Land of Confusion for BOYS OF ALABAMA–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a contemporary YA romance with magical elements from Genevieve Hudson. BOYS OF ALABAMA features a German teen moving to rural Alabama where he discovers friendships and confides in the genderqueer witch-boy about his powers that heal the dead.

About the book:
In this bewitching debut novel, a sensitive teen, newly arrived in Alabama, falls in love, questions his faith, and navigates a strange power. While his German parents don’t know what to make of a South pining for the past, shy Max thrives in the thick heat. Taken in by the football team, he learns how to catch a spiraling ball, how to point a gun, and how to hide his innermost secrets.

Max already expects some of the raucous behavior of his new, American friends—like their insatiable hunger for the fried and cheesy, and their locker room talk about girls. But he doesn’t expect the comradery—or how quickly he would be welcomed into their world of basement beer drinking. In his new canvas pants and thickening muscles, Max feels like he’s “playing dress-up.” That is until he meets Pan, the school “witch,” in Physics class: “Pan in his all black. Pan with his goth choker and the gel that made his hair go straight up.” Suddenly, Max feels seen, and the pair embarks on a consuming relationship: Max tells Pan about his supernatural powers, and Pan tells Max about the snake poison initiations of the local church. The boys, however, aren’t sure whose past is darker, and what is more frightening—their true selves, or staying true in Alabama.

Writing in verdant and visceral prose that builds to a shocking conclusion, Genevieve Hudson “brilliantly reinvents the Southern Gothic, mapping queer love in a land where God, guns, and football are king” (Leni Zumas, author of Red Clocks). Boys of Alabama becomes a nuanced portrait of masculinity, religion, immigration, and the adolescent pressures that require total conformity.

My Review:
Max is a sophomore in high school, so about 15 or 16 and his father has moved him and his mother to a tiny Alabama town. Max is looking fro a fresh start after losing his best friend and love of his life, Nils, to disease. Max has a secret power to raise dead things back to life–plant or animal–and he feels torn by guilt that he never tried to resurect Nils–and fears he may have accidentally done this just before Nils was buried.

Max is a fast runner and he gets recruited to the football team of his small private high school, God’s Way. The team and their friends are especially holy, Lorne’s father the Judge is a prophet of sorts. Max doesn’t understand the subtext, but there’s talk about giving over sins and using snake venom or rat poison to purify the spirit. There’s a huge current of “Jesus saves” and God-loving, which clashes with teenaged binge-drinking and what seems to be non-consensual sex perpetrated on the MC by his friend and fellow teammate. Max is both captivated by, and scared of, Pan the genderqueer witch of town. Pan discovers Max’s power and serves as a confidante for Max, and his soft place to land when he needs one. Pan is a tentative sexual partner for Max and at least one other boy, it seems.

The prose is odd with nary a quotation mark to be found. It took a while for me to become accustomed to this. It is lilting and lyrical, told through Max’s confused point of view, struggling to code-switch between his German roots and the Americana tableau of Alabama southern pride, guns, God, and football. It’s the first time Max is seen as a boy worthy of friendship, his oddity is his foreignness, not his powers which he has fought to hide for years. Just as he’s fitting in, he’s giving away the only part of him that’s special and unique, and that seems a pretty hefty metaphor. The end trauma is a hate crime–and it’s brutally couched in trying to “save” a friend’s immortal soul. I’m pretty sure that’s what parents who send their kids to conversion therapy think, too. The snake-charming, possible poisonings were true cult action, and it seemed virtually no one was speaking out. There are only a few people who talk sense in the story, and they are relegated to the outer edges and diminished as accessory, or occult. Max venerates cultists and whack-jobs because they want him to belong to their arcane secret society. It’s a dangerous paradigm that Max falls prey to, and Instead of calling it out, the end falls completely flat. It’s written to be a Southern gothic, but the story landed off the mark to me.

Interested? You can find BOYS OF ALABAMA on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo. I read a review copy via NetGalley.

About the Author:
You can find Genevieve Hudson online on their website and twitter.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Learning WHY CAN’T FRESHMAN SUMMER BE LIKE PIZZA–Review & Giveaway

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a contemporary LGBTQ YA coming of age story from Andy V. Roamer. WHY CAN’T FRESHMAN SUMMER BE LIKE PIZZA? is the second book in the Pizza Chronicles and features a high school freshman questioning his ethnic heritage, his friendships and his sexuality. I adored WHY CAN’T LIFE BE LIKE PIZZA? and I highly recommend reading it first.

Scroll down for an excerpt, my review and to get in on the $10 GC giveaway!
About the book:
RV, having successfully completed his freshman year at the demanding Boston Latin School, is hoping for a great summer. He’s now fifteen years old and looking forward to sharing many languid summer days with his friend Bobby, who’s told him he has gay feelings too. But life and family and duties for a son of immigrant parents makes it difficult to steal time away with Bobby.

Bobby, too, has pressures. He spends part of the summer away at football camp, and his father pushes him to work a summer job at a friend’s accounting firm. Bobby takes the job grudgingly, wanting to spend any extra time practicing the necessary skills to make Latin’s varsity football team.

On top of everything, RV’s best friend Carole goes away for the summer, jumping at an opportunity to spend it with her father in Paris. Luckily, there is always Mr. Aniso, RV’s Latin teacher, to talk to whenever RV is lonely. He’s also there for RV when he inadvertently spills one of Bobby’s secrets, and Bobby is so angry RV is afraid he is ready to cut off the friendship.

How about a taste?

Chapter One—Summer Solstice
I used to love summer. The long, languid days. No school. No homework. Sleeping late. Going to the beach. Staying out later in the evenings and watching the sun set over the hills into the darkening glow of the horizon.

Wow. Am I starting to sound like a poet or just a pretentious a-hole? What’s wrong with the paragraph I just wrote? There are no pretentious words in it, are there? Well, maybe “languid” is. I like “languid.” I don’t know where I picked it up, but I think it perfectly describes summer. Where everything is a little more s-l-l-o-o-w-w-w and easygoing. Where life seems good and there’s no homework. Yup, I’ll stick with languid. Hey, there has to be a benefit to liking words the way I do. I’m not just a nerd, but a poetic nerd.

Ha ha ha. Maybe it has something to do with being bilingual. I never used to think about it much before, but I guess I am officially bilingual. Talking Lithuanian at home. English in the outside world. Just kind of always accepted it, didn’t I? But I wonder what speaking two languages does to someone. Kind of like being split into two people. My Lith life and my English life. Are there really two people inside me? Scary thought. One of me is bad enough.

Luckily, Bobby Marshall doesn’t seem to be bothered by it, so why should I be?

Ahh, Bobby Marshall. I still can’t believe we’re friends. Or should I say “special friends”? I’m still afraid to even think about it. Me, RV Aleksandravičius—nerd extraordinaire, spawn of Lithuanian immigrants, word lover, nervous worrywuss, possible gay person—friends with one of the biggest jocks in school. The world truly is an amazing place.

But, as I was saying, I used to love summer. That was before I had to work. This summer I’ll be toiling away like the rest of humanity. And I’m not just talking about working with the Computer Fix-It company I started last year with Carole. That business has been kind of rocky lately. I’ll blame it on the bad economy, since everyone always blames everything on a bad economy.

No, I’m working at my first real job. I turned fifteen last week. I used to love my birthdays. The end of school. The start of summer. But not anymore. Dad has a friend at work, Mr. Timmons, whose brother, Ed, owns a garage and gas station. Dad was talking to him and lo and behold (another pretentious choice of words?), Mr. Timmons told him his brother was looking for someone to help with chores around the place. Since I’m not sixteen yet, I’m not supposed to work in the garage itself. But I can dispense gas and work around the store that Ed has attached to the garage. Nothing heavy duty, Mr. Timmons said. Ed just needs someone fifteen to twenty hours a week helping in the store and cleaning around the place. A great way to earn a little pocket money.

