Gothic Mystery: THREE TRUTHS AND A LIE–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a newly-released gothic mystery from Brent Hartinger. I have really enjoyed his contemporary M/M romance series, including THE THING I DIDN’T KNOW I DIDN’T KNOW, BAREFOOT IN THE CITY OF BROKEN DREAMS, and THE ROAD TO AMAZING, but THREE TRUTHS AND A LIE is a completely different type of book. Four teens, a remote cabin, and unknown assailants on the loose. Wow. I loved so much of it!

Three Truths and a LieAbout the book:
A weekend retreat in the woods and an innocent game of three truths and a lie go horribly wrong in this high-octane psychological thriller filled with romantic suspense by a Lambda Award–winning author.

Deep in the forest, four friends gather for a weekend of fun.

Truth #1: Rob is thrilled about the weekend trip. It’s the perfect time for him to break out of his shell…to be the person he really, really wants to be.

Truth #2: Liam, Rob’s boyfriend, is nothing short of perfect. He’s everything Rob could have wanted. They’re perfect together. Perfect.

Truth #3: Mia has been Liam’s best friend for years…long before Rob came along. They get each other in a way Rob could never, will never, understand.

Truth #4: Galen, Mia’s boyfriend, is sweet, handsome, and incredibly charming. He’s the definition of a Golden Boy…even with the secrets up his sleeve.

One of these truths is a lie…and not everyone will live to find out which one it is.

My Review
This is a chilling YA gothic mystery with turns that make the reader really wonder…

Rob, Liam, Galen and Mia are four high-school seniors weeks before graduation. Liam and Rob are dating, and Liam is best friends with Mia, who is dating Galen. They sort-of get along. It’s not easy because Rob is new to the group, and he’s the one telling the story. Also, Galen is a goofy guy, and seems to get-off on teasing Liam and Rob, sexually. I mean this as: he has no shame flaunting his body and trying to arouse Liam and Rob, because he’s a very good-looking guy. Mia thinks that’s kinda funny, even if it’s uncomfortable for Rob and Liam.

As a bonding experience, they take a weekend trip to Mia’s family’s remote cabin on the Olympic Peninsula three hours from their homes in Seattle. Getting there is an adventure. They stop in Marot, Wash and the town and folks are nothing less than eerie. Mia’s family had sold some of their land, and it was clear-cut–making the townies hostile. Rob, the narrator throughout, is freaked out. The cabin’s little more than a wreck, and so remote they need a satellite phone for emergency use. Which promptly goes missing. And, the outhouse explodes. And so many freaky things happen that Rob’s SURE they are being stalked/hunted by the Marot weirdos.

This is a gothic mystery, and the fifth character in the story is truly setting. From oily-aired Seattle alleys and shady tattoo parlors to the constantly-dripping temperate rainforest with its startling, yet hidden, clear-cut patchwork, enveloping the cabin and teens, you can be sure that the settling is thick, overwhelming and troublesome. Remote, and desolate, with nothing but acres and acres of dangers and possibilities. I got chills, much the same as Rob described.

I honestly don’t want to give away too much plot, but you can expect a whole lot of death and destruction in the story. Despite their bonding skinny-dips and fireside chats, the teens are a-dropping and Rob’s frantic to escape this fate, by any means necessary. I didn’t see the big twist, at all. Which was terribly refreshing. As I’ve read several of the author’s books, this one marked a complete departure into gothic mystery/horror. What a fantastic addition to his library, really.

Interested? You can find THREE TRUTHS AND A LIE on Goodreads, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble. I received a review copy via NetGalley.

About Brent Hartinger:
I am Brent Hartinger, and I live to write.

For the last twenty years, I have made my living writing just about everything that involves words.

My most famous book is probably my 2003 gay teen novel, Geography Club, which has been adapted into a feature film starring Scott Bakula, Marin Hinkle, Ana Gasteyer, Justin Deeley, and Nikki Blonsky. It was released in selected theaters and on VOD on November 15, 2013.

You can find Brent on his website, Facebook and Twitter.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Figuring Life Out on THE ROAD TO AMAZING–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a new book in the Futon Years contemporary M/M romance series from Brent Hartinger. THE ROAD TO AMAZING is a fantastic book, and I think it can even be enjoyed with out reading the two previous books in the series, THE THING I DIDN’T KNOW I DIDN’T KNOW and BAREFOOT IN THE CITY OF BROKEN DREAMS. That said, I know I enjoyed it most because I have read those two books. Russel Middlebrook and Kevin Land are getting MARRIED!

The Road to AmazingAbout the book:
“I think gay guys like weddings more than anyone. And it’s not because we want to destroy marriage, like some people say. It’s because we really, really want to get married!”

