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

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

Audio Gem

Amazon

Amazon

Title: Something Like Lightning: Volume 5

Author: Jay Bell

Narrator: Kevin R. Free

Publisher: Self-Published

Run Time: 14 hours and 18 minutes

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

Reviewed By: Kathie

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

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

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

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

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

TNA_Signature_Kathie

 

 

 

 

You can buy Something Like Lightning here:

Amazon US

Amazon US

Audible.com

Audible.com

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Christian Baines, Giveaways

Guest Post, Excerpt and Giveaway: Puppet Boy by Christian Baines

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Please join me in welcoming author Christian Baines to The Novel Approach today to chat about his new novel from Bold Strokes Books, Puppet Boy. There’s also an excerpt from the book as well as the change to win an e-copy of Puppet Boy, so don’t forget to click on the Rafflecopter widget to enter.

Good luck!

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I had no problem with people knowing I was bisexual. But I had no inclination to hold any banners nor be a representative of any group of people.” – David Bowie

Anyone who reads Puppet Boy’s blurb will see that high school senior Eric has a lot on his plate. But when an attractive budding actor named Julien transfers to his class, Eric’s initial scepticism soon turns to fascination. Could Julian in fact be his muse? Even his first boyfriend? That could be problematic. Eric and his girlfriend Mary have been inseparable since they were twelve. But Mary is more complicated than she seems, and for that matter, so is Julien.

Puppet Boy’s characters are a diverse spread. Some are gay, some are straight, some are bi, most aren’t putting labels on it, and no-one is particularly in crisis over their sexuality. They have far more interesting problems. The main plot surrounds the arts clique of an elite Christian high school in Sydney, meaning there are plenty of insecurities to go around. I tend to describe the novel as ‘What if Glee was instead the brainchild of Bret Easton Ellis and Gregg Araki?’ They were certainly big influences on it. But I feel those stories also have something in terms of LGBT acceptance that’s kind of faded in the last twenty years – a casual, but unmistakeable sense of bi visibility, usually without ever putting the label out there.

So where did those stories go? As gay culture has gone so mainstream, and our embrace of gay themes has become more earnest, bi characters have been increasingly shuffled off under broad ‘gay’ or ‘straight’ labels depending on who they’re with at the time. Or their bisexuality is depicted as a character flaw. It’s almost as if it isn’t ‘gay-positive’ enough if a character is bi, or it’s seen as a compromise or half-way point. ‘Oh, Willow can’t be bi. She’s with a woman, so she’s obviously gay now.’ So how does an author try to avoid that?

The tricky thing about tackling bi erasure is that sometimes, erasing labels is exactly the point. Unlike monosexuality which is demonstrated through the gender of our partners, bisexuality is rarely obvious unless the person tells you. As for all those great stories that came out in the 80’s and 90’s featuring sexual fluidity, they were, like Bowie, never out to represent bisexuals in earnest. They just played those characters truthfully and if you didn’t like it or it scared you, then, too bad. You obviously didn’t get it. In that vein, there’s no attempt in Puppet Boy to represent.

The novel’s job is to tell a story, not wave a flag, and unless someone is waving that flag or is in a polyamorous relationship, their bisexuality isn’t really overt. That makes it no less present or real than another person’s homo or heterosexuality, yet for whatever reason, our culture frames it as a tool or weapon rather than a sexual identity, insisting that someone who switches from a male partner to female or vice versa is ‘coming out,’ ‘going gay for you,’ or ‘ending a phase.’

While our pro-LGBT rights world is perfectly comfortable with the idea of bisexuality, our culture struggles to understand or accept the actuality. Glee, for all its supposed pro-gay milestones, introduced female bisexuality couched in titillation clichés, establishing its only major bisexual character as a relatively safe, cutesy, ditsy white girl. Then there’s its disastrous ‘Blame It on the Alcohol’ episode, which pays lip service to acknowledging bi-phobia before safely returning Blaine to the land of gay. Compare that with Skyfall, in which Daniel Craig’s Bond casually hints there might be male lovers in 007’s past. That single, quiet moment, in a mainstream action movie – a Bond movie, no less – was huge. It didn’t out the character as bi. It simply reminded us all that that wasn’t so far-fetched. Bisexuals could be heroes, villains, out and proud, quiet and reserved, in relationships, single, monogamous, poly, promiscuous, selective, chaste, more into men, more into women…everywhere and everything was within reach, right up to being James freakin’ Bond.

I don’t think there’s any trick to writing bisexual characters, so much as keeping in mind the way people treat bisexuality. Many won’t realise or acknowledge it, even if they themselves are bi. Or sometimes they’ll come out as gay because they feel it’s easier. We live in a culture that’s currently obsessed with sexual labels, and so do the characters of Puppet Boy. Deep down, they know they might be selling themselves and each other short, but they still find the idea of a fully fledged bisexual identity threatening, particularly for a man, or within themselves, so they retreat to fallacies like ‘gay for you.’ That might frustrate a few readers, and it does make them unreliable narrators in a sense, but it’s true to how I felt a seventeen or eighteen year old might realistically think or talk in a culture that still tends to dismiss sexual fluidity.

Of course it’s never just a matter of liking women or men or both. Countless factors determine attraction and comfort with intimacy. So I tried to focus on the feelings, not the gender of the characters and love interests in Puppet Boy. Characters might be into one person and not another, and not know exactly why. They can want sex and nothing else, or be totally in love with little or no sexual attraction. They can be messy, selfish, and screwed up, and to me, that’s interesting. That’s more reflective of what we’re like as people.

Puppet Boy isn’t a romance, MMF, MM, or otherwise. It’s also not some kind of bi manifesto, and its characters certainly aren’t role models. I do think more bi role models in fiction would be a great thing, but character came before sexuality in Puppet Boy, and to be honest, I find morally dubious characters more fun. So this was never going to be a book about role models or heroes. Instead, it’s a dark coming of age story that simply embraces the characters’ sexual fluidity as part of who they are. Eric’s primary goal never changes. His sexual exploration travels in tandem with it. When exactly he accepts his sexual identity doesn’t matter. He’s not going to look back in twenty years and think ‘Wasn’t I a good/bad bisexual?’ He’s going to remember the people he cared about, and the people who hurt him. In Puppet Boy, he finds plenty of both.

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PuppetBoyBlurb: A school in turmoil over its senior play, a sly career as a teenage gigolo, an unpredictable girlfriend with damage of her own, and a dangerous housebreaker tied up downstairs. Any of these would make a great plot for budding filmmaker Eric’s first movie.

Unfortunately, they’re his real life.

When Julien, a handsome wannabe actor, transfers to Eric’s class, he’s a distraction, a rival, and one complication too many. Yet Eric can’t stop thinking about him. Helped by Eric’s girlfriend, Mary, they embark on a project that dangerously crosses the line between filmmaking and reality. As the boys become close, Eric soon wants to cross other lines entirely. Does Julien feel the same way, or is Eric being used on the gleefully twisted path to fame?

Buy Links: Bold Strokes Books || Amazon || Book Depository

Add it to your virtual bookshelf on Goodreads

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Excerpt: “Eric, where are we going?” Mary giggled as she ran to keep up with him.

“Harley said we could rehearse where we wanted, and the script says ‘another part of the forest.’ Come on!” He took her hand as they jumped over rocks and fallen branches, heading deeper into the wild parkland that backed onto Christian Fellowship’s grounds.

“Have you been back here before?” she asked.

“No.”

“We could get in a shitload of trouble.”

“For taking a walk?” Eric pulled Mary close to him and clasped her hands in his, bearing down on her with an evil grin. “The trouble starts when I cut thy tongue and ravish thee!”

“Jules? Come on! You’re missing the fun!”

“Oh yeah.” Julien almost tripped over a rock as he staggered towards them. “Because I don’t want to miss the tongue cutting. That shit’s ace.”

“Fine, you cut the tongue, and I’ll ravish.” Eric knew Jules hadn’t been thrilled with the change of part or the lost opportunity to play Felicity Turner’s lover, but nobody had forced it on him. Eric was happy to do it for Mary. Who’d twisted Julien’s arm?

“Come on! Get with the ravishing already!” Mary snapped playfully, pulling down her blouse to show off three inches of modest cleavage.

“You mean you actually have breasts? Oh sweet and terrible temptation,” Eric mocked, taking out the script and flipping pages. He skimmed the text as she pulled down her blouse some more. “You know, when Shakespeare was around, they’d have tossed you out as a whore for doing that.”

“When Shakespeare was around, they’d have Jules playing Lavinia.”

“Fair call.”

“Huh?” Julien frowned.