Fifteen to twenty hours! Dad, bless his parental heart, volunteered me. Said it was a great way to learn about “real” life. And to “round out my skills.” What, my skills are too flat or something? But Dad doesn’t stop. “Too much time with your nose in a book isn’t healthy.” “Develop some skills.” “A young man needs more than book learning.” On and on and on. Says it in the Mother Tongue, of course, but that’s how it translates into English.

Except it sounds more serious in Lithuanian. “Per daug laiko praleidi su nosim knygose.” “Išmok ką nors naudingo.” “Jaunam vyrui ne tik knygos naudingos.” Wonder why that is. Because it’s what we talk at home? Our “real” language? To Mom and Dad, English sure isn’t real. Even though they speak it, Mom much better than Dad. What is real to me, then?

Oh, well. In whatever language, I think Dad wants to have a macho son like the other guys at work brag about. Well, sorry, Dad, not all of us can be macho. And not all of us can be like Bobby Marshall either. A jock. Smart. And nice. Yeah, nice. He likes me. I still can’t believe it sometimes. He says I’m fine the way I am. Okay, Bobby, if you say so. I’ll believe you. I have to believe you. Have to believe someone likes me the way I am.

Oh, RV, stop feeling sorry for yourself. There are people who like you besides Bobby. Mom, for example, though Mom doesn’t really count because moms usually love their kids no matter how screwed up they are. But then there’s Mr. Aniso, my Latin teacher last year. Good old Mr. Aniso. He’s been great, especially when I’ve told him my worries about being gay. We’re becoming real friends. But he’s an adult. Adults only go so far for a kid. We need our peers to like us.

So what about Carole? You’ve gone through a lot with her, RV, and she’s still sticking by you. Yeah, that’s true. She’s a good egg. No, a great egg! I love you, Carole Higginbottom!

And what about Ray? Brothers are usually close, aren’t they? But not Ray and I. Too bad. He’s just off in another world. I’m sure he thinks it’s a cooler world than the one his nerdy older brother inhabits.

So there’s Bobby. He’s a guy. A regular guy. Something I’ve always wanted to be, but will never be, alas! (Another one of those words! Where are all these pretentious words coming from?). Anyway, if Bobby really likes me that would be amazing. I still can’t believe it happened.

There I am thinking about him again. But that’s okay, right? I mean, after all, we kissed and everything.

!!$$#*&!! Did I just write that? Yes. GET OVER YOURSELF, RV! YOU KISSED A GUY AND YOU LIKED IT. What’s wrong with that? You’re not hearing thunder from heaven, are you? This computer isn’t blowing up because you wrote those words, is it? So you might be gay. Chill out. Or you might be bi. After all, you enjoyed making out with Carole until she started falling for that zit-faced Tim— Whoa! Whoa!

I have to stop worrying about everything. Maybe Dad’s right. Maybe too much time on the keyboard, writing down my thoughts, isn’t good. But I like keeping this journal. Helps me sort things out. When Mom and Dad gave me this computer they said they wanted me to make good use of it. I think I have. Maybe not the way they’d want me to, but I think they’d be proud of me for writing so much. And I kept it up all school year. That’s good, isn’t it? Even if Mom and Dad would be shocked at some of the stuff I wrote here. I hope I keep up the writing during the summer. After all, I should have more time in summer, even if those languid days are cut by fifteen to twenty hours a week.

My Review:
This is the second book in a series and I’m going to sum up a bit of stuff that many be spoiler-y if you haven’t read the first book.

Arvydas “RV” …… (sorry I don’t have the tenacity to write his last name) is the eldest son of Lithuanian ex-pats living on green cards in Boston. RV’s parents have worked hard for their modest American existence; it’s not the American Dream they had envisioned upon emigration. They are up for citizenship, if they can pass their tests, but RV’s dad is a bit sour on the idea. RV also struggles to connect with his younger brother Ray, who seems like a “cool kid” while RV is an avowed dweeb and total book scholar.

It’s the summer following RV’s freshmen year at the prestigious Boston Latin School. RV is a real scholar and thinker, and he’s a bit nerdy if he does say so himself. He struggles to fit into his Lithuanian role, and he doesn’t fit in well at school. He has two good friends: Carole who was his first girlfriend, and Bobby who is somewhat of a boyfriend. Bobby had asked RV for tutoring help in the first book, but they both feel an attraction that leads to discussing their fluid sexuality. Bobby thinks he’s gay, but he doesn’t want ANYONE to know. RV struggles to understand his sexuality, but he’s thinking he’s gay because he’s really generally attracted to men. He worked on these ideas while visiting his dear Latin teacher, Mr. Aniso in the hospital last winter. Mr. Aniso is clearly gay, and was brutally bashed one weekend. Their mentor-friendship has grown over the course of the summer when RV has felt more and more isolated. Carole is in Paris with her dad, a military man with a new appointment, and Bobby spends more and more time at football camp.

Bobby is black, Mr. Aniso is gay, and RV is the child of immigrants, and potentially gay–or bisexual. They each experience prejudice in their lives and RV documents this with the kind of unflinching honesty only a confused child can bring. Mr. Aniso and Bobby both agree that RV is innocent, but in different ways. Mr. Aniso affirms RV’s goodness and willingness to see the best in people, and Bobby is a little on the pressuring side, willing to explore their sexuality in a way that’s a bit too fast for Bobby.

I really liked the side characters here, even Ed, the garage and gas station owner that RV works for. Ed is without question the embodiment of white American male supremacy, but RV is able to talk to him in ways that diffuse his inherent racism. He’s a product of his environment like many unacknowledged racists, and RV is able to shift his bigoted paradigm. RV also grows the strength to stand up for his family, and his feelings, once he figures out the depth of them.

This 15 year old’s digital journal is the meat of the story, and RV’s private thoughts really cut to the heart of racism and prejudice over several classes. In a time when there is heightened awareness of the institutional racism and racial inequity in America, RV’s insight is a welcome call out for people to just be more human, and understand that their personal experiences does NOT invalidate the injustices experienced by others.

I adore RV and will follow him on his quest for truth, justice and the American experience. Trigger warning for incidences of gang behavior, teen drug use, and a shooting.

Interested? You can find WHY CAN’T FRESHMAN SUMMER BE LIKE PIZZA? on Goodreads, NineStar Press, Amazon, Smashwords and Kobo. I received a review copy via NetGalley.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win a $10 GC from NineStar Press.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Author:
Andy V. Roamer grew up in the Boston area and moved to New York City after college. He worked in book publishing for many years, starting out in the children’s and YA books division and then wearing many other hats. This is his first novel about RV, the teenage son of immigrants from Lithuania in Eastern Europe, as RV tries to negotiate his demanding high school, his budding sexuality, and new relationships. He has written an adult novel, Confessions of a Gay Curmudgeon, under the pen name Andy V. Ambrose. To relax, Andy loves to ride his bike, read, watch foreign and independent movies, and travel.

Catch up with Andy on his website and Facebook.

Figuring Out That SCARLET GAZE–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a contemporary YA M/M romance with magical elements from Foster Bridget Cassidy. SCARLET GAZE features a boy following a cryptic vision to a college where he’s astounded to learn he can wield magic. If only he can use it to save his boyfriend…

About the book:
After a paranormal encounter in his youth with someone from his future, Collin Frey sets his sights on getting to Marke Staple University. Now eighteen and with a full scholarship to the prestigious university, Collin hopes to find an explanation to that life-changing event. Unfortunately, it only leads to more questions.

Finding out he’s there to study magic is the first surprise. The second is his roommate, Terrence, looks identical to the person who started him on the path to Marke Staple.

Collin’s more than willing to sell his soul to get closer to Terrence and uncover all the secrets hidden there. Can knowing a man will change after making a horrible mistake ease the pain of betrayal? Collin is going to find out.

