vengeance.

Anger at this selfish boy and an overwhelming pity warred within me.

Kody was still living, but I would never graduate high school, go to college, or even buy my first car. I would never get to find true love or enjoy my first kiss—with another boy this time. My life had been stolen from me, yet Kody was ready to throw his away?

He let out another sob, ripping at my heart and cutting through any real resentment.

How could I be mad at this boy for taking his own life when he was so visibly broken?

Get a grip, I ordered myself, brushing at the wetness still slicking my face.

Hadn’t I accepted my lot in life by now? I rarely stopped by to watch my family anymore and hadn’t checked up on Debby since she’d gone to California for college. I’d even gotten over my bitterness at dying a virgin—sort of—and generally I enjoyed helping people cross over. I’d even found genuine friends within Slade’s group of reapers. Granted none of them were gay, but still….

What was my problem tonight?

Kody placed one foot on the railing of the bridge, his body trembling as he hoisted himself up. The concrete rail had been wetted from an earlier autumn rain, but his foot was sure. He began to murmur again, his breath visible in the cool air. I felt guilty when I tried to listen in, yet relieved when I could not understand.

Blinking back more tears, I struggled to maintain the businesslike compassion all reapers possessed. All I needed to do was reach out and lay the Touch on him. The long fall would take care of the rest. Then I would find his soul and guide him over.

It was standard procedure.

Yet I couldn’t move, paralyzed by pity and my own flailing emotions.

The boy’s second leg went over the railing, and he sat on the edge staring down and clutching the concrete tightly, his knuckles boney and white.

Briefly, I wondered if I would have to shift down to the riverbank to collect him, or if his spirit would stay on the bridge once the fall or the large rocks and cold water killed him.

Closing his eyes, he took a deep, fortifying breath, uttering one simple word:


Serenity cleansed away the pain in his face, softening the lines of grief and wilting the tension in his shoulders.

His hands relaxed, letting go.

When he pushed off, I did something I had never done before.

I saved his life.



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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

TNA Page Turner Resized

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.


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.

You can buy I’ll Always Miss You here:

All Romance eBooks

All Romance eBooks

CoolDudes Publishing, Giveaways, Mia Kerick

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


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.

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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.


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, 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.


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.





You can buy Recipe for Magic here:

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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

TNA Page Turner Resized

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.


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.


You can buy Henning Book Two: The Prince of Wintergrave here:

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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

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

4 Stars, Bold Strokes Books, Brian McNamara, Reviewed by Tina, Young Adult

Review: Bottled Up Secret by Brian McNamara

Title: Bottled Up Secret

Author: Brian McNamara

Publisher: Bold Strokes Books

Pages/Word Count: 264 Pages

Rating: 4 Stars

Blurb: Brendan Madden is in the midst of his senior year of high school and couldn’t be happier. He has a great group of friends, his pick of colleges, and he has recently come to terms with his sexuality. One night, he meets Mark Galovic, a gorgeous, younger classmate of his. In a matter of minutes, Brendan is hooked. As the friendship between them grows, Brendan reaches his breaking point when he spontaneously confesses his feelings to him. Brendan is shocked and elated to find out that Mark feels the same way about him. The two begin to date, but because Mark is not out, it must remain a secret. As their friends and family become suspicious, openly gay Brendan becomes increasingly frustrated with their discreet relationship, while Mark becomes more and more paranoid that they’re going to be found out. Continue reading

Harmony Ink Press, Suki Fleet

Interview and Giveaway: Wild Summer by Suki Fleet



TNA: Hi, Suki, welcome back to The Novel Approach. I’m so pleased to have you back to discuss your new novel Wild Summer. Your young heroes meet and fall in love as teenagers, go their separate ways, only to find each other again years later. Do you believe in the idea that in real life two people can be destined for each other, or is that only the stuff of fairy tales and romance novels? Why do you believe one way or the other? Continue reading