“They usually didn’t let girls on stage.” Eric enlightened him. “Relax. She’s stirring you up.” After their encounter with Andy, Eric wasn’t prepared to cast further doubts on Julien’s masculinity. At least, not yet.

“Yeah, I know all about that. You know that’s where the word ‘drag’ comes from, right? Boy enters ‘DRessed As Girl?’”

“Umm, yes.”

“So, is that what you want your dad to think?” Julien asked Mary.

Eric gritted his teeth, wishing Julien would shut up. But the stupid jock wasn’t looking at him.

“What?” Mary asked.

“That you’re a whore?”

Mary smirked at him, and Eric relaxed, unable to resist a smile of his own. Everyone needed a goal. Topping Mary’s father’s shit list was more satisfying than most within their immediate reach.

“Okay.” He found the page they needed. “So if we skip the bit where Tamora’s sons kill Bassianus—”

“Who?” Julien asked.

“Lavinia’s husband. Saturninus’s brother.”

“Saturn… huh?”

“The young, new emperor…” Eric offered, seeing his friend’s clueless face. “Look, let’s not get into the rest of it just yet. One scene at a time, okay?”

“Cool,” Julien approved.

“Now, Mary—”

“Yes, Mister Director?”

“What?” Eric looked up from the script, his eyes fixing on her. “What do you mean?”

“You’re totally directing us.”

“I am not.”

“It’s what you want to do, isn’t it? This play was your idea, so we’re all yours.”

“I don’t want it to be like that,” he grumbled. “Not with you.”

Half truth, and they knew it. Something about taking the play and making it his own appealed to him. Didn’t he have the right to some creative control? Hadn’t it been his crazy suggestion to do this play, and hadn’t he somehow convinced the entire class to go for it? Didn’t he get Harley to go against the state curriculum for them? And fuck it, if he could control Joe, he could control a bunch of high school actors. All his idea. All his.

“Do you want Chiron or Demetrius?” he asked Julien.

“Huh? The brothers, you mean?”

“Yeah, which one do you want? Harley wants us to decide.” He looked to Mary for an opinion, but the girl was silent.

“What’s the diff’?”

“Demetrius gets more lines, just. Chiron’s younger, a bit more out there and fun. I think Chiron would suit you better.”

“Cool.”

“So, act two, scene four?” Mary pulled the sleeves of her blouse down over her hands, covering them in the makeshift ‘stumps’ of her cuffs.

“That’s the first scene where it’s just the three of us, so I guess. Wait, you’ve got it memorised already?”

Mary shrugged away his disbelief. “Actually, it’s not the three of us. It’s just you two. I don’t have a tongue by this point, remember?”

“Oh yeah, right.”

“Or hands.”

“Right.”

“You just cut them off.”

“Yes, I remember. Thanks.”

“Ymoa’re mbelcumb,” the girl mumbled, her tongue folded back inside her mouth to simulate its removal.

“What was that?”

“Ymoa’re mbelcumb!”

“Oh! You’re welcome. Shouldn’t talk with your mouth full, darling.”

“Bewy punnhy.”

“Or empty, in this case.”

“Phuck yiew, ‘itch!”

Eric flashed a grin and went back to the script. “So, now go tell, an’ if thy tongue can speak, who ‘twas that cut they tongue and ravish’d thee.” He pulled her close, his arms tight around her waist.

Mary screamed, an empty, muted sound, from behind her folded tongue as she turned her face away in feigned disgust. Eric wasn’t sure how a tongue-less mouth muted its sound, but they could work that out later. The two of them stood in silence, waiting for the next line.

“Jules?” Eric asked. “Jules?”

“Y’ul’en!” Mary shouted.

“Huh? Oh, it’s me?”

“Where’s your script?”

“Oh shit. I left it in class. Distracted. Sorry!”

Eric shook his head, throwing Julien his copy. “Page fifty-one.”

“Right.” He fumbled awkwardly until he found the right page. “Ah… Write down thy mind, bewray thy meaning so, An if thy stumps…”

Eric had to admit Julien’s cold reading was spot on for a guy who hadn’t read the script. “See, how with signs and tokens she can scrowl.”

“Go home,” Julien answered. “Call for sweet water, wash thy hands.”

An anguished cry pierced the air as Mary threw herself to the ground, beating at it with her cuff-enclosed fists, screaming the same muffled screams as she pounded the rocks and grass.

“Shit! Are you okay?” Julien asked.

She looked up at him with furious, mad eyes, a trail of spittle bubbling over her lower lip and down her chin before she spat it to the ground. Julien fell back as Mary’s vengeful screams levelled on him. She threw herself at him with unhindered fury.

“What’re you…? Hey!” he yelled as she beat her fists against his chest and clawed at his arms with clenched fingers. “What the…? Eric! Arrgh!” A searing pain ripped down his forearm. He whipped it back, catching Mary across the jaw with a loud crack.

The girl screamed as she clutched her stinging face. For an instant, the temptation seized Eric to throw himself at Julien, to wrestle him to the ground and start bashing his head. But it had been an accident. Nobody’s fault. He hoped his friends would see it the same way.

Julien finally tore his eyes away from the blood that was trickling over his arm, in time to see Mary’s eyes, the hatred that had filled them before, now intensified. “Shit! I’m sorry! Are you o— Hey!” He stumbled back again as she spat in his face.

Eric stepped forward, grabbed her hair from behind and yanked it back. Mary screamed in agony, twisting her head around as though he’d pulled it with all his strength. “She hath no tongue to call nor hands to wash,” he recited, suddenly releasing the hair and launching her head forward. More spittle. More anguished moans. “So let’s leave her to her silent walks.”

Mary scrambled across the ground, grabbing Julien’s trouser legs in her ‘stumps’ as she wrapped herself around, imploring him.

“Okay, stop. What the fuck are you doing?” Julien stammered, wiping his face clean.

Another low scream came from Mary as she pressed her head against Julien’s thigh, clutching him tight in her faux dismembered arms. Eric frowned, too intrigued to stop her now. “Keep going.”

“Uh…an…an t’were my case, I should go hang myself.”

“If thou hadst hands to help thee knit the cord.”

Mary let out another scream, then buried her face in Julien’s crotch. Eric had just opened his mouth to ask why, when…

“What on Earth is going on back here?”

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Christian BainesAbout the Author: Born in Toowoomba, Queensland, Christian Baines has since lived in Brisbane, Sydney, and Toronto, earning an MA in creative writing at University of Technology, Sydney along the way. His musings on travel, theatre, and gay life have appeared in numerous publications in both Australia and Canada.

Dual passions for travel and mythology have sent him across the world in search of dark and entertaining stories. His first novel, The Beast Without, was released in 2013, followed by an erotic short story, The Prince and the Practitioner.

Amazon Author Page || Twitter || Facebook Author Page || Facebook

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THE GIVEAWAY

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The Fine Print:

*Entrants must be 18 years or older to qualify
*Some residency restrictions may apply
*All comments must be relevant to the author’s prompt to be eligible (when applicable)
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*Void where prohibited by law

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Giveaways, Hayden Thorne

Guest Post, Excerpt, and Giveaway: The Porcelain Carnival by Hayden Thorne

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Join us in welcoming author Hayden Thorne today, as she shares a bit about her newest book The Porcelain Carnival, the seventh and final book in the Masks series. Enjoy the excerpt Hayden’s brought along to share with you, and then be sure to click on the Rafflecopter widget below to enter for the chance to win One of Two e-copies of the book.

Good luck!

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AUTHOR’S NOTE: As with the sequels to the main trilogy, this installment is episodic in nature, but it does play a significant role in conveying something about Eric’s adventures. I mentioned a long time ago (over at my blog) that when I end the series, I’ll do so without a firm closure because, given the nature of the superheroes and the supervillains, the insanity continues well beyond the seven books. There’s closure, yes, but not in the sense of the genetically modified characters finding a cure or a fix – because there isn’t.

Deena’s role is also significant on a number of levels, and her story supplements Eric’s in that sense. The same can be said about the missing kids as well as the Shadow Puppet (and, consequently, other supervillains).

At any rate, there you have it. This is Eric’s swan song, and I bid my fictional therapy (he is very therapeutic to write) a fond farewell. If you’ve stuck with the entire series from Rise of Heroes all the way to Dr. Morbid’s Castle of Blood, bless you. Even if the original trilogy was your only foray into Eric’s crazy world, thank you for taking a chance. As with every other book I’ve written and published, I hope you enjoy / enjoyed / continue to enjoy Eric Plath’s adventures as a normal kid caught up in beyond normal situations.

