Unexpected Horrors THE BACHMANN FAMILY SECRET–Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review and giveaway for a contemporary LGBTQ YA thriller with romantic elements from Damian Serbu. THE BACHMANN FAMILY SECRET features a teen boy who sees ghosts battling it out with the malevolent spirit haunting his family homestead.

Scroll down for an excerpt and to enter the $10 GC giveaway.
About the book:
Jaret Bachmann travels with his family to his beloved grandfather’s funeral with a heavy heart and, more troubling, premonitions of something evil lurking at the Bachmann ancestral home. But no one believes that he sees ghosts.

Grappling with his sexuality, a ghost that wants him out of the way, and the loss of his grandfather, Jaret must protect his family and come to terms with powers hidden deep within himself.

How about a little taste?

I trembled at the thought of returning to Nebraska for my grandpa’s funeral.

Even he told me not to return.

Of course, you can’t explain the situation to your parents, or say your concerns out loud to anyone, without the world thinking you’d gone bonkers.

Still, after my uncle called Dad to tell us Grandpa died, Gramps tried for the past day to keep me at home.

Yeah, my dead grandpa warned me not to go to Fremont, which meant no way I wanted to go either. I trusted him dead as much as I trusted him with all my heart when he lived.

But what Gramps and I wanted did not matter. Because we all planned to get into Dad’s Blazer and drive back to Fremont, to the big Victorian house that had comforted me so much my entire life as the embodiment of Gramps’s love, to the small town we’d left behind years ago.

Unfortunately, none of these dreadful thoughts took me away from the reason I shut my eyes a moment ago and worked with all my power to keep them closed.

Sitting on my bed next to my suitcase and hugging my knees close to my body, I knew Gramps still stood in the corner with a frown. His ghost was upset, and his agitation had to do with my going to his funeral.

Keeping my eyes shut, I reached over next to me, at least comforted by the presence of my dog.

Then my mind played a fucked-up trick on me, as I giggled at my thoughts. I wished for a support group. Hi, I’m Jaret, and I see dead people. Like the frickin’ movie, with what’s-his-name acting in it. The Die Hard guy. Not that I ever wanted to see ghosts. Nope, never did. But ever since I was a kid, as early as I could remember, I saw them. And I learned pretty quickly to keep my mouth shut about my visions, no matter how many times I saw them. People would look at me like I went nutso if I told them such stuff. The other high school kids would freak. My own parents signed me up for the shrink farm when I was in third grade because I told them about the old man ghost in my classroom who made mean faces at me when I got an answer wrong. But could I blame them? My story sounded bonkers and scared the shit out of them. For all I know, the ghost sightings proved once and for all I am nuts.

Back to my senses, I took a deep breath and peeked over at the corner. Still there. Gramps shook his head, the way I remembered from when he wanted to teach me a lesson when I was little. The love had sparkled in his eyes even as he’d reprimanded me, and his ghost form adopted the same demeanor, despite his displeasure with my insistence on traveling to Nebraska.

I almost tricked myself into believing he still lived, except I had watched him materialize out of nowhere in my bedroom. One minute I stared at my hot picture of Captain America, the next Gramps blocked the poster from view as he appeared to me.

“Gramps,” I whispered. “I don’t know what you’re trying to say.” My head pounded with a headache, always a sign the dead had arrived for a visit. “Please help me. I don’t know what you want. Or how I’m supposed to do it. I’m not in charge around here! You know I have no power.”

He shook his head again, and the word “no” echoed through my skull.

“I got your message!” I yelled as a jolt of pain crashed through my brain. “You don’t want me to go back to Fremont. But I can’t not go. What would I tell my parents?” They’d scold me about making stuff up about ghosts again. Or could I even mention the episode to Jenn and Lincoln, my sister and brother? Too embarrassing. “Gramps, I’m sorry. I have to go. Please understand.”

Again Gramps shook his head, but then began to fade away.

“No. Please. I miss you—”

He disappeared, and Darth whined next to me, her ears back, her big brown eyes worried. At least my head returned to normal, except my stomach turned over in knots. A very, very bad force lurked in Fremont, bad enough Gramps’s spirit left his house to warn me.

I pulled Darth into a tight hug, so she pushed her snout into me. Even she tried to keep me from packing. She listened to Gramps’s warning and took his plea to heart. Yeah, I’m a strange case. I bond with dead people and dogs. I petted her and she whined again. “Don’t be sad. You get to go too.” Of course, I figured my assurance might make the fear worse for her.