Russel Middlebrook is gettin’ hitched!

The wedding is taking place in a remote lodge on an island in Puget Sound. Russel and his husband-to-be have invited all their close friends to spend the whole weekend together beforehand.

And for the first time in his life, Russel is determined to not be neurotic, and not over-think things.

But that’s before things start going wrong. Who expected a dead killer whale to wash up on the beach below the inn? And what’s this about a windstorm approaching? Then there’s the problem of Russel’s anxious fiancé, who is increasingly convinced the whole thing is going to be a disaster.

Meanwhile, the wedding is taking place near the ruins of a small town, Amazing, where, a hundred years earlier, the people supposedly all disappeared overnight. Why does it feel like the secret at the end of the road to Amazing has something to do with Russel’s own future?

Can Russel’s friends Min, Gunnar, Vernie, and Otto somehow help him make it all make sense?

The Road to Amazing, the final book in the Russel Middlebrook Futon Years trilogy, is a story about endings and beginnings, and also about growing up and growing older. But mostly it’s a story about love and friendship—about how it’s not the destination that makes a life amazing, but the people you meet along the way.

My Review:

Sometimes a book just sucks me in so hard that I almost cannot break away to do anything functional, like eat, or use the toilet. This book was close to that status. Russel Middlebrook’s voice is one that can take adjusting to, mostly because he’s a plain talker. He’ll speak his truth all day long, even if that truth is unreliable. And neurotic. I think I have a tiny crush on him.

Okay, enough of the fangirling. Russel and Kevin have known each other since middle school. Their on-again-off-again relationship has been documented in several books but they’ve been full-on for the past few years and are engaged to be married, and this book is all about the wedding weekend, and the zany bits that go totally wrong.

They rent a beautiful house, the Amazing Inn, on Vashon Island, Washington, and invite their closest friends: Min, Gunnar, Otto, Vernie and Nate, plus Min’s girlfriend, to arrive on Friday evening and stay for the whole weekend until the wedding ceremony on Sunday afternoon.

Kevin and Russel have been living in LA for the past couple of years and they really miss their good friends who still all live in Seattle, for the most part. This weekend is all about reconnecting, but soon it becomes calamitous. Like the forecasted storm that’s going to shove the ceremony from the epic deck overlooking the Puget Sound into the living area, or the dead orca that seems to take over the beach with its rotting stink, among other issues that nearly cause cool-headed Kevin to flip his wig.

See, Kevin has always been the grounding force in their relationship. Russel tends to get locked into his head, imagining a million worst-case scenarios, and this book flips that script. Kevin agonizes over each misadventure while Russel becomes the problem solver. And Gunnar. That certified genius expands his out-of-the-box strategy to save the day, literally, time and time again.

I felt like I was on a sun-dappled raft floating along a warm vista-filled river while reading this book. I was so engaged with Russel, and his determination to be positive and productive. His connection to all his friends, Min, Gunnar, Vernie and Otto particularly, was really special. He was in the zone, speaking to them from his heart, and learning about them and himself in the same moment. That’s the cool thing about deep friendship, being able to reveal your insecurities and know that you’ll be taken seriously. Russel had several “movie moments,” as Vernie calls them, of connection in the course of the weekend. Except, not with Kevin.

Kevin is determined to make the right show of his wedding, to prove that he’s serious about Russel, and his adult life, to all they’ve invited to assemble. Let’s remember that both Kevin and Russel are 25 years old. This is their first super-serious relationship, and they both have a sense of needing to prove themselves. Each issue that erupts to derail Kevin’s perfect wedding plans seems to also erode Kevin’s confidence and makes him a bit prickly. Russel does his best to assuage these concerns, but he’s still figuring life out, too. And his missteps make for delicious make-ups. Public (secluded) sex, anyone?

I’ll be honest, when I read the blurb for this book–after reading the actual book–I felt wistful and melancholy. I’m not ready to be done with Russel and Kevin. The Futon Years may be over, but I’m crossing my fingers for a Pacifier Years series where Russel has an unforeseen and equally dramatic change of heart and perhaps agrees to adopt some shrill and stinky youngins he cares for with his wide and deep love. A girl can dream.

Interested? You can find THE ROAD TO AMAZING on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and iTunes.

About Brent Hartinger:
I am Brent Hartinger, and I live to write.

For the last twenty years, I have made my living writing just about everything that involves words.

My most famous book is probably my 2003 gay teen novel, Geography Club, which has been adapted into a feature film starring Scott Bakula, Marin Hinkle, Ana Gasteyer, Justin Deeley, and Nikki Blonsky. It was released in selected theaters and on VOD on November 15, 2013.