My Review:
Collin Frey has an encounter at the age of 11 or 12 that determines his life path going forward. While on a skiing trip with his family, Collin meets a sobbing man with shining red eyes he doesn’t know, yet who seems to know Collin intimately. This man begs Collin’s forgiveness, and has a gold coin minted with Collin’s name and face on it’s front and “Marke Staple University” on the reverse. He cannot forget the pain in that man’s scarlet gaze, and it drives Collin not only to discover this tiny, private, British university, but to study his booty off and get a full scholarship.

Collin’s also one of only five first year students admitted to the prestigious literature program at Marke Staple. Every student not in the literature program is a business major, like Collin’s roommate, Terrence, who IS the man from Collin’s youthful vision. He’s not sure if he should tell Terrance of their meeting years ago, or if Terrence will think he’s insane. Terrence doesn’t have shining red eyes, and he’s avid about getting to know–and maybe shag–Collin. Terrence is also the son of Collin’s Dean of students–and Collin soon learns that all the literature students and teachers possess magic–including himself. Most of the students in the business program are rudimentary practitioners, but Terrence has a lot of innate talent. He was banished from using his magic years before when he tried to summon a demon in a fit of pique. When a practitioner allies with a demon, their vision goes red–so Collin knows this must be what happens before Terrence goes back in time to meet his child-self.

Collin doesn’t know how to manage the magical world, but the instructors are very sympathetic. His cohort are nice enough, though they wonder how Collin got admitted without knowing he was magically-talented. Collin’s mission is now two-fold. To keep Terrence from making whatever mistake leaves him demon-possessed, and to figure out his talent in magic. Meanwhile, he’s falling steadily for Terrence, who’s bravado is all subterfuge to hide the pain of his youth, his estrangement from his father and his deep longing for connection. And…a little bit of delusions of grandeur. Collin’s talent seems to be in teleportation, a rare gift, and he’s wondering if he can teleport both space and time. He practices the space dimension, using the newly minted pure-gold coins that help practitioners harness and focus their magical abilities. He isn’t allowed to, but he takes Terrence on his teleporting forays. He even teaches Terrence how to teleport, and helps Terrence research how to seek the help of a demon, hoping that he can convince Terrence it’s the worst possible idea. He give Terrence all the rope he needs to hang himself, praying that he will use it to climb back from the abyss he’s manifesting.

This is an interesting romance, with lots of fantastic magical elements. Some of it felt a little convenient, and I wondered if Collin was simply the most gullible man in Great Britain the way he gave all his secrets away. His faith in Terence is almost unbelievable, but I think the most interesting piece of all of this was the connections that Collin made with his cohort and professors–people who wanted to help him save Terrence from himself and his unyielding ambition. There’s a decent amount of family drama, too, with all these high-flying magical teens having very prestigious families and uber high expectations. The way they all leaned on one another was fresh and engaging. For me, I was entertained, and enjoyed how the magical elements worked. I’m a big fan of Harry Potter, so this one scratched that M/M romance + magic + college life itch. It has a little bit of sexytimes, but not overwhelming for an upper YA/New Adult read.

Interested? You can find SCARLET GAZE on Goodreads, NineStar Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple Books and Kobo. I read a review copy via NetGalley.

About the Author:
FOSTER BRIDGET CASSIDY is a rare, native Phoenician who enjoys hot desert air and likes to wear jackets in summer. She has wanted to be a fiction writer since becoming addicted to epic fantasy during high school. Since then, she’s studied the craft academically—at Arizona State University—and as a hobby—attending conventions and workshops around the country. A million ideas float in her head, but it seems like there’s never enough time to get them all down on paper.

Her main support comes from her husband, who reminds her to laugh. Mostly at herself. Their partnership may be difficult to grasp when viewed from the outside, but seen from the inside they are a perfect match. He’s helped her though surgeries and sicknesses and is always willing to wash her hair when she can’t do it on her own.

Their children have four legs and fur and will bite them on occasion. One snores loudly.

For fun, Foster likes to take pictures of her dachshunds, sew costumes for her dachshunds, snuggle her dachshunds, and bake treats for her dachshunds. In exchange for so much love and devotion, they pee vast amounts on the floor, click their nails loudly on the tile, and bark wildly at anything that moves outside. Somehow, this relationship works for all involved.

While not writing, Foster can usually be found playing a video game or watching a movie with her husband. While not doing any of those things, Foster can usually be found in bed, asleep.

You can find Foster online on her website, Facebook, and twitter.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Infatuated With HOW TO QUIT YOUR CRUSH–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a contemporary YA romance from Amy Fellner Dominy. HOW TO QUIT YOUR CRUSH features an adopted girl striving for perfection, and a boy grieving the loss of his dad planning a memorial quest. And the summer after graduation can start, just as soon as they get over one another…

About the book:
Mai Senn knows Anthony Adams is no good for her – no matter how hard she might crush on him. She’s valedictorian; he’s a surf bum. She’s got plans, he’s got his art. Complete opposites in every way. Vinegar and baking soda, they once joked. A chemical reaction that bubbled.

Yeah, they bubbled. Maybe still do.

Good thing Anthony’s got the perfect plan: two weeks to prove just how not good they are together. Whoever can come up with the worst date—something the other will seriously hate, proving how incompatible they truly are—wins.

Like taking a snake-phobe to the Reptile House at the zoo (his idea).

Or a cooking class where they don’t even get to eat the food (her idea).

It’s all about the competition, and it’s meant to help them finally crush their crushes. But it wasn’t supposed to be so hot. Or so fun. And when Mai’s future becomes at stake, will she be able to do the right thing and quit Anthony forever?

My Review:
Maya “Mai” Senn is the valedictorian of her Phoenix-area high school. She was adopted by two high-flying parents, people who are highly educated and want their children to be highly educated as well. Mai’s older brother was also a valedictorian and attends an ivy league college out east. Mai is accepted to a prestigious college in California, and has a great summer research internship all lined up to being in a few weeks. First, she’s going to spend two weeks grooming a trail in the Phoenix area as part of her parents’ philanthropy. Oh, and she’s also going to get over the baseball jock that she inexplicably connected with during spring break. To Mai’s mixed feelings Grant, a family friend she’s had feelings for off and on, has joined her work crew. Grant is getting over the break up of a long-term relationship, but he and his girlfriend are going in different directions. It’s smart to break up now, right?

Anthony Adams watched his dad die of cancer in his sophomore year. Since then, he’s stopped trying to really connect with people, or plan out his future. Why, when that future could easily be dashed by illness or injury. Better to go with the flow. He has friendships, especially with his teammates, so it’s really odd how drawn he was to Mai back in spring break. Their connection was short-lived though. Mai broke it off, knowing that Anthony was not the kind o boy her parents would accept. And now, with the end of school Anthony’s only mission is to make a biking pilgrimage to the campsites his dad had wanted make in the years prior to his death. Anthony is planning to take his bike, and his dad’s ashes, and find the right place to leave the ashes. Instead of heading right out, though, Anthony makes the impetuous decision to join Mai’s work crew just to spend some time with her. And, Mai’s mad.

Mai is a girl who has planned out her whole life based on her family’s high expectations. She lives in fear of getting lost, and being left behind–in part due to a traumatic experience as a child, and in part because of insecurity due to being an adopted child. Anthony refused to plan much beyond the next few days or weeks. He’s an artist, using recycled and reclaimed bits and turning them into sculpture is one way to pass his time. It’s not like it’s a lucrative skill, right. They are complete opposites, so why does stepping away feel so hard? Mai decides they need a plan to get over one another. Over the course of the two weeks they remain in the area they will meet at the library parking lot–because Mai’s parents think she’s going to study in advance of her summer research internship–and go on dates that are sure to be terrible. They won’t tell anyone, and they surely won’t kiss. They should be over one another in no time…

Except they aren’t. And their perfectly planned “terrible dates” get them deeper into one another than before. Mai’s parents keep pushing her to connect with Grant, and don’t understand why she won’t. Anthony is a force of his own, and instead of pulling away, he wants to pull Mai closer. Two weeks might not be enough time for Mai and Anthony to quit this crush.