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The Porcelain CarnivalBLURB: In the seventh and final installment of the Masks series, nothing comes easy to sixteen-year-old Eric Plath – and the Shadow Puppet. On one hand, Eric suffers through the tedium of more homework, more groundings from irate parents, and sudden and inexplicable attention from mutated killer mannequins from the Shadow Puppet’s cabal. On the other hand, those evolving mannequins appear to have rattled a supervillain’s schemes of terrorizing Vintage City, and no one — not even the superheroes and the Sentries – can figure out what’s happening.

In the middle of this spiraling supervillain craziness are the growing numbers of disappearing teenagers, including Deena Alvarez, Eric’s good friend who’s in the process of transitioning behind the backs of her disapproving parents and grandparents. And the only clue dropped into Eric’s lap makes him an even bigger target to a supervillain who desperately needs it back.

Buy Links: JMS Books || Amazon || Smashwords

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EXCERPT:
(from Chapter 12)

“ERIC, YOU’RE NOT going to die.”

I glanced up, shooting Peter a withering look. “That’s easy for you to say. You weren’t neck-deep in seething, broiling garbage. I’ve got half a mind to demand a full cavity search.”

Peter froze. He didn’t even blink; I think he couldn’t find it in himself to blink. “This isn’t a good time to be kinky.”

“I’m not being kinky. I’m serious. I want to make sure no bacteria or viruses or mutated parasites and worms found their way under my jeans and underwear and up my ass.” I snorted. “Can you believe it? Parasites would get in there even way before you would, Peter Barlow. I don’t even want to think of the damage those bastards would cause. Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if this means no gay butt sex till the day I die.”

Fan-made poster of Benedict Cumberbatch as Dr. Strange. If I were to fan cast Eric as a superhero, I'd kill to see him as the Sorcerer Supreme. He has to be an adult, though; otherwise, he'd destroy the whole planet with his still-raging teen hormones ruling his head.

Fan-made poster of Benedict Cumberbatch as Dr. Strange. If I were to fan cast Eric as a superhero, I’d kill to see him as the Sorcerer Supreme. He has to be an adult, though; otherwise, he’d destroy the whole planet with his still-raging teen hormones ruling his head.

I took a deep, calming breath because I was beyond furious. Was this what people called “incensed”? I think so, but I’d have to double-check my thesaurus. At any rate, I was fuming. It’d been an hour since I was rescued from the dumpster (and interrogated while squirming and practically sobbing in my killer
disease-soaked clothes), and I refused to leave the bathtub. I’d been sitting in warm, sudsy water for an eternity now, alternately scrubbing every inch of my skin with a loofa and dunking my head again and again in the water. Oh, and the soap used was one of those anti-bacterial types, by the way, because I damned well demanded it. In that really incensed way I could only demand , when I was dripping with filth from head to toe, with my messenger bag just as messed up as I was.

Since the Sentries were involved in my rescue, they dragged my sorry ass away from the crowd for some kind of shot – don’t know what the hell was in that syringe, but my guess was something like the love child of the flu shot and a tetanus shot. Plus maybe something for malaria, the Black Plague, and Ebola. Whatever formula they’d used on me must’ve been totally epic and badass, considering how crazy big the needle was. I wasn’t sure if I should faint again or just plain lose all control of my bowels and shit inside my jeans.

Another fan cast moment - maybe if he were a street-level superhero, Eric can be Iron Fist. Then he can team up with Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage as The Defenders and protect Vintage City that way. Then again, maybe not.

Another fan cast moment – maybe if he were a street-level superhero, Eric can be Iron Fist. Then he can team up with Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage as The Defenders and protect Vintage City that way. Then again, maybe not.

“There you go,” Brenda had said after sticking me. She actually tried to cheer me up by gurgling and doing all kinds of baby talk the whole time. I just gaped at her, my lower lip wobbling. “You don’t have to worry about infections and stuff.”

Easy for her to say, I thought, but I didn’t get all honest and truthy then because all I wanted was to go home, scrub myself down to a molecule, and spend the rest of the day in self-pity mode.

I’d also demanded to have all of my clothes burned as well as my bag, and I didn’t care how much it’d cost Mom and Dad to help me replace those things because I knew twenty billion cycles in the washing machine wouldn’t ease my mind. I might as well start over.

Kamala Khan (Ms. Marvel) gives us a great superhero series for teens. I can see Eric chilling with her. Embiggen!

Kamala Khan (Ms. Marvel) gives us a great superhero series for teens. I can see Eric chilling with her. Embiggen!

Oh, and if I crossed paths with one of those dumbass mutated mannequins, I’m going to fucking murder it dead twenty times over.

That bathtub, by the way, was in my parents’ bathroom because mine only had a shower stall. Peter was in there with me – without parental permission, by the way, because everyone was still at work. I was naked and helpless, my boyfriend was there, taking care of me, and I couldn’t have sex with him even if he begged. Why? Parasites up the ass, that was why.

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THE GIVEAWAY

Rafflecopter Giveaway

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The Fine Print:

*Entrants must be 18 years or older to qualify
*Some residency restrictions may apply
*All comments must be relevant to the author’s prompt to be eligible (when applicable)
*The Novel Approach will not be held liable for prize delivery unless otherwise specified
*Void where prohibited by law

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Giveaways, Hayden Thorne

Excerpt and Giveaway: Desmond and Garrick (Book Two) by Hayden Thorne

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We’re so pleased to have author Hayden Thorne back today with an excerpt and giveaway of her Young Adult Historical Fantasy Desmond and Garrick (Books One and Two). To enter for the chance to win an e-copy of BOTH books, just click on the Rafflecopter widget below after reading this little teaser.

Good luck!

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from Chapter 11

He’d walked a short distance, pausing under the shadows of a small cluster of trees, when movement from the corner of his eye caught his attention, and he turned to find Desmond scrambling up the hill – appearing desperate to get back to the picnic area. Garrick narrowed his eyes as he watched the boy. The way Desmond practically flailed his arms in order to keep his balance, the way he almost stumbled a few times in his haste to get up the hill, the way his clothes looked suspiciously crumpled and his hair windblown and wild and his face taking on a decidedly unhealthy red hue for a vampire…

Garrick sighed, shaking his head, his gaze still fixed on the frantic figure. “Good heavens, Master Desmond,” he muttered, that familiar feeling of helplessness creeping up his spine. “What have you done this time?”

He shrugged things off and carried on, awash in contentment for another pleasant moment, this time humming to himself.

More movement caught his attention and, and this time he saw Phillip Priestley making his way up the hill as well, his appearance no less wild than Desmond’s. But while Desmond appeared to be fleeing the area and half-killing himself to reach the hill’s crest in the shortest time possible, Mr. Priestley appeared to march stiffly uphill, his disheveled appearance highlighting the anger that set his face in a rigid mask. Arms swinging stiffly at his sides, eyes fixed directly ahead, mouth pressed into a tight line, the young fellow was in grave danger of swelling up with all that collected rage before exploding in a dreadfully untidy way that only vampires could appreciate. The sinking feeling gave way to another familiar sensation: a dreadful chill that could only mean one thing…

Any mortal tutor who takes on Desmond and Lavinia for his pupil will need all the luck in the world.

Any mortal tutor who takes on Desmond and Lavinia for his pupil will need all the luck in the world.

“Ah, Mr. Mortimer,” a voice hailed him.

Garrick turned and found Mr. Sherbourne approaching, his hands clasped behind him, his hat still on his head, his clothes still pristine. He inclined his head at Garrick once he was near enough.

“Mr. Sherbourne,” Garrick said after a moment’s hesitation.

The gentleman flashed an engaging smile, his manner calm and casual. “Sir, I apologize for pressing you with such a remarkable request, but I’d be honored if you would come with me tomorrow morning and be my second.”

Garrick stared at him. “I beg your pardon?”

“I’ve been challenged to a duel, you see, and I’m afraid it’s simply beyond my control to walk away from it. Honor is honor, after all.” When Garrick remained mute, he added, “Pistols at dawn. You know what that’s about.”

Garrick continued to stare at him. “I beg your pardon?”

Mr. Sherbourne sighed, though his manner stayed calm. Almost indifferent. “I’m compelled to defend Desmond Hathaway’s honor, sir. While in the course of dispensing a duty that was entrusted to me by the good Mr. and Mrs. Hathaway, I chanced upon a scene of a – well – rather sensitive nature, and I took umbrage at the gentleman’s treatment at the hands of a scoundrel. I certainly would have challenged Mr. Priestley to a duel myself, had he not leapt upon the chance first and challenged me. Can you imagine the cheek, sir? He’s the villain, and he thought to challenge me.”