I sighed as I stood, Darth mimicking me, and then grabbed my suitcase and headed upstairs, Darth on my heels.

“Look at the bright side,” I told her. “First we have a long car ride through Nebraska! And—Dad informed us no one can take a cell phone. How cool, right? No contact with the real world the whole time!” While Dad often flipped out about our being on our phones too much, he’d lost it with total abandon today. He forbade any phones on the trip, whatsoever. We all caved, though, because, well, first the order came from our dad. We never won those battles. And I think we all figured the phone rage related to his grief.

Darth tilted her head at me, trying hard to understand my words. “Plus, Gramps doesn’t even have a computer!”

We always dealt with the old-world nature of visiting Gramps, but we needed to bury him, which made the whole thing feel like total bullshit. No phones. No computer. Like 1890 all over again. Not to mention the ghosts fucking with me more than usual.

All these dreadful thoughts continued to float through my head as one cornfield after another flew by on the trip to Fremont. I stared out the window the entire time. But my mind kept reminding me we hurried toward a black hole, with nothing good at the other end.

I stifled another inappropriate giggle. The latest horror movie, starring Jaret! The dark stairs seemed foreboding, so I headed right down them! The evil monster ran into the woods. I charged in there alone after the beast! Every movie watcher screamed to go the other way, but the idiot actor plodded right into the danger. Except I became the idiot. Fuck me.

Plus, my head hurt like I got it smashed between two elevator doors. No way to forget the bad premonitions when your head reminded you of them every second.

Thankfully, we all stayed pretty quiet for the entire trip, given the grief of the moment.

My Review:
Jaret Bachmann is a closeted high school senior with an even bigger secret than his sexuality: he can see ghosts. He’s been able to his whole life, but it’s particularly poignant now that his dear Gramp’s spirit is popping into his bedroom in Colorado to warn him against returning to the family homestead in Fremont, Nebraska. Jaret would love to be able to stop his family from returning there, but he doesn’t have that power, and he’s afraid if he tells his parents about his sight they’ll commit him; previous experience did land him in counseling until he recanted.

In Fremont, the entire family is staying in the ancestral home, Jaret’s family, and that of his dad’s brother as well. THey have decided they want to sell the house instead of keeping it, because his aunt is terrified of the ghosts that live there. No one has actually seen a ghost, okay, no one by Jaret and he ain’t telling. Still there’s a lot of weirdness. Jaret’s dad and uncle agree selling the house is a decent plan, but not before they locate the precious heirloom jewelry that Gramps had usually kept in some arcane spot under the floorboards–which is now empty. Everyone agrees that the jewels must be in the attic, because that the one place no one has looked–and the door is unable to be unlocked. It’s also the spot that Gramps’ ghost keeps warning Jaret away from…and he’s stuggling to keep it together until the funeral.

One good thing about returning to Fremont is meeting Steve, a football player who is inexplicably drawn to Jaret on the night they meet as Jaret walks his dog (and comfort animal), Vader. Vader has been a super ally for Jaret, barking her head off whenever malevolent spirits amble past. Steve is a nice distraction, but his interest seemed way too quick, considering he’s never found dudes that interesting, even ones related to the owner of the town’s famous haunted house. The interest is enough to give Jaret some courage, however, and he finally confides his big gay secret to more than just Vader.

This story is centrally about Jaret coming out about this powers to talk with the dead, (and more) and his sexuality. There is a deeply held family secret at the heart and root of Jaret’s abilities and if the family will only just listen and believe, he might just save the day. I thought Jaret’s deductions about his powers, and how gaining access to the sacred family gems revealed even more power that Jaret was able to harness. The story behind the ghost haunting the Bachmann family is rather sad, and has led to innocents dying in the past. The ghost is sure that homosexuality is a perversion that must be eradicated from the family, but the WHY of that conviction is pretty melancholy. Jaret’s a quick thinker, and great improviser, so he fakes it until he can make it–and that spunk made him more interesting.