I really liked this romance. It’s sweet and sassy. Neither Mai nor Anthony can figure out why they can’t move on, but they can’t. They get jealous, and they make impetuous choices. Like sneaking around and confessing their deepest secrets. Their bond strengthens and soon enough they are changing plans, or making plans to keep seeing one another. The vulnerability they both show, plus the hard conversations they make with their parents. Mai especially had a lot of difficult conversations that she floundered through, In the end, she made things right–but not before she made things bad between herself and Anthony. This story is a bit coming-of-age, and I liked how Mai finally got past her fears of abandonment, which fed her untenable perfection complex. Anthony learned that not thinking about his future was a way of closing off his life, not living it. Anthony was an easier character to like straightaway, but Mai was definitely sympathetic under her prickly exterior.

Interested? You can find HOW TO QUIT YOUR CRUSH on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple Books and Kobo. I read a review copy via NetGalley.

About the Author:
Hi! I’m the author of novels for teens and tweens as well as picture books for toddlers. I love writing stories that will make you laugh, sigh, swoon…and if I break your heart I promise to patch it up by the end. 🙂 Coming May 4th in YA Romance, the follow-up to Announcing Trouble: HOW TO QUIT YOUR CRUSH. May the worst date win!

I live and sweat in Phoenix, Arizona with my hubby and a puppy who is training us.

You can find Amy online on her website, Facebook, twitter, and Instagram.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Finding Common Ground as LAB PARTNERS–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a contemporary M/M YA romance from Mora Montgomery. LAB PARTNERS features two high school seniors whose chemistry camaraderie becomes much more.

About the book:
Sometimes you don’t know who you love, until they love you…

When Jordan Hughes arrives at Pinecrest High School, Elliot Goldman’s graduating year suddenly gets a lot more interesting. Smart, good looking and charming, Jordan isn’t exactly the kind of person Elliot’s used to having as a lab partner. But when they start acing their assignments, life is suddenly about more than boring lectures, bad cafeteria nachos, or relentless bullying, and for the first time ever, Elliot can’t wait to get to chemistry class.

As they start spending more time together outside of school, Elliot realizes he’s never met anyone quite like Jordan. And then everything changes one night when Jordan kisses him, making Elliot question everything about their relationship and about himself. The butterflies start to make sense—the trouble is, right now, nothing else does.

Love was the last thing on Elliot’s mind. But as he begins to figure out how he really feels about Jordan, he realizes that sometimes the last thing you are looking for is the one thing you need the most.

My Review:
Elliot Goldman is a high school senior in small-town Pinecrest, Michigan. He’s plagued by bullies who’ve attacked him verbally and occasionally physically because he speaks up for other kids–notably his brilliant twin sister Ellie. His main bullies, Morgan and Nate, have been on his case since middle school and lately Cole has joined their crew. Elliot refuses to make any reports of their behavior–against his parents’ wishes–because he believes their bullying will escalate if he reports them. Elliot has a good relationship with his workaholic parents, though he’s often alone while they work late and commute, enjoying his solitude and cooking dinners for the family. Ellie commutes to community college since she “tested out” of high school after sophomore year.

Elliot has a new partner in his AP chemistry class: Jordan Hughes. Jordan is an unknown quantity having only transferred to Pinecrest in the past few weeks. He’s tall and built like an athlete, and Elliot is nervous Jordan will terrorize him the way Morgan and Nate do. Still, Jordan is smart and efficient; Elliot’s never had such a good experience in science. Jordan isn’t content to only befriend Elliot in class, he begins to join Elliot and Holiday, Ellie’s BFF, at their outcast lunch table.

It’s not long before the bullies notice Jordan’s friendship with Elliot, and they begin to accuse Elliot of being gay, and Jordan’s lover. It’s such a shocking accusation that Elliot is stunned into fighting his bullies–and they beat him up badly. The only reason he’s not completely incapacitated is Cole convinces Morgan and Nate to stand down before they get caught. When Jordan learns the cause of Elliot’s injuries, he’s so upset, but he cares for Elliot–and reveals his own big secret: he’s attracted to Elliot. While Elliot’s body had been battered, it’s the memory of Jordan’s tender kiss that keeps his mind buzzing.

Elliot isn’t gay, is he? He’s barely had a friend beside Ellie and Holiday. He’s never really been attracted to girls, or boys, being so detached from his peers. Talking with Ellie, who identifies as asexual, helps Elliot see that sexuality is fluid and if Jordan makes him happy he should chase that happiness. So he does. Which causes the bullies to become even more bold. But the strength Elliot has gained from his connections with Jordan, Ellie and Holiday gives Elliot the will to reach out for even more help, and maybe his own happiness.

This is a first book from a young author. I liked it, mostly, as the story is filled with likeable characters and realistic plot movements. There were parts, especially in the beginning, where there was a lot of information and little plot motion, so the pace bogged. There also were some repetitive bits, with the bullying. Elliot’s parents are almost criminally negligent in their absenteeism and how they allow Elliot to dictate his terms regarding not reporting his bullying. For me, as a parent with boys who were bullied in middle school, it’s not really up to a kid to decide to report bullying. IN the face of these issues their continued absence is unconscionable–and extraordinarily plot convenient. When Elliot decides to truly fight back, it’s through another student, not the power of his folks. I wasn’t blown away by the decision, again it seemed convenient. Even the epilogue irked me, that Elliot’s parents are so clueless to recognize their son’s sexuality when he’s had a boyfriend for going on 6 months, was yet another example of their deficiency.

That said, it’s a cute story, with age-appropriate angst and romance. There’s a little bit of kissing, as Elliot comes to terms with his sexuality and falling hard for Jordan, who is a sweet and supportive partner. I think teen readers will enjoy this somewhat predictable questioning/coming out story that ends happily for Elliot.

Interested? You can find LAB PARTNERS on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo. I received a review copy via NetGalley.

About the Author:
Growing up in a small town forced Mora to be creative as a means to entertain herself. In her free time, she focused her energy on music, writing, and school. Mora graduated with an associate degree from her local community college a month before receiving her high school diploma. She is currently pursuing two majors related to engineering at university, and her tuition is paid for with the money earned through her music and writing.

Catch up with Mora on her website, twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

Figuring Out THE MIXTAPE TO MY LIFE–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a near-historical LGBTQ YA coming of age/coming out story from Jake Martinez. THE MIXTAPE TO MY LIFE features a closeted high school junior reconnecting with his middle school crush, who’d saved him from a beating years before.

About the book:
Justin Ortega might as well be starring in his very own coming-of-age 80s movie. If only he could find his dream boy to pull up in front of his house in a red convertible and sweep him off his feet, already! At seventeen years young, he isn’t quite Mexican enough for his South Texas town; isn’t manly enough for his father; can sometimes be too much of a smart mouth for his mother; and as for the other kids at school—let’s just say he’d be cast as the quiet nerd with a heart of gold…and an ear for music.

The one solace Justin has is his love of 80s hair metal bands, which he listens to on his beloved Sony Walkman. The songs, lyrics, and melody keep him just sane enough to escape the pressures of school and help navigate the hurdles life brings. Especially with the doozy this year is shaping up to be. Not only does he have to try out for a captain position which is rightfully his, but his best friend has found a new girlfriend, leaving Justin to fend for himself in a school where he’s mostly known as simply Coconut.

Enter Dominic Mendoza. Sweet, funny, and a blast from his past, the hunky football player has moved in next door. Justin could never forget how Dominic protected him in the eighth grade, nor the way Dominic made him feel, then…and now.

Except, this isn’t a movie. Confusion, friendship, and love won’t guarantee a happy ending unless Justin can learn to accept himself for who he truly is. Hair bands and all.