Garrick stared. Still. Somehow, some time ago, his brain had ceased its functions, and he felt as though he were standing before its sad remains, watching it slowly dissolve with every word Mr. Sherbourne uttered.

Pistols at dawn - not exactly an ideal thing for mortal and vampire teenagers caught in a love triangle.

Pistols at dawn – not exactly an ideal thing for mortal and vampire teenagers caught in a love triangle.

“Would you mind explaining yourself, sir?” he said after about twenty attempts at speaking something that sounded halfway coherent.

“My dear Mr. Mortimer, I don’t see how I can make myself any clearer,” Mr. Sherbourne said, looking tired and faintly irritated. Yet he stood before Garrick, hands still clasped at his back, posture straight, appearance very striking and handsome as only vampires could be striking and handsome. “I need you to be my second, sir, for dawn tomorrow. While I’d be quite happy simply giving Mr. Priestley a damned good thrashing, I’m afraid I’m rather stuck resorting to a duel and perhaps bloody murder to set things right.”

“Mr. Sherbourne, you do realize your challenger is sixteen years old and is quite incapable of sound thought – especially if he’s been sent down from Wyndham.”

“Seventeen and four months.” Mr. Sherbourne paused, looking sincerely surprised. “I took care to ask, Mr. Mortimer. Not that it made much of a difference, anyway, since a scoundrel is a scoundrel at any age, and if Mr. Priestley forced my hand into a duel, I’m not one to back away from it. If his age worries you, perhaps you ought to raise the matter with him, not me.”

“Are you drunk, sir?”

“Indeed, no. But I’ve never been to a duel before, let alone been challenged to one. I’m afraid my ignorance shows, though I do hope I’m still capable of defending Desmond’s honor when required.”

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Desmond and Garrick Book TwoBlurb: As the vain and self-absorbed poets continue their campaign of destruction in Dryden Abbey, Garrick finds himself struggling in the classroom, with increasingly distracted pupils eroding all of his hard work and reducing him to using all things dead and decaying in order to keep Desmond and Lavinia’s minds on their lessons.

Meanwhile, with Phillip Priestley’s unexpected appearance, Desmond’s world unravels as infatuation, lust, confusion, and revulsion drive him into wilder mood swings. Mr. Sherbourne’s coldly distant yet attractive presence in Dryden Abbey further complicates things, prompting Desmond to do something he never thought he’d ever do: reach out to unlikely allies for help.

In the midst of the wild goings on around them, Garrick and Desmond will realize that the chasm separating them as distinct species will not only teach them important lessons of understanding and acceptance, but also forge a stronger bond of friendship than they expected.

Buy Links: JMS Books || Amazon || Smashwords

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

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

Title: Awakening: The Blood Rock Prophecy

Author: Jason N. Smith

Publisher: Mascot Books

Pages/Word Count: 304 Pages

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

Reviewed By: Sammy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TNA_Signature_Sammy







 

You can buy Awakening: The Blood Rock Prophecy here:

Barnes & Noble

Barnes & Noble

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

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

Title: Encounter (Encounters: Book One)

Author: Perie Wolford

Narrator:: William Turbett

Publisher: Self-Published

Run Time: 3 Hours and 3 Minutes

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

Reviewed By: Maryann

Blurb: It’s time to face the unknown.

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

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

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

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

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

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You can buy Encounter here:

Audible.com

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

Review: Ansel of Pryor House by Hayden Thorne

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Title: Ansel of Pryor House

Author: Hayden Thorne

Publisher: Queerteen Press/JMS Books

Pages/Word Count: 116 Pages

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

Reviewed By: Jennifer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TNA_Signature_Jennifer







 

You can buy Ansel of Pryor House here:

All Romance eBooks

All Romance eBooks

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CoolDudes Publishing, Giveaways, Mia Kerick

Guest Post and Giveaway: The Love Spell Blog Tour With Mia Kerick

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The Novel Approach welcomes author Mia Kerick today on her Love Spell blog tour. Enjoy the mini-interview we did together, then be sure to enter for the chance to win a $25 Amazon Gift Card by clicking on the Rafflecopter widget below.

Good luck!

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TNA: Hi, Mia, it’s good to have you back for a visit.

Mia: Thank you. As always (I write a lot of books) I am thrilled to be here!!

TNA: Could you come up with a paragraph or two (or more) for us about your writing process?

Mia: I start the writing process by doing research on what is going to be the major theme of the book. This constitutesa good part of the hard work I conduct prior to the fun stuff, which is the creating of characters. (Character creation=frosting on the cupcake.) For Love Spell, my research focused on gender confusion. I had a concept in my mind of Chance César—a teenage boy who is quite in touch with his feminine side, even admitting he wishes, at times, that he were a girl. But he has no urge to physically transition to become a woman or even to live his life as a woman. Chance just wants to be all-girl sometimes, all-boy others, and a little bit of each in-between.

After researching the theme I will tackle, I spend time creating a rough version of a plot. This part is difficult and intense. For the most part, I just sit and think. I think about popular culture, events in the news, what kinds of things kids deal with everyday, current music, and music that spoke to me as a teenager. Themes of different song lyrics give me ideas, as do people I see in real life and issues I am confronted with on social media. Sometimes I even think about fairy tales to get plot ideas. This can feel like a desperate time for me until I have the plot idea, and then I feel AWESOME.

The next step in my writing process involves creating a very rough outline of the events that will take place in the story. I do not use a standard outline form, just a long rambling list.

And then the fun part—creating the characters. I take the mental image I have conceived and flesh it out fully. First I write a description of the character’s personality and appearance, very detailed, and then I search for visual images. This part is fun, but can be tough. I do not stop until I have a visual “YOU ARE MR. RIGHT” feeling about the image I have chosen for each character. My original mental image of Chance César was a Johnny Depp-as-a-pirate kind of guy-but with Edward Scissorhands hair in neon ORANGE. Heavy eyeliner included.

Time to start writing!!

TNA: Do you go into the writing of a book like Love Spell in a different mindset than you would, say, a book like Not Broken, Just Bent? Does the difference between writing a lighthearted book and one with a weightier theme affect your mood away from the computer, or are you able to leave your emotions at the keyboard when you step away?

Mia: Love Spell was so much fun to write, from the very birth of its concept. Similar to my mental preparation for writing The Red Sheet, I told myself that, as an author, I was just going to let myself go. I would write whatever I wanted—I’d break rules. And let my sense of humor show. Some of my most recent releases, like Here Without You, for example, required me to stay within a rigid structure. Each of the three young men in Here Without You had speech patterns and behaviors and pasts to which I had to stay consistent. Inclination involved two boys with a very certain mindset, that of devout Christians, and as such, they did not veer much from their life goals. Although they were learning and changing, I was to some extent restricted by these characters’ well-defined convictions.

Chance is “totes” different. He is unpredictable and wears no label. (He claims to hate labels but is constantly searching for one that would fit him, in terms of gender.) Writing about Chance was extremely freeing for me. And like I said, it was fun. I brainstormed creative use of language with my college-age daughter and we had a lot of laughs as I chose Chance’s unique style of verbal expression. I spent a lot of time on Urban Dictionary finding hip ways of saying everyday things.

Not Broken, Just Bent, on the other hand, and many of my other YA books, are, as you mentioned in the question, weighty in theme and plot. But althoughLove Spell’s plot is humorous and outwardly light-hearted, it contains a heavy theme, as well. Chance is dealing with gender confusion, and though he is an extremely upbeat sort of person, it drags him down. The difference between Chance and many of my other YA characters is how he deals with conflict—by spitting at it rather than avoiding it.

I do feel differently when I write humor than when I write drama. Humor fills my heart with a sense of joy—cheesy, but true. Drama fills my mind with anticipation, because I write with a constant sense of waiting for the moment when the paths of the two young lovers finally cross, and then for the moment when they meld together. Both are satisfying to me, but in completely different ways.

Thank you so much for welcoming me to your blog today! I hope everybody checks out Love Spell—a romantic comedy with an inner lining of poignancy!

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PhotoBlurb: Strutting his stuff on the catwalk in black patent leather pumps and a snug orange tuxedo as this year’s Miss (ter) Harvest Moon feels so very right to Chance César, and yet he knows it should feel so very wrong.

As far back as he can remember, Chance has been “caught between genders.” (It’s quite a touchy subject; so don’t ask him about it.) However, he does not question his sexual orientation. Chance has no doubt about his gayness—he is very much out of the closet at his rural New Hampshire high school, where the other students avoid the kid they refer to as “girl-boy.”