You can find Brent on his website, Facebook and Twitter.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Big Changes Living BAREFOOT IN THE CITY OF BROKEN DREAMS–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing my review for Brent Hartinger’s BAREFOOT IN THE CITY OF BROKEN DREAMS, the sequel to THE THING I DIDN’T KNOW I DIDN’T KNOW and it’s really a quiet, engaging advancing love story. Russel and Kevin are two 20-something high school sweethearts who are finding their way through this kooky life.

Barefoot in the City of Broken Dreams (Russel Middlebrook The Futon Years, #2)About the book:
“There was no way moving to Los Angeles was going to make me give up my soul. After all, I’d already seen all the movies about Hollywood. I knew how things worked.”

Twenty-four year-old Russel Middlebrook and his boyfriend have moved to Los Angeles so Russel can try to make it as a screenwriter. Almost right away, in a forgotten old house off of Sunset Boulevard, Russel meets Isaac Brander, a once-famous film producer who is convinced he can turn Russel’s screenplay into a movie.

Russel knows that success can’t possibly come this easy. After all, most of Russel’s Los Angeles friends are so desperate to make it that it’s downright scary. His ex-boyfriend, Otto, is trying everything to become an actor, and Daniel, the sexy neighbor, doesn’t even need a casting couch to get naked.

So what’s the catch with Mr. Brander? Could it be that movies about Hollywood don’t tell the whole truth? But what does that mean for Russel’s soul?

Barefoot in the City of Broken Dreams, a companion book to Brent Hartinger’s The Thing I Didn’t Know I Didn’t Know, is a fast-paced, funny story about the price of fame in Hollywood: the hilarious lengths people will go to achieve it, and the touching secret to survival when things don’t work out exactly as planned.

My Review:
This is the second book in the Futon Years series, and follows a longer YA series surrounding Russel Middlebrook. It is probably best enjoyed reading this series in order, but it is not essential.
4.5 stars.

Russel is 24 and dating his high school flame, Kevin, seriously. They have moved to LA so that Russel can get into the screenwriting business. He has one contact, Otto, a former summer camp boyfriend, who is an actor–struggling to get work because he has a burn scar on his otherwise beautiful face.

Russel is not prepared for the culture shock that is the LA scene. Otto schools him a bit, but Russel is dumbfounded often by his naïveté. He is offered a contract on his screenplay, Cup of Joe, and really becomes blind to a lot of issues that crop up around the pre-production meetings, and he especially takes Kevin for granted. Kevin had a stable job which he gave up for a lesser paying gig in LA, land of traffic.

Their one bedroom apartment is worn and awful, and inhabited by only a few friendly neighbors and perhaps the ghost of a dead screenwriter. Russel reaches out to Regina, a fellow screenwriter, whose girlfriend Gina is a struggling comedienne. They are good sounding boards, and become good friends, though not without problems. And Daniel, the barely 18, clearly questioning Latino boy who has no issues trying to con Russel, or Kevin, or both into some compromising situations is an interesting barometer for the heat between Kevin and Russel.

Thing is, this book moves rather quickly through several months and several large changes for Russel. He has this movie deal, or does he? He has Kevin, or does he? Otto is his friend, but does he want more? I loved the voice here, and Russel is a comfortable head case to try on now and again. He is snarky, but honest. He steps into big messes and doesn’t know how to fix them–because he is young and naïve and trying hard to figure life out without sharing to anyone how inexperienced he truly is.

I was honestly taken by surprise at the end. Russel doesn’t spend a lot of time talking about his feelings for Kevin. He’s a rather self-involved man, but not in a mean way. He’s mostly oblivious, which is where he got into trouble with the screenplay. He wants, so much, to be doing the right thing that he doesn’t always see how all the wrong things are happening. He doesn’t see Otto coming on to him. He doesn’t see Daniel playing him for a fool. Because he wants to trust that his worldview is shared by the few people he lets into his confidence, even when it isn’t.

And, he does so much better in the end that I really liked him that much more. His taking responsibility and stepping into a more adult role, both as a partner and a professional, was enjoyable–I only wished to have had more of that.

Interested? You can find BAREFOOT IN THE CITY OF BROKEN DREAMS on Goodreads, Amazon and Barnes & Noble. I received an advanced copy of this book via NetGalley.

About Brent Hartinger:
I am Brent Hartinger, and I live to write.

For the last twenty years, I have made my living writing just about everything that involves words.

My most famous book is probably my 2003 gay teen novel, Geography Club, which has been adapted into a feature film starring Scott Bakula, Marin Hinkle, Ana Gasteyer, Justin Deeley, and Nikki Blonsky. It was released in selected theaters and on VOD on November 15, 2013.

You can find Brent on his website, Facebook and Twitter.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!