My Review:
Justin Ortega is a high school junior growing up in South Texas in the mid-1990s. He’s sure he’s gay, and has come out to his best friend Benny, who is an ally. Justin’s father is a high school football coach, and his hard-line stances clash with Justin who is the definition of non-confrontational. There’s a culture clash with Justin’s Mexican-American parents, who are religious and highly suspicious of his friendship with Benny. They also don’t make light-skinned Justin, or his younger brother, learn Spanish–thinking it’s more American to only speak English. This leads to struggle with Justin’s bilingual Spanish-speaking peers who accuse him of “playing white” call him a “coconut”–brown on the outside and white on the inside.

It’s the end of summer, and Justin’s vying for the cymbal captain post in his marching band. Band’s usually a place where Justin feels safe, despite a trio of percussionists who are bullies, one who is his primary competition for cymbal captain. Justin retreats into his 80s rock mixtapes on his Walkman whenever he feels stressed. He’s a little frustrated that Benny has been secretly dating Lila, a fellow percussionist, for a month or more. He’s always liked Lila, but they were never really close. This relationship with Benny brings them far closer, and she’s an ally as well. Justin’s parents are SO happy to see that Benny has a pretty girlfriend, and they encourage Justin to find one too. He’s overwhelmed, knowing he can never please them this way.

Justin has had bullies plaguing him for years. One, Ivan, is a big football player and almost beat Justin up back in eighth-grade, openly accusing him of being gay–which Justin had not come to terms with. At that time Dominic, a fellow student, came to his rescue. Dominic’s father was a huge homophobe and pulled Dominic from the school, fearing that associating with Justin would turn Dominic gay. Now, three years later, Dominic’s parents are divorced and Dominic and his mom have moved into the house next door to Justin. Justin’s really excited to reconnect–he never forgot Dominic’s kindness, and has had a crush on him since that time.

Dominic is eager to build a friendship, and is really protective of Justin from the beginning. Their friendship is growing into something more–especially when Justin confesses his sexuality, and his attraction. Dominic returns these feelings–he’s suffered physical and emotional abuse from his father, which led to his parent’s divorce. His mom knows he’s gay, and she’s supportive, if confused. Dominic is still playing football, and now his coach is Justin’s dad. He’s pleased they are friendly–thinking that a burly offensive lineman like Dominic is a manly friend, and far better for Justin than Benny.

The drama in band continues, though, and it leads to a big crisis. Within the final two weeks of summer, Justin gets his first kiss, first kiss with a guy, a boyfriend, and a situation that sends himself, Benny, Dominic and Lila on the run–temporarily. Justin and his parents have conversations that needed to happen years before. They recognize that Justin is the boy he is, and they love him even if they don’t necessarily understand. And, their support is so needed by Justin, who’s life was careening out of control for a bit there. With all this love behind him, Justin is ready to stand on his own feet, stand up to the bullies, and be a stronger man for it.

For me, this one was very interesting. But, I’m a child of the 90s and I understood the many, many pop-cultural references that Justin and his friends experience. Corded phones, MTV showing MUSIC VIDEOS (gasp!), the songs that speak to Justin’s heart, what a “mix tape” is–these are touchstones of my youth, but I wonder how they resonate with kids now. The music, especially. None of the songs Justin refers to are in frequent play today–and even listening to them with my kids, they associate that with “listening to old music with mom” moments, not the poignant, life-affirming experiences that will trigger nostalgia later. Music, and its dissemination, has changed considerably in the last 30 years, and kids do not seem to have as many emotional connections to it as the people of Justin’s generation would have. It’s cute that the author has built a Spotify playlist of the tunes referenced, to guide his readers into it, but I’m not sure if it will have traction for young readers. I was also a little troubled by the writing, with tense shifts that happen constantly, sometimes within sentences, throwing me off.

Justin is sweet kid, a bit over-emotional at times, with a huge inferiority complex. He’s too light-skinned, not bilingual, and lacks the machismo to integrate well with his peers. His love of American rock music is another point of separation, not to mention his sexuality. Justin’s tendency to shut people out with his Walkman creates a further barrier to overcome in terms of connection. It is through opening up, with Benny, Lila and finally Dominic, that allows him to grow into a functional kid. He makes even more friends as as result, finding at least one friendly bisexual boy he can relate to, and another straight boy who doesn’t care about his sexuality. The moral seems that being honest, open and out will help Justin navigate his life. And, that’s a valuable idea in our current time. Justin and Dominic do recognize–and this is driven home by the parable of Justin’s Tio Mando–that they exist in a society where threats to them exist because of their sexuality. They are careful to whom they reveal themselves as safety measure, and that stands as a touchstone for teens who might have similar home or societal pressures even today. I liked the story, and would recommend it for readers who enjoy coming out stories and near-historical, teen gay romances.

Interested? You can find THE MIXTAPE TO MY LIFE on Goodreads, Deep Hearts YA, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Kobo and Smashwords. I received a review copy via NetGalley.

About the Author:
Jake Martinez is a former South Texas resident who has found a new home in Chicago. He has been writing all his life, but has only recently sought to be published. His debut novel, The Mixtape to My Life, reflects on life as a gay teen growing up in South Texas. Jake holds an MFA in Creative Writing and loves to write plays and screenplays. Aside form writing, you can find him hanging out at home with his husband, their newborn son, and an eclectic group of fur babies.

Catch up with Jake on his website, twitter, and Instagram.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

Growing Up Wondering WHY CAN’T LIFE BE LIKE PIZZA–Review & Giveaway

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a contemporary LGBTQ YA coming of age story from Andy V. Roamer. WHY CAN’T LIFE BE LIKE PIZZA? is the first book in the Pizza Chronicles and features a high school freshman questioning his ethnic heritage, his friendships and his sexuality.

Scroll down for an excerpt, my review and to get in on the $10 GC giveaway!
About the book:
RV is a good kid, starting his freshman year at the demanding Boston Latin School. Though his genes didn’t give him a lot of good things, they did give him a decent brain. So he’s doing his best to keep up in high school, despite all the additional pressures he’s facing: His immigrant parents, who don’t want him to forget his roots and insist on other rules. Some tough kids at school who bully teachers as well as students. His puny muscles. His mean gym teacher. The Guy Upstairs who doesn’t answer his prayers. And the most confusing fact of all—that he might be gay.

Luckily, RV develops a friendship with Mr. Aniso, his Latin teacher, who is gay and always there to talk to. RV thinks his problems are solved when he starts going out with Carole. But things only get more complicated when RV develops a crush on Bobby, the football player in his class. And to RV’s surprise, Bobby admits he may have gay feelings, too.

How about a taste?

Why can’t life be like pizza?

I’ve been asking myself the question a lot lately. I love pizza. Pizza makes me feel good. Especially since I discovered Joe’s. Joe’s Pizza is quiet and out of the way and allows me to think. And Joe’s combinations are the best. Pepperoni and onions. Garlic and mushroom. Cheese and chicken. And if you really want that little kick in the old butt: the super jalapeno. Mmmm, good. Gets you going again. And lets you forget all your troubles.

What troubles can a fourteen-year-old guy have? Ha! First of all, I’m not a regular guy, as anyone can guess from my taste in pizza. My parents are immigrants who are trying to make a better life for themselves here in the United States. Besides the usual things American parents worry about, like making money and having their kids do well in school, my parents spend more time worrying about the big things: politics, communism, fascism, global warming, and the fact they and their parents survived violence and jail so I-better-be-grateful-I’m-not-miserable-like-kids-in-other-parts-of-the-world.

Grateful? Ha! As far as I’m concerned, life is pretty miserable already. Instead of thinking about the World Series or Disneyland, I worry about terrorists down the street or the dirty bombs the strange family around the corner might be building.

I don’t know why I worry about everything, but I do. It’s probably in my genes. Other guys have genes that gave them big muscles or hairy chests. I got nerves.