But at the local Harvest Moon Festival, when Chance, the Pumpkin Pageant Queen, meets Jasper Donahue, the Pumpkin Carving King, sparks fly. So Chance sets out, with the help of his BFF, Emily, to make “Jazz” Donahue his man.

An article in an online women’s magazine, Ten Scientifically Proven Ways to Make a Man Fall in Love with You (with a bonus love spell thrown in for good measure), becomes the basis of their strategy to capture Jazz’s heart.

Quirky, comical, definitely flamboyant, and with an inner core of poignancy, Love Spell celebrates the diversity of a gender-fluid teen.

Buy Links: Amazon | All Romance eBooks

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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. 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.

Stop by Mia’s Blog with questions or comments, or simply share what’s on your mind. Find Mia on Facebook, Goodreads, Twitter, and Amazon.

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THE GIVEAWAY:

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Exclusive Excerpt and Giveaway: Ansel of Pryor House by Hayden Thorne

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The Novel Approach welcomes Hayden Thorne today with an excerpt from her new Young Adult novel Ansel of Pryor House. Hayden’s also giving one reader the chance to win an e-copy of the book, so be sure to click on the Rafflecopter widget below to enter.

Good luck!

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Ansel_of_Pryor_House_400x600Blurb: Fifteen-year-old Ansel Tunnicliffe has lived a harsh life. Abandoned by his mother and his siblings to a drunk and abusive father, Ansel knows nothing more than hunger, fear, pain, and loneliness in his short life.

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

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

Buy Links: JMS Books | Amazon | All Romance eBooks

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Excerpt – From Chapter 4: Ansel was safely hidden in his assigned room, and he spent the next moment or so after being abandoned by Mrs. Finn crumbling under the aching mix of exhilaration and anxiety.

Mrs. Finn was nothing if not efficient as well as gruff in her displays of concern toward Ansel. After ushering him into his room, she proceeded to point out his bed, his wardrobe, his washstand, and even his windows. In his wardrobe a small collection of clean castoffs in excellent condition were neatly kept, and Ansel was nearly overcome with emotion at the thought that complete strangers had thought to spend money on him – a scruffy, half-starved, and illiterate nobody – with about a week’s worth of clothes. It was all he could do to nod, blink away the tears, and run a sleeve against his nose while avoiding Mrs. Finn’s grim, inquiring stare.

As per Mr. Farnham’s orders, he wasn’t expected to do much for the next two days beyond clean himself and appear before Miss Peveler if she demanded his presence.

One of my obsessions in writing revolves around houses. I enjoy exploring mysteries behind them through their physicality, their history, and architectural details. When a house becomes a focal point in a story, I want everything about it to matter, as though the structure itself were alive.

One of my obsessions in writing revolves around houses. I enjoy exploring mysteries behind them through their physicality, their history, and architectural details. When a house becomes a focal point in a story, I want everything about it to matter, as though the structure itself were alive.

“You’re free to explore the house, though you really shouldn’t expect to find much,” Mrs. Finn had said as she turned to march toward the door, her plump figure straight and stiff like a soldier, her steps measured and almost theatrical. She opened the door and stepped across the threshold, turning to face Ansel with her hand on the knob. “Mind that you don’t get lost, though. Most of the rooms aren’t used, but none of them are locked.”

Ansel thought he noted an air of melancholy regret in the housekeeper’s tone and expression. Perhaps in the distant past, Pryor House was a hive of activity, sound, and light. He could imagine it, anyway, as despite the great house’s somber, simple elegance, there was still that curious atmosphere of whimsy he’d felt upon entering the house earlier.

“Yes, ma’am,” he said. “I’ll keep to the main rooms downstairs.”

Mrs. Finn nodded, a shadow of a smile briefly lighting her face before her usual stern mask returned. Once he was finally alone, Ansel’s brain went blank, and he sank onto his bed, gazing helplessly around the room – his room. It was a small one, but it was very cozy and a far, far cry from what he’d long been used to, living with his father. Even the furniture for servants was well made yet functional and worked beautifully with the house’s color scheme. Ansel almost felt filthy and was convinced he reeked of the gutter when his gaze swept down to rest on his soiled and threadbare rags. His shoes were a disgrace, even for someone as poor as he.

The library of Horace Walpole's Strawberry Hill gothic house. I love exploring unique interiors of homes and make them more alive to the point of being integral characters to the plot.

The library of Horace Walpole’s Strawberry Hill gothic house. I love exploring unique interiors of homes and make them more alive to the point of being integral characters to the plot.

He noticed his sack of clothes on the floor near the foot of the bed, and so many reminders, so many memories, and so many feelings associated with them surged to the forefront of his mind, and with a shaky breath, Ansel stood up and walked to one of the windows flanking his bed. Fumbling with the latches, he managed to open the window, pushing the two narrow casements outward and inviting a blast of chill air inside. He tried to breathe it in, hoping the fresh air and the cold would purge the wild swirl of emotions that now wrapped around him like a bitter shroud. But as it turned out, confusion, shame, terror, and, yes, loneliness all coalesced into one awful, dark cloud that swallowed him. Ansel had no choice but to give in to grief he’d been suppressing for a few days now while in Mr. Farnham’s company.

For several minutes he stood by the open window, crying, using his faded shirt as a handkerchief, barely noticing the winter scenery stretching out before him. For the briefest moment, he wished he were back home, enduring his father’s abuses, because that offered him familiarity and predictability despite the terrible pain. At least he knew what to expect day in and day out, and he was surrounded by things and people – neighbors, that is – he’d always known. He almost convinced himself that curling up on the floor, begging for his father to stop hitting him with a stick or a belt, was worth it as a price for the sight and the feel of his old bed and pillow, even if both were practically rotting to pieces under him.

Nature is a force meant to have a terrifying function in the story. She metes out dark justice to both living and dead. As noted in the book, she neither forgets nor forgives.

Nature is a force meant to have a terrifying function in the story. She metes out dark justice to both living and dead. As noted in the book, she neither forgets nor forgives.

Now? He’d “changed hands” over cards – like property, livestock, or chattel – and had no idea what his future held for him. There’d been kindness and generosity, to be sure, and a great deal of pity. He needed to give himself and everyone else more time to get to know each other, but it didn’t change how he was now alone in so many ways, much more than before. He felt so helpless, so powerless.

The tears ran out in time, and after calming himself down till his hiccoughs had been reduced to shuddering gasps, Ansel pulled the casements and turned the latches. His room now felt too cold, but he didn’t care. Sniffling, he shuffled over to his bed, where he undid his shoelaces, kicked off his shoes, and crawled under the covers. He turned to his side, burrowing further under the thick, comfortable blankets, but not before muttering an apology to the nice, clean sheets and pillows for being subjected to his filth. He fell asleep before long.

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THE GIVEAWAY:

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Guest Post, Excerpt, and Giveaway: Awakening: The Blood Rock Prophecy by Jason N. Smith

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The Novel Approach is pleased to welcome author Jason N. Smith today to chat about his upcoming novel Awakening: The Blood Rock Prophecy. Jason’s offering not only an exclusive excerpt from the book but is also giving the chance for one reader to win a PRINT copy of this Young Adult Fantasy (**no residency restrictions apply – contest open world wide**). To enter for a chance to win, just click on the Rafflecopter widget below.

Good luck!

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Why I chose this excerpt:

Jason N. Smith 2I chose this excerpt because it shows the dynamic both of my main characters and several other characters are facing in my debut novel: coming to terms with who you really are as a person. I have learned from experience the difficulty in self-acceptance. I struggled as an adopted, gay youth in the South, but have grown beyond that fear and depression with the help of my friends and family. Today I have a great husband and a wonderful life.

I wanted to use my own personal experiences to help others come to terms with accepting themselves wholeheartedly, while understanding that it is not always easy and rarely ever “quick”. My characters run the gambit of personality types: some are go-getters and others wait for things to happen, at least at first. I added in the Wiccan, specifically the Salem Witch Trials, and Native American aspects, because I have always been interested in those two aspects of our history. I also think they are amazing examples of people fighting back against discrimination, hate and bigotry.

We first have to learn to love and accept ourselves before we can put that same love and acceptance back out into the world. For me personally, I have often found my greatest struggles in life have produced the greatest rewards. Life is not easy, and as soon as I learned this valuable lesson, I have been a happier person. Each of my characters faces, and will be facing, incredible difficulties, but, in the end, will never give up in the face of such discrimination and resistance.

To promote these lessons of self-acceptance, I am signing all of my books with the following message: “Love and always be your truest self.” Each of us is unique and each of us deserves the right to persevere. I hope my readers see this lesson when they read my debut novel and come away with a greater sense of the importance of self-acceptance.