On the whole, the language of the book was a bit lackluster, with lots of f-bombs and tired repetition of scenes giving the impression of laziness, instead of detail. How many times is the ghost going to accost Jaret? Or, send his mom to find him while he’s canoodling with Steve? Spoiler: all the times. The pace could have been tighter, but Jaret did read like and immature kid, so there’s bonus points for that. There were some weird plot situations that made little sense, like why Jaret’s dad would ban cell phones on this trip? What parent does this? Also, I got WAY tired of the autocratic dad thing, with Jaret’s dad and uncle making completely ludicrous plans and everyone going along because they were the “men”. I was glad Jaret finally grew a spine, and his ingenuity in taking care of the ghost was cool. The way he and Steve fell into “deep love” in a matter of days was less cool.

In all, it was a cool ghost story, with a teen finding powers deep within himself that enable him to stop the horror his family had been suffering for a few generations. The writing wasn’t as tight as I’m used to for YA, and the instalove was nearly more unbelievable than the paranormal magic thriller that served as a backdrop.

Interested? You can find THE BACHMANN FAMILY SECRET on Goodreads, NineStar Press, and Amazon.

****GIVEAWAY****

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

About the Author:
Damian Serbu lives in the Chicago area with his husband and two dogs, Akasha and Chewbacca. The dogs control his life, tell him what to write, and threaten to eat him in the middle of the night if he disobeys. He has published The Vampire’s Angel, The Vampire’s Quest, and The Vampire’s Protégé, as well as Santa’s Kinky Elf, Simon and Santa Is a Vampire with NineStar Press. The Bachmann Family Secret is (clearly) now available.

Keep up to date with him on his website, Facebook, and Twitter.

Friends Band Together THE RIDDLES OF MULBERRY ISLAND–Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today, I’m sharing a review for a new YA historical mystery with LGBTQ romantic elements from new-to-me author Huston Piner. THE RIDDLES OF MULBERRY ISLAND features a teen with two good friends who help him figure out the eerie lights and strange sights on abandoned Mulberry Island.

Scroll down for your chance to win a $10 GC, catch the excerpt and pick up a copy for yourself.
About the book:
While out fishing one bright summer day, fifteen-year-old Tommy Oakley is startled to spy what appears to be a giant fish surfacing in the inlet near Mulberry Island. Confused and a little fearful, he returns to Bayside, the tiny village where he lives, and recruits Wendy to help him solve the mystery.

A few nights later, Tommy goes camping with his best friend John, and they’re alarmed to see ghostly lights floating above the water and movement inside the island’s abandoned mansion.

Everyone in Bayside knows the island is uninhabited, but they also think it’s haunted, so Tommy and John are more than ready to stay away. But the strong-willed Wendy convinces the reluctant boys to investigate the source of the lights, thereby setting in motion a harrowing adventure that has them dodging bullets and running for their lives, all the while struggling to sort out their conflicted feelings for one another.

One thing is certain—if they survive the summer at all, things will never be the same between them again.

How about a little taste?

The Great Bird and the Big Fish
Summer 1952

Tommy Oakley dashed through the woods, stumbling over roots and ducking low-hanging branches. He knew they might get in trouble snooping around Mulberry Island, but he hadn’t bargained on this. Now all he could do was hope he was going in the right direction and that John and Wendy would be ready to sail as soon as he got there.

He swerved around thorny bushes and jumped over spiny brambles, gulping air, desperate to get away from his pursuer. It wasn’t easy. For every branch he ducked or squeezed past, two or more scratched him and tore at his sweat-drenched clothes. And all the while, his pursuer’s cursing and stumbling grew louder behind him. Somehow, the man was getting closer.

He’s still gaining on me? Doesn’t he ever get tired?

A glimpse of marsh confirmed Tommy was going in the right direction and would soon get to the safety of the boat. The thorny bushes were giving way to more open ground, and he was finding it easier to run in a straight line. But that also meant the man chasing him would find it easier too.

Up ahead, he spotted the area where they had hidden the dinghy. Just a little more and he’d get away. Panting, he tried to find the strength for a final burst of speed.

Bang!

The shot seemed to echo all around him.

Tommy gasped and froze in his tracks, listening, as fear of capture gave way to a more deadly alarm.

From somewhere came the loud click of a rifle being cocked.

As if fired from a gun himself, Tommy took off running in a complete panic.

The second bang was so loud it was deafening.

Then the whole world fell silent.

Tommy fell to the ground.

A branch gashed into his forehead, and he collapsed onto a bed of fallen leaves.

Blood oozed from his wounds.

He