And then there’s my name. RV. Yeah, RV. No, I’m not a camper or anything. RV is short for Arvydas. That’s right. “Are-vee-duh-s.” Mom and Dad say it’s a common name in Lithuania, which is the country in Eastern Europe where my parents were born. A name like that might be fine for Lithuania, but what about the United States? Couldn’t Mom and Dad have named me Joe, or Mike, or even Darryl? My brother, Ray, has a normal name. Why couldn’t they have given me one?

I even look a little weird, I think. Tall and skinny with an uncoordinated walk because of my big feet that get in the way and make me feel like a clod. Oh, yeah. I’ve been getting some zits lately, and I wear glasses since I’m pretty nearsighted. Not a pretty sight, is it? At least the glasses are not too thick. Mom and Dad don’t have a lot of money to spend, but they did fork up the money to get me thin lenses, so I don’t look like a complete zomboid.

What can I do? I try my best, despite it all. I’m lucky because I’ve done well in school, so at least my genes gave me a half-decent brain. Hey, I’m not bragging. It’s just nice to feel good about something when most days I feel pretty much a loser at so many things. When I was in grammar school, there were enough days when I came home from school and cried because some big oaf threatened me, or I got hit in the stomach during my pathetic attempts to play ball during recess.

Mom always tried to comfort me. “Nesirūpink,” she would say. “Esi gabus. Kai užaugsi, visiems nušluostysi nuosis.” We talk Lithuanian at home. Translated, that sentence means, “Don’t worry. You’re smart. When you grow up, you’ll show them.” Actually, not “you’ll show them,” but “you’ll wipe all their noses.” Lithuanians have a funny way of expressing themselves. Not sure I aspire to wiping anyone’s nose when I get older, but that’s what they say.

Whatever. I’m determined to put all that behind me. I’m starting a new life. My new life. Today was the first day of high school. I’m going to Boston Latin School. You have to take an exam to go there, so it’s full of smart kids. Besides smart kids, it has heavy-duty history too. It was founded in 1635, a year before Harvard. They already gave us a speech about that.

And about pressure. The pressure to succeed with all this history breathing down our necks. Pressure, ha! Doesn’t scare me. I know all about pressure. I’ve gotten pressure from cretinous bullies at school. I get it from cretinous Lith a-holes, who Mom and Dad keep pushing me to hang around with because they say it’s important to be part of the immigrant community. And I even get pressure from cretinous jerks in the neighborhood.

Cretinous. A good word. That’s something else about me. I like words. Real words and made-up ones. There’s something cool about them. Yeah, yeah, I know what people would say. You think words are cool? Kid, you’ve got more problems than you thought.

Well, I’m sorry. I do think words are cool. There’s something fun about making them up or learning a new one. Kind of unlocks something in the world. And I like the world despite all my worrying. It can be an okay place sometimes.

Okay, okay, I’m getting off track. I want to write about my first day of school. Mom and Dad gave me this new—well, refurbished, but new to me anyway—computer for getting into Latin school, and they keep after me to make good use of it. So, I’ve decided I’m going to write about my new life. My life away from cretins—Lith, American, or any other kind.

The first person I met at school today was Carole. Carole Higginbottom. She’s in my homeroom. She was sitting in the first row, first seat, and I was sitting right behind her. We started talking. She’s from West Roxbury, too, which is where we live.

West Roxbury is part of Boston. You have to live somewhere in Boston in order to go to Latin school. West Roxbury is a nice neighborhood, for the most part, with houses, trees, grass, and people going to work and coming home. Kind of an all-American place, I guess. We used to live in a different, tougher part of Boston, but Mom and Dad moved away from there because they said the neighborhood was getting too rough. They promised I wouldn’t get beat up so much in West Roxbury. I don’t know. West Roxbury is better, but I still have gotten a few black-and-blue marks with “made in West Roxbury” on them, so as far as I’m concerned it isn’t any perfect place either.

Carole lives in another part of West Roxbury, near Centre Street, which is the main street in the area. People like to hang out there. Mom says that part of West Roxbury is a little dicey. (Mom thinks a lot of neighborhoods are too dicey. Maybe that’s where I get my worrying from.) Anyway, Carole sure doesn’t seem dicey. As a matter of fact, she’s a little goofy. Tall and skinny with red hair, red cheeks, and a million freckles. And she has a really sharp nose that curves up like those special ski slopes you see in the Olympics. But I get the feeling she’s smart. She says she likes science. That’s good because I might need help with science. I’m better with other subjects like history and English.

Our homeroom teacher is Mr. Bologna, Carmine Bologna. He’s a little scary with slicked-back dark hair and even darker eyes that stare at you forever. He looks like he’s part of the organization we’re not supposed to talk about—you know, the scary one from Italy that’s into murder, racketeering, and drugs. Two guys were horsing around in the back of the class and Mr. Bologna came right up to them, said a few words under his breath, and just stared at them. Boy, did they settle down fast. I’m no troublemaker, but I’ll really have to watch myself. Don’t want to deal with the Bologna stare if I can help it.

Today was mostly about walking around, learning about our subjects, and meeting teachers. Besides all the regular subjects, I have to take Latin. I don’t have anything against it per se, but is it really necessary to learn a dead language? And then there’s the teacher, Mr. Aniso. He’s kind of light in his loafers. That’s another new phrase I learned recently. It refers to gay guys, and Mr. Aniso is so gay it hurts. I just hope he can’t tell anything about me. I don’t wave my wrist around the way he does, do I?

Yeah, that’s something else I have to come to terms with. I might be heading in that direction. Yeah, me. I can hardly believe it. Me! Why? It can’t be true, can it? I’ve been praying to God, asking Him not to make me gay, but I don’t think He’s listening. If He exists, that is. Maybe He’s not answering because He doesn’t exist.

I don’t know. People on TV and in books say being gay is okay. Movie stars and rock stars are gay. There are gay mayors and other gay political types. That’s fine for them, but they don’t live with my family. Mom’s a heavy-duty Catholic. Dad’s a macho, “what-me-cry?” kind of guy. And my younger brother, Ray, well, Ray probably doesn’t care one way or another, but he doesn’t count anyway since he hates everybody. And then there are all those Lith immigrants, the community that’s so important to Mom and Dad. Most of them are so Old World and conservative. I don’t think being gay would go down well with them.

Not that I am gay for certain. I’m just saying it’s crossed my mind because…well, because I think about guys sometimes. And I notice them. Notice how they look when they’re coming down the street. Notice their eyes or their hair or the way they move. Just notice them.

Oh, I notice girls, too, but something about guys is different. I can’t put my finger on it, but I think about them as much or maybe more than girls. And I want to be with them. Is that normal? What’s normal anyway? To be honest, I’m so inexperienced. Never dated. Never even kissed anyone. Not like that anyway. No, I’ve spent my time worrying about communism, terrorism, and global warming. Like I said, I’ve always felt a little out of step with the rest of humanity.

Dealing with all this is just too much. To be nervous about things the way I am. To be speaking a language most people haven’t heard of. To have a strange name. To wear glasses and look nerdy. And now I might be gay? It’s all too confusing. I might as well start on antidepressants, or something stronger, right now.

But no. I try to look on the bright side of things. Take Carole for instance. She seems nice and fun, and maybe we’ll be friends. And if she likes me, I can’t be too weird, can I? I guess I’ll find out. I better not think about it. There’s enough to worry about as it is. I just have to take a breath and focus on my homework. Yeah, we got homework already. At least that’s one thing I’m good at. And when I go to Joe’s, well, life’s not so bad, at least while I’m eating my chicken and cheese or super jalapeno slice.

My Review:
Arvydas–called RV for short is the eldest son of Lithuanian immigrant parents. His parents emigrated when they were barely teens to escape the Soviet occupation and the hard life of the Old Country, but they haven’t forgotten their Lith roots. RV and his younger brother Ray have been taught to speak Lithuanian in their home–though Ray rarely does. RV is a bit embarrassed of his parents, to be honest, because their broken English makes them sound illiterate, and RV is really a literate kid. He’s been accepted into the Boston Latin School–a high honor–and he loves English probably the most of his classes.