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Excerpt – Beginning of Chapter 3: IT WAS ONLY TWO in the morning, the clock mocking me with its neon blue numbers. I lay there wide-awake. Why did I incessantly run away from every opportunity to be honest? That’s just who I was and had always been. I’d struggled so long and hard with life, with being honest with myself, with being . . . Ethan. How could I truly be myself after putting up a front my entire life? Do I continue to lead others to believe in a persona, which only bared the slightest resemblance of the truth or, am I honest and forthcoming despite feeling nauseous at the very thought of doing so?

I always took the route of plausible deniability. I lay there on my bed being quite the successful insomniac, hands behind my head pondering how to proceed, sometimes if to proceed. I saw myself as part of that magic act where people were sawed, not only in half, but also in multiple pieces. Here, everyone, here’s a little bit for you, and you, and you too. It was mentally and emotionally exhausting to feel I had no choice but to deny myself the freedom to be open with others. I was quickly approaching my breaking point and didn’t know what would happen when I finally broke. I was seventeen, athletic, smart (albeit a little lazy on the academic side of things), popular, and good-looking, but it wasn’t enough. Most guys, and girls, my age and in my position, the star athlete and all, would be reveling in life and moving forward with a much clearer vision of their future than I was.

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AwakeningBlurb: Addy and Ethan are the best of friends, who happen to be cousins, and who live in the outskirts of the town of Salem, MA. The beginning of their senior year is rocked by the brutal ritualistic murder of two twins in the woods near their homes and the Achachak River. At a school assembly concerning the horrible murders, Addy suffers a seizure and falls into a coma. Her best friend and cousin struggles to find a way to help her while struggling with his own identity in the face of pressure from those around him and the strange dreams and experiences he keeps having. After a week of being in a coma, Addy wakes and is able to go home only to have a strange vision that leads her to her fathers study. As if by some otherworldly connection, Ethan arrives at her front door and together, they discover an ancient book of magic, or grimoire, in a hidden panel in the study. The tiny room explodes in light: unknown words and symbols painting the wooden walls. Suddenly, there is a knock at the door. A man they know, a detective from the SPD, attacks the two of them. In their struggle, they both uncover they have supernatural abilities and hold off their attacker. In the wake of the initial attack, their principal, McIntyre, arrives just in time to chase the attacker away. Can their principal really help them and why did his partner attack two innocent teenagers? A prophecy, once thought improbable, comes to the surface. An ancient rivalry and damning legacy quickly make their presence known, forcing the two young friends to escape to the White Mountains of New Hampshire with their principal. There they discover a history, family and magic they never dreamed possible. Can their new friends who are part of the Abenaki tribe and Rowan Coven provide them with the answer they long for? Who will survive the disturbing magical reality of being witches and the coming of age of two strong-willed teenagers?

Awakening: The Blood Rock Prophecy releases on June 2, 2015, and is currently available for pre-order in print format at Mascot Books and Amazon.

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Jason N. SmithAbout the Author: Jason Smith is a self-proclaimed nerd and has been writing since he was a child. He believes growing up in a small town in west-central Alabama founded by Napoleonic refugees sparked his love of French and history.

After graduating high school, Jason continued his studies at Auburn University, earning Bachelor’s Degrees in Marketing and French before completing his Master’s in Spanish. He now teaches French and Spanish full time in Atlanta, Georgia. Jason lives with his husband and their four furry children, while working on a Master’s in French at New York University’s Paris campus during the summers.

For as long as he can remember, Jason has been writing. However, his interest in writing turned into more of a passion after finishing his post-graduate work in Spanish. Since then, he’s been writing poetry in Spanish and his first book of Spanish poetry, En ser vivo, was published in November 2013. In the near future, Jason plans to translate those poems into both English and French, releasing companion editions. He is also working on several other fiction projects at the moment.

It had long been Jason’s dream to write anovel, which has finally come true with Awakening , the first book in the Blood Rock Prophecy series. He is excited to share these characters and their story with readers. He is very thankful to be working with the amazing team at Mascot Books to make this dream a reality. Look for the next book in the series, Origins, which is slated to be published in late 2016.

You can follow Jason on his Website, on Facebook and Twitter, and on Instagram @jasonnsmithauthor.

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

Review: Banshee by Hayden Thorne

Title: Banshee

Author: Hayden Thorne

Publisher: Queerteen Press/JMS Books

Pages/Word Count: 228 Pages

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

Reviewed By: Jennifer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just make sure you read it during the day.

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You can buy Banshee here:

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Giveaways, Hayden Thorne, Queerteen Press

Guest Post and Giveaway: Curse of Arachnaman by Hayden Thorne

Curse of Arachnaman

We welcome Hayden Thorne today to chat a bit about the re-release of Curse of Arachnaman, the continuing adventures of Eric, Peter, and the rest of the superheroes and villains who populate Vintage City. Enjoy the excerpt Hayden is sharing, then be sure to click on the Rafflecopter widget below for the chance to win an e-copy of Curse of Arachnaman.

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AUTHOR’S NOTE: My original intention for Mr. Eric Steven Plath was to finish his adventures at the end of Masks: Ordinary Champions, the third installment of the original trilogy. As I wrote it, though, wee little ideas kept popping up like mutant undead gophers here and there. And dark forces swayed me into turning that spider robot attack at the mall into something more than what was originally intended. I was at first hoping to show that the superheroes’ work is never done. Get rid of one supervillain, and another will rise up the ranks and annoy the living hell out of everyone. But, noooooo.

And so, Curse of Arachnaman’s basic plot slowly formed in my head. I thought at first it was going to be nothing more than an odd one-off after the trilogy, but at that point, the genie had been let out, and more books popped out. I’m currently working on the seventh and last installment of the entire series, and I hope to have it available fairly soon.

Curse of Arachnaman, Mimi Attacks!, and Dr. Morbid’s Castle of Blood are all episodic in nature. They don’t follow an arc, but they’re clearly sequels of each other, with all of them following the events in the original trilogy.

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91lG0nKT5EL._SL1500_Blurb: Curse of Arachnaman follows the events in the first three books in the Masks series. Eric is settling down into a near-normal existence. He’s learning to cope with a different kind of closet — being kept from talking freely about his relationship with Calais and the other superheroes — as well as an increasingly protective mother, his sister’s new squeaky-clean boyfriend, and a bingo-obsessed best friend.

Eric also learns that, sometimes, being an asset to the forces of good means simply being himself. In the meantime, Vintage City is under siege from a new threat, one which is proving to be much more dangerous than all of the other supervillains the heroes have faced combined. Good people find themselves at the mercy of an angry lunatic who will stop at nothing to purge the city of what he sees to be undesirable elements.

Buy Links: Queerteen Press/JMS Books | Amazon | Smashwords

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Excerpt: From Chapter 17

The girl who’d fallen apart earlier dangled nearby, but she’d calmed down by now. All I could hear from her were a little bit of sniffling and coughing as she waited her turn to be released.

“Glad to see you’re okay,” I said, offering her a smile, for what it was worth.

“I wanna go home,” she croaked. “That’s saying something, you know, ‘cause I hate my parents. This sucks.”

“Well – you kind of get used to this sort of thing after a while. Trust me.”

She blinked. “You’ve been screwed up like this before?”

“More times than you can imagine. I look at this as character-building, sort of.”

Fun Superheroes are fun to write.

Fun Superheroes are fun to write.

Calais had walked up to her by then. “Okay, don’t move,” he said as he grabbed hold of the white stuff that wrapped around her and tore it open with one powerful tug of his hands. The sound of ripping cloth followed, and with a little yelp, the girl fell straight into his arms.

The next few moments were like the longest ever in my short-yet-screwed-up life. Think of a really awful, sappy video of some really awful, sappy love song. Okay, imagine everything happening in super slow-motion, with the girl falling in Calais’ arms. Then their eyes meet. He looks sympathetic yet stays professionally distant. She stares at him, stunned, her arms wrapped around his neck, her body easily held up because he’s just oh-so-strong.

Oh, fucking hell, just think of the scene in Sense and Sensibility where Kate Winslet fell down and got swept up in Greg Wise’s arms in the rain – thank you, Liz, for making me suffer through that sappy-ass movie – are you with me yet? Yeah, that was it. That was bloody it, as the British would say.

“Easy, easy, I got you,” he said, setting her back on the ground. It took her several more very annoying seconds before she let go because she clung like a leech to him even after he set her down. “You’re safe now,” he reassured her, prying her arms from his neck. “Okay, let me go, so I can take this guy down.”

“Oh,” she breathed, staring at him, wide-eyed. “Thank you.”

Dat awkward moment...

Dat awkward moment…

God. I recognized that look.

“Wow, you’re even better-looking in person,” she added, tucking hair behind her ears. Did she just giggle and blush? Calais smiled back and gave her a reassuring pat on the arm, and, encouraged, she stood on tiptoes and gave him a grateful peck on the cheek.

I sighed. “Hello, helpless victim over here. Very uncomfortable position. Probably damaged innards and ability to produce children.”

“Thank you,” she said, her voice taking on a little-girl-like tone. It took the appearance of a police officer to pull her away from Calais, and she trotted off, glancing over her shoulder for one final adoring look before vanishing in the confusion of activity.

“Well, will you look at that?” I said dully. “I’m the last one to be saved. Yay me.”

Calais stood before me, hands on his nicely narrow hips. “I leave you alone for three minutes, and all hell breaks loose.”

“Hey, I didn’t ask to be attacked! Are you blaming me?”

“I told you to wait by the car, didn’t I?”

“Well, yeah, but…”

“Uh-huh…”

Random, gratuitous image post of my current imaginary boyfriend.

Random, gratuitous image post of my current imaginary boyfriend.

I sighed again, drooping. “I just wanted to check out the arcade,” I said. “What’s the harm in that?”

“Um…” Calais pointed at my web cocoon. “In case you haven’t noticed.”

“Look, I was born under a black sign. Can I come down now? This sucks. Oh, by the way, thanks for the Jane Austen moment back there.”

“Huh?”

“Never mind.” I frankly didn’t know what was worse – seeing Peter/Calais with a girl or with another guy. Either way made me want to puke out all my innards.

Shaking his head, Calais tore at the stuff, and I fell into his arms, which was always a good thing, though it was too bad he couldn’t take me home like this. And there were way too many people around, so no huggy-kissy stuff and all the comfort-me-please things that happened when the hero saved the day.

“Thanks,” I grumbled. Then I gave a start, stiffening. I looked behind mme and then gaped at him. “What the…did you just goose me?”

He grinned. “The best thing about hyper speed. I can get away with so much crap with you in public.”

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Hayden ThorneAbout the Author: I’ve lived most of my life in the San Francisco Bay Area though I wasn’t born there (or, indeed, the USA). I’m married with no kids and three cats, am a cycling nut (go Garmin!), and my day job involves artwork, great coworkers who specialize in all kinds of media, and the occasional strange customer requests involving papier mache fish with sparkly scales.

I’m a writer of young adult fiction, specializing in contemporary fantasy, historical fantasy, and historical genres. My books range from a superhero fantasy series to reworked folktales to Victorian ghost fiction. My themes are coming-of-age with very little focus on romance (most of the time) and more on individual growth with some adventure thrown in.

Follow Hayden on her Blog or on Twitter

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

Review: The Twilight Gods by Hayden Thorne

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Title: The Twilight Gods

Author: Hayden Thorne

Publisher: Queerteen Press/JMS Books

Pages/Word Count: 200 Pages

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

Reviewed By: Jennifer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review: Wollstone by Hayden Thorne

Title: Wollstone

Author: Hayden Thorne

Publisher: Queerteen Press (JMS Books)

Pages/Word Count: 236 Pages

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

Reviewed By: Jennifer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Cody Kennedy, Harmony Ink Press

Guest Post and Giveaway: The Slaying Isidore’s Dragons Blog Tour With C. Kennedy

Slaying Isadore's Dragons

The Novel Approach is pleased to welcome Cody Kennedy on the Slaying Isidore’s Dragons blog tour. Enjoy his post, then be sure to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway by clicking on the widget below for a chance to win an e-copy of Omorphi.

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How Declan in Slaying Isidore’s Dragons is Different from Michael in Omorphi

Thank you, Lisa, for the honor and privilege of sharing my new book with you! It’s great to be here! Welcome, everyone, to the book tour for Slaying Isidore’s Dragons!

For those who are unfamiliar with my books, I write books about hope, triumph, and building a life beyond abuse. While many of the tenets in my books are about learning to live after abuse, they apply to everyone in everyday life. Above all is hope. Without hope, we lose the will to live life to the fullest and Slaying Isidore’s Dragons and Omorphi are about exactly that. But the stories are vastly different in subtle ways. In fact, you may often find that the most valuable principles and adages in my books are understated.

In Slaying Isidore’s Dragons, we meet Isidore as he endures heinous abuse and leaves his abusive environment. Meeting Declan gives Isidore his first whisper of what it might be like to be something other than a victim. In Omorphi, we meet Christy one year after his freedom from abuse begins.

In Slaying Isidore’s Dragons, we meet Declan, an utterly normal guy but someone whose life has come to an abrupt emotional halt upon the assassination of his beloved father. Though he loves his mother dearly, a part of him is lost and meeting Isidore gives him a renewed sense of purpose. In Omorphi, we meet Michael, an utterly normal guy living a charmed life with two great parents. He is immediately smitten with Christy but has to work up the courage to date him.

The commonalities between Declan and Michael at first glance are: they are only children from well-grounded and loving professional parents. They are honest, good, smart, wholesome, and determined to protect Isidore and Christy, respectively. But that’s where it ends.

Michael is nurturing, protective, and shy to a degree. He relies heavily on his best friend, Jake, for advice and to be a sounding board for nearly every thought and facet of his life. By and large, he is non-confrontational and patient. He hasn’t faced extreme adversity or profound loss. As such, he might be considered your typical teen with growing maturity, and he learns coping skills along with Christy as the story progresses. His primary methods of problem solving involve contemplation, logic, and seeking knowledge. He is a peacemaker and wants only good in the world and for everything to be all right.

Alternatively, and while Declan is caring and protective, he is intolerant of certain things and can be impatient. He is accustomed to professional and political environs, is well traveled, and carries himself with proper deportment in the public eye. There is no such thing as not knowing what to do or say in a social setting particularly when faced with media coverage. Contrary to Michael, Declan has suffered profound loss. He is angry over the loss of his beloved father, will not tolerate bullying, and is confrontational—sometimes physically so. He is popular at school but doesn’t have a best friend he can confide in, Isidore is everything to him, and he is determined to give Isidore a happy world. His primary methods of problem solving are to confront facts, control as many variables as he realistically can, and then to fight for what is right.

The way each of them handles the knowledge of what has happened to Christy and Isidore is very telling of their personalities. Michael becomes upset, goes running, and shouts his anger and sorrow for Christy at the heavens. Declan becomes angry, and moves to protect Isidore with everything in his arsenal—his mother, their private security, and his fists. In sum, Michael is a naïve peacemaker and Declan is a jaded fighter. Both, however, will and do lay down their lives to protect Christy and Isidore.

Enjoy Slaying Isidore’s Dragons!

Follow Slaying Isidore’s Dragons’ Book Tour!

DividersSlayingIsidore'sDragons -Book Tour- 400x600Blurb: 5 Best friends, 4 Vicious brothers, 3 STD tests, 2 Guys in love, 1 Car bombing & nowhere to run

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.

5 Weeks of hell, 4 Attempts on their lives, 3 Law enforcement agencies, 2 Dead high school seniors, 1 Jealous friend & a love that won’t be denied

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.

5 New family members, 4 BFF’s, 3 Countries, 2 Extraordinary Psychologists, 1 Courageous Mother & a new beginning for two young men in love

Read Chapter One HERE

Now available in print and ebook at: Dreamspinner/Harmony Ink Press | Amazon  | GooglePlay | Barnes & Noble | OmniLit/ARe  | Beam-eBooks in Europe | Ingram Books for Libraries and Schools

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Cody KennedyAbout the Author: 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.

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

Find Cody on Facebook, Twitter @CodyKAuthor, Pinterest, Tumblr, Google+,

Ello, Goodreads, & read Cody’s free serial story, Fairy

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

Review: Caught by Robbie Michaels

Title: Caught

Author: Robbie Michaels

Publisher: Harmony Ink Press

Pages/Word Count: 190 Pages

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

Blurb: Caught in the Act: Book One

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

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

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

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

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

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

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






You can buy Caught here:

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Giveaways, Hayden Thorne, JMS Books LLC

Excerpt and Giveaway: The Twilight Gods by Hayden Thorne

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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.

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

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

Buy Links: JMS Books | Amazon US | All Romance eBooks

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Excerpt: “My dear Master Norris,” Mrs. Cavendish said, momentarily pausing in her work and regarding him with those pale, mysterious eyes, “if your mother is behaving in ways that don’t seem like her, it’s because she’s undergoing changes as well.”

“Changes!” Norris echoed, his eyes widening. “Do you mean to say that she’s also one of the shadow-people?”