RV has some deep secrets, though, most especially that he likes boys that way he thinks, even though he prays to God about it all the time. He’s pretty sure God doesn’t hear his prayers, much. RV goes to Lith church and has to hang with Lith kids, including the wealthy sort-of cousins that are some far relation to his mother’s family. RV’s parents fight a lot, mostly about money, but sometimes about RV and his “odd” ways. RV tries to be as quiet as possible so he won’t attract attention. He’s close friends with Carole, and army brat who’s moved a lot. Carole puts the moves on RV, and he’s kinda glad that she is willing to kiss him, but he’s not sure about how he feels when they make out. Is it weird that he’s sometimes thinking about his biology lab partner, Bobby, who is an attractive, black, super-athlete, when Carole kisses him?

Bobby is new to school and he’s friendly with RV, which is so confusing! They hang out at the same pizzeria sometimes, and Bobby is always asking for RV to look over his writing homework–which RV is so happy to do. It gives him more time to hang with Bobby after all. But, as the year wears on RV’s feelings about boys are really solidifying. He and Carole aren’t really working out. Bobby’s dating a really popular girl and RV’s dealing with jealousy, struggles at home, and the news that his effeminate Latin teacher has been hospitalized for was seems a gay bashing. Mr. Aniso was “swishy” in a way that RV feared appearing, and his students often made fun of him–RV included. But, RV does see Mr. Aniso’s extraordinary bravery, and he’s compelled to visit Mr. Aniso in the hospital where he learns about the man, not the teacher. Their visits help RV learn more about himself, too, and Mr. Aniso’s ready acceptance of RV’s questioning situation provides the support and context that RV really needs.

This coming of age/coming out story is tender and poignant, with a character who had many challenges to discover and overcome. RV’s family life is unstable, and his culturally bigoted parents will likely not accept his sexuality. RV’s large father, whose temper is often volatile, makes him feel unsafe to live his truth, but he is able to find allies in his life, including Mr. Aniso, Bobby, and Carole. The narrative is told through RV’s journal, so readers can be sure they are getting RV’s truest thoughts, and accurate representations of his emotional state, even when he’s confused and pondering. I honestly adored RV, who is so earnest and so nervous. He’s in an almost-constant state of panic, afraid to say the wrong thing to everyone. As his relationships grow, however, he learns who he can trust, and how to navigate the difficult conversations. He gains confidence, and with that comes some sparks of happiness.

I liked how Bobby and RV are able to carefully reveal that they both might like boys to one another, and how they might also like each other in that way. RV’s courage, and frustration, help this happen and it works out so well for him. There’s a TOUCH of romance here, in the most YA-friendly manner. I would gladly follow RV into more adventures.

Interested? You can find WHY CAN’T LIFE BE LIKE PIZZA? on Goodreads, NineStar Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and Smashwords. I received a review copy via NetGalley.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win a $10 GC from NineStar Press.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Author:
Andy V. Roamer grew up in the Boston area and moved to New York City after college. He worked in book publishing for many years, starting out in the children’s and YA books division and then wearing many other hats. This is his first novel about RV, the teenage son of immigrants from Lithuania in Eastern Europe, as RV tries to negotiate his demanding high school, his budding sexuality, and new relationships. He has written an adult novel, Confessions of a Gay Curmudgeon, under the pen name Andy V. Ambrose. To relax, Andy loves to ride his bike, read, watch foreign and independent movies, and travel.

Catch up with Andy on his website and Facebook.

Out now! ALPHA KNIGHT

Hi there! I’m spreading the word on a newly-released New Adult paranormal romance from Renee Rose. ALPHA KNIGHT pairs up two high schoolers in trouble–one who’s being pursued by her late-father’s shady partner and the other a wolf shifter whose brother’s on the run for helping the new girl in town.

Scroll down to enter the giveaway!
About the book:
SHE’S GETTING A FAKE BOYFRIEND–ME.
WHETHER SHE LIKES IT OR NOT.

The leggy car thief is trouble with a capital T.

My brother went down because of her

I need to find him before the cops do.

Which means I’m not letting her out of my sight.

Anywhere the human goes, I go.

I’ll play her fake boyfriend.

Sleep in her bedroom.

Go to her prep school classes.

Take her to the homecoming dance.

I will learn all her secrets, find out all her games.

By the time I’m done with her, she’ll be sorry.

Sorry she ever set foot in our shop.

Sorry she ever met me.

Sorry she made me fall for her.

I didn’t review this title on my blog because I decided not to complete reading it. It was not the right book for me, but it may appeal to readers who enjoy erotic teen paranormal romance with recurrent episodes of stalking, scenes of sexual/partner violence and threats of human trafficking.

If you want to check out a free excerpt, click here for the first chapter.

Interested? You can find ALPHA KNIGHT on Goodreads and Amazon.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this link to enter the Facebook giveaway!
Good luck and keep reading my friends.

About the Author:
USA TODAY BESTSELLING AUTHOR RENEE ROSE loves a dominant, dirty-talking alpha hero! She’s sold over a half million copies of steamy romance with varying levels of kink. Her books have been featured in USA Today’s Happily Ever After and Popsugar and she was named Eroticon USA’s Next Top Erotic Author in 2013.

Catch up with Renee on her website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Get free Renee Rose books by signing up for her mailing list.

Operating Beyond MALICE–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m excited to share a release day blast for a YA thriller with romance elements from bestselling author Pintip Dunn. MALICE sounds like a fast-paced read that I’m excited to check out.

About the book:
What I know: a boy at my school will one day wipe out two-thirds of the population with a virus.
What I don’t know: who he is.

In a race against the clock, I not only have to figure out his identity, but I’ll have to outwit a voice from the future telling me to kill him. Because I’m starting to realize no one is telling the truth. But how can I play chess with someone who already knows the outcome of my every move? Someone so filled with malice she’s lost all hope in humanity? Well, I’ll just have to find a way―because now she’s drawn a target on the only boy I’ve ever loved…

How about a little taste?

Before I know it, I’m a foot away from the basketball court. The players are taking a break, and Bandit stands at the edge of the concrete, taking long pulls from a water bottle. Up close, his brilliant hair looks almost purple, and his T-shirt sticks to his back in sweaty patches, hinting at his solid muscles.

Now what? Do I clear my throat? Tap his shoulder? Going for broke, I do both at the same time.

He turns and lifts his eyebrows, as though wondering how a mere mortal such as myself dares to approach him. He’s tall—really tall. Almost a head above my five feet five. His jaw is chiseled, his shoulders broad. I’m so close that I can feel the heat rising off his body.

My brain scrambles. I forgot to check if I had any food in my teeth! Did I brush my hair this morning? Put on clothes?

Okay, so clearly I’m not naked, but for the life of me, I can’t remember what I’m wearing. Please don’t let it be the navy T-shirt with the faded splotches on the shoulder, from when I accidentally added bleach instead of detergent to the laundry.

I glance down. Jeans and a white tank top—my favorite shirt because it has Lin-Manuel Miranda’s autograph. More than passable.

“I, uh…” My entire vocabulary chooses that moment to flee.

His lids lower, and he looks at me, decidedly bored. “Yes? Can I help you?”

Three, four, five of his basketball friends angle their towering bodies toward us, probably wondering what the interruption is about.

Sweat gathers at the nape of my neck, and electricity hums along my skin. The Voice is about to zap me again. I just know it.

“Running out of time,” the Voice pipes up, as if on cue. “Tell him.”

Say the words and be done with it. Say the words. Say. The. Words.

“I love you,” I blurt. “That is all. Goodbye.”

I wheel around, ready to sprint, when a hand snags my arm. His hand.

“Wait a minute,” Bandit says, his eyes 2 percent less bored. “Are we in third grade? Do you want to give me a note asking if I love you back, so I can circle yes or no?”

My cheeks burn hotter than the sun assaulting my skin. Hotter, even, than the flames that got me into this mess.

I could really use that alien abduction right about now.

The object of my supposed affection smirks. “We can skip the note. Can’t say I blame you for falling for me. I mean, I’m a lovable guy. But have we actually met?” He lowers his voice. “Outside of your wildest dreams, that is.”

My Review:
Alice and her brother Archie are a junior and a senior, respectively, at a prestigious gifted high school. Their mother walked out several years ago and Archie and their father are both certified geniuses, not like Alice. She’s smart, but pragmatic–her talents lay in graphic arts like photography. Their dad runs a pharmaceutical research lab, and spend very little time with Alice and Archie’s a bit of a loner–having trouble making friends is one of his issues. Alice “mothers” him the best she can, and loves him dearly, but he’s a bit on the depressed side, and often the butt of pranks from his peers.

Alice is at school one day when she’s assailed by a painful voice in her head. It’s her own voice, speaking to her from the near-future warning her that there will be a deadly virus unleashed in the next decade that decimates the population. She must stop the Make of the virus, not, before that person can develop enough research to lead to this disaster. In the future, Alice goes by the nickname of “Malice” and it seems she’s closely connected to several students from her school that she’d never befriended before: ultra-popular Bandit, super-smart Cristela, Archie’s bestie Zeke, and she’s got an odd connection to the school bully and her brother’s personal tormentor Lee. Any of these people seem likely candidates to grow into the Maker of the virus. Adding more trouble for Alice, and she tries to unravel the identity of the Maker, her absentee father reconnects with his old college lab partner, Charlie, a sketchy scientist with a grudge who meets nearly all of the likely candidates at a banquet where Archie and Cristela are being honored.

The pacing of this story is really tight, with plenty of tension surrounding the Voice, and the intentions of Malice. Though Alice suspects it, she doesn’t learn until much later that other actors are talking to their “past” selves, in the way Malice informs her, and their agenda is not always to stop the Maker. It’s a deep game and Alice doesn’t know who to trust, but she’s really banking on Bandit, as he seems to be the most trustworthy. Also, she knows through Malice that Bandit plays a really big role in her future-life. There are lots of spins and twists, with Alice trying to build bridges between herself, her tiny family, Bandit and Cristela. Her natural protectiveness at points fosters and harms Archie, but her resolution to find a way to stop the Maker without killing leads to a new possible future, and one she hopes includes Bandit.

I enjoyed the story, and it’s many turns. I’ll admit I was dubious about her odd family from the start, but I was glad to have a plausible explanation for what seemed an avoidable dysfunction. Archie’s bullying situation was deeply troubling, and I know it was intended so, but the lack of action bothered me, especially as Alice often had a front-row seat to his plight. In all, Alice, the not-so-bright-as-her-genius-peers ends up saving the day with good old-fashioned love. I’m not sure if that’s a commentary on the sociopathic nature of intellectuals, on the ingenuity of the common person, or a moralistic stance on the heart being more intuitive than the brain. Her banter with Bandit was amusing, and I got how his brashly antagonistic flirting was more endearing than off-putting. It’s a fun and interesting start to what could possibly be the love of her life.

Interested? You can find MALICE on Goodreads, AmazonBarnes & Noble Kobo, Book DepositoryiTunes, Books-A-Million , and Google.

About the Author:
Pintip Dunn is a New York Times bestselling author of young adult fiction. She graduated from Harvard University, magna cum laude, with an A.B., and received her J.D. at Yale Law School.

Pintip’s novel FORGET TOMORROW won the 2016 RWA RITA® for Best First Book, and SEIZE TODAY won the 2018 RITA for Best Young Adult Romance. In addition, her books have been translated into four languages, and they have been nominated for the following awards: the Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire; the Japanese Sakura Medal; the MASL Truman Award; the Tome Society It list; the Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award; and a Kirkus Reviews Best Indie Book of the Year. Her other novels include REMEMBER YESTERDAY, THE DARKEST LIE, GIRL ON THE VERGE, STAR-CROSSED, and MALICE.

Catch up with Pintip on her websiteFacebookTwitterInstagram, and Goodreads.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Out Today: MALICE by Pintip Dunn

Hi there! Today I’m excited to share a release day blast for a YA thriller with romance elements from bestselling author Pintip Dunn. MALICE sounds like a fast-paced read that I’m excited to check out.

About the book:
What I know: a boy at my school will one day wipe out two-thirds of the population with a virus.
What I don’t know: who he is.

In a race against the clock, I not only have to figure out his identity, but I’ll have to outwit a voice from the future telling me to kill him. Because I’m starting to realize no one is telling the truth. But how can I play chess with someone who already knows the outcome of my every move? Someone so filled with malice she’s lost all hope in humanity? Well, I’ll just have to find a way―because now she’s drawn a target on the only boy I’ve ever loved…

How about a little taste?

Before I know it, I’m a foot away from the basketball court. The players are taking a break, and Bandit stands at the edge of the concrete, taking long pulls from a water bottle. Up close, his brilliant hair looks almost purple, and his T-shirt sticks to his back in sweaty patches, hinting at his solid muscles.

Now what? Do I clear my throat? Tap his shoulder? Going for broke, I do both at the same time.

He turns and lifts his eyebrows, as though wondering how a mere mortal such as myself dares to approach him. He’s tall—really tall. Almost a head above my five feet five. His jaw is chiseled, his shoulders broad. I’m so close that I can feel the heat rising off his body.

My brain scrambles. I forgot to check if I had any food in my teeth! Did I brush my hair this morning? Put on clothes?

Okay, so clearly I’m not naked, but for the life of me, I can’t remember what I’m wearing. Please don’t let it be the navy T-shirt with the faded splotches on the shoulder, from when I accidentally added bleach instead of detergent to the laundry.

I glance down. Jeans and a white tank top—my favorite shirt because it has Lin-Manuel Miranda’s autograph. More than passable.

“I, uh…” My entire vocabulary chooses that moment to flee.

His lids lower, and he looks at me, decidedly bored. “Yes? Can I help you?”

Three, four, five of his basketball friends angle their towering bodies toward us, probably wondering what the interruption is about.

Sweat gathers at the nape of my neck, and electricity hums along my skin. The Voice is about to zap me again. I just know it.

“Running out of time,” the Voice pipes up, as if on cue. “Tell him.”

Say the words and be done with it. Say the words. Say. The. Words.

“I love you,” I blurt. “That is all. Goodbye.”

I wheel around, ready to sprint, when a hand snags my arm. His hand.

“Wait a minute,” Bandit says, his eyes 2 percent less bored. “Are we in third grade? Do you want to give me a note asking if I love you back, so I can circle yes or no?”

My cheeks burn hotter than the sun assaulting my skin. Hotter, even, than the flames that got me into this mess.

I could really use that alien abduction right about now.

The object of my supposed affection smirks. “We can skip the note. Can’t say I blame you for falling for me. I mean, I’m a lovable guy. But have we actually met?” He lowers his voice. “Outside of your wildest dreams, that is.”

Interested? You can find MALICE on Goodreads, AmazonBarnes & Noble Kobo, Book DepositoryiTunes, Books-A-Million , and Google.

About the Author:
Pintip Dunn is a New York Times bestselling author of young adult fiction. She graduated from Harvard University, magna cum laude, with an A.B., and received her J.D. at Yale Law School.

Pintip’s novel FORGET TOMORROW won the 2016 RWA RITA® for Best First Book, and SEIZE TODAY won the 2018 RITA for Best Young Adult Romance. In addition, her books have been translated into four languages, and they have been nominated for the following awards: the Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire; the Japanese Sakura Medal; the MASL Truman Award; the Tome Society It list; the Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award; and a Kirkus Reviews Best Indie Book of the Year. Her other novels include REMEMBER YESTERDAY, THE DARKEST LIE, GIRL ON THE VERGE, STAR-CROSSED, and MALICE.

Catch up with Pintip on her websiteFacebookTwitterInstagram, and Goodreads.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!