Mrs. Cavendish laughed heartily, reaching out and tousling Norris’ hair with a certain motherly affection. “Oh, heavens, no!” she said once she’d regained mastery of herself. “Your mother is just like most of the world, my dear boy. Whatever changes she undergoes are in some way or another affected by your own changes and the decisions you make. Remember that she’ll always be touched by the path you take in the end. Mothers are like that, you know. They can’t bear to let go of their children, even when it’s warranted.”

“Changes,” Norris echoed again, shaking his head and frowning. “I suppose I am going through changes right now. I can’t say what they are, but I feel them – or at the very least, I’m growing more and more aware of certain things that I’ve never even considered before.”

Mrs. Cavendish’s smile remained as she listened to her young charge. Yes, Norris couldn’t help but think, he was her charge now, the way he was never Mr. Garland’s.

Penelope from 'The Odyssey' was my inspiration for Mrs. Cavendish, who's forever sewing her tapestry.

Penelope from ‘The Odyssey’ was my inspiration for Mrs. Cavendish, who’s forever sewing her tapestry. In the original fairy tale, Mrs. Cavendish’s character is Screech Owl, who guides a terrified bride through the island of the dead.

“It’s most certainly the latter point,” she said. “If you’re growing more and more aware of things, unusual ones, about yourself, don’t be afraid of them. Don’t be afraid of knowledge. Learn what you can, my dear. Take advantage of the opportunities that are opening before you. Believe me when I say that there are others out there like you who aren’t as fortunate in the way they perceive their hearts and their souls.”

“What do you mean?”

“They fear change, you see. They fear being different. They were simply not taught to open their minds to things that challenge what we’ve all long held to be true, but I really don’t think we should blame them or their families. It simply is the nature of our time. Things will get better, I assure you. They will.”

Norris stared at her. “You speak as though you’ve seen the future,” he stammered.

“Time, my dear. I see both directions of Time’s road. If I make strange references to what’s yet to come, it’s because I see the need to reassure you, if not enlighten you to a point.”

Mrs. Cavendish spoke with such calm and clarity, her manner a mixture of lightness and gravity. As she talked, the shadows cast by the parlor’s interior shifted on her face, lending her complexion an otherworldly translucence in brief periods. Her pale, pale eyes alternated shades as well, from the usual spectral blue to a deeper and stormier gray. Through all this, she kept her gaze on him, watching him watch her. Norris tried not to pull away in a reflexive effort at hiding his warring thoughts and senses. Instead, he readily opened himself up to her, as though sensing this was the next step that was expected of him in their relationship.

I couldn't find any good representations of the twilight rectory, but Tintern Abbey comes fairly close to the physical embodiment of infinity.

I couldn’t find any good representations of the twilight rectory, but Tintern Abbey comes fairly close to the physical embodiment of infinity.

Prove to me that you aren’t afraid, she challenged with her fixed gaze and shifting colors.

I’m not afraid. Not yet.

You’ll soon find your choices stretching out before you, Norris Woodhead. Will you be strong enough to take one path over the other?

I will. I know I will.

Don’t be so sure. Stronger men have decided self-denial and sacrifice, and while many of them prove their choices to be good ones, there are some who suffer so many regrets for the rest of their lives.

Either way, I’m bound to lose something, aren’t I? Choices always come with sacrifices.

Either way, you’ll have to bear the burden of some loss. It’s your fortune to be born into this age, young man. You’ll have to make do with what human laws in this century define to be the limits of your lot.

Norris felt a faint chill sweep up his spine as he listened. There was something ominous in what Mrs. Cavendish just said.

“Then I’m destined to be an outlaw, aren’t I?” he asked. “I must confess that I don’t even know what it is I’m supposed to do wrong for me to be thought of as different from almost everyone else, but I’m guessing that what I am, I can’t help.”

The Great Exhibition, where modern inventions are highlighted. I wanted to use this as a backdrop against Norris' coming-of-age as I thought it a great contrast of advancement and backward laws regarding homosexuality.

The Great Exhibition, where modern inventions are highlighted. I wanted to use this as a backdrop against Norris’ coming-of-age as I thought it a great contrast of advancement and backward laws regarding homosexuality.

The widow’s smile broadened, but it also took on a sad quality, and Mrs. Cavendish said nothing in return – merely reached out to him and stroked his cheek, a touch that was most definitely very comforting.

When she withdrew her hand, she indicated her embroidery with it. “This tapestry, Master Norris,” she said as she gently pulled at the fabric so as to spread it on her lap, and every embroidered detail could be observed. “This will never be done.”

Norris frowned as he looked at it. “It’s a strange piece,” he muttered, leaning closer. “The colors of your thread are different from what I’ve seen. Mama and my sisters use bright and colorful spools for their work.”

The piece itself seemed a fairly large one to Norris. Against a slightly discolored white cloth a pastoral landscape sprawled. He could see very faint outlines of graphite where he believed Mrs. Cavendish had sketched the details, but around half of the entire tapestry was already embroidered.

Norris took careful note of the sewn parts. He found them to be intricate in design and rich in hues though Mrs. Cavendish, it seemed, preferred to use a fairly limited palette of colors. He could make out various shades of brown, red, gold, and black mingling as stitches formed an autumn landscape of shepherds, nymphs, and gods. He wanted to see what was kept inside her sewing box, but he felt too embarrassed to ask.

“This is lovely,” he breathed, finally, reaching out a tentative hand and gently touching a few places. The thread Mrs. Cavendish used was of a strange quality, he found, with the textures varying distinctly even under a light brush of his fingers. Some were coarser than others, but none appeared to have its exact match. The same could be said of the colors, all of which varied very slightly in hue and tone. Every single thread used for the tapestry was unique in its own way, which amazed Norris
because he’d never seen or heard of such a thing before.

It's really difficult trying to imagine how gay teens from previous centuries dealt with their sexuality. There are romantic friendships formed in school, but not much else is available unless we're looking at adults.

It’s really difficult trying to imagine how gay teens from previous centuries dealt with their sexuality. There are romantic friendships formed in school, but not much else is available unless we’re looking at adults.

He glanced back up at Mrs. Cavendish and smiled. “This is a strange tapestry,” he said, “but I like it.”

“Thank you, dear. As you know, I’ve been hard at work on it since…” Mrs. Cavendish’s words faded, and she chose not to pursue the matter, allowing any thoughts that might arise from her cryptic response to be devoured by Norris’ hungry mind.

“I’d like to know, though, why won’t it be finished?”

“Infinity is its nature,” Mrs. Cavendish replied. “As long as people are born into this world, and the twilight gods emerge from their ranks, my work will remain unfinished.” Her manner was so light and dismissive that a second after she spoke, Norris wasn’t sure what it was he’d heard, but something assured him it wasn’t relevant, at least for that moment.

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presentThe Giveaway: THIS CONTEST IS CLOSED

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

Review: Gives Light by Rose Christo

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15810499Title: Gives Light (Books One through Four)

Author: Rose Cristo

Publisher: Self-Published

Pages/Word Count: 285 Pages

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

Blurb: “Skylar is my name, tragically.”

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

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

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

And he is like nothing Skylar has ever known.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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






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

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

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

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

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

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

Review: Poz by Christopher Koehler

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Title: Poz

Author: Christopher Koehler

Publisher: Harmony Ink Press

Pages/Word Count: 200 Pages

At a Glance: Highly Recommended

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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






You can buy Poz here:

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Christopher Koehler, Giveaways, Harmony Ink Press

Exclusive Excerpt and Giveaway: Poz by Christopher Koehler

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

Good luck!

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PozFSTitle: Poz

Series: The Lives of Remy and Michael: Book One

Author: Christopher Koehler

Publisher: Harmony Ink Press

Publication Date: 8 Jan 2015

Cover Artist: Paul Richmond

Genre: Contemporary, Gay, Young Adult

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

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

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

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

(Edited for context)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Strong words, oarsman.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Giveaway:

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Tour Dates:

7 Jan – Prism Book Alliance

9 Jan – Cody Kennedy

10 Jan – The Novel Approach

14 Jan – JP Barnaby

15 Jan – Love Bytes

19 Jan – GGR Reviews

21 Jan – Hearts on Fire Reviews

22 Jan – MM Good Book Reviews

26 Jan – James Erich

28 Jan – Joyfully Jay

2 Feb – Rainbow Gold Reviews

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

Review: A Scout Is Brave by Jay Jordan Hawke

Title: A Scout Is Brave

Author: Jay Jordan Hawke

Publisher: Harmony Ink Press

Pages/Word Count: 180 Pages

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

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

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

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

Dividers

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

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

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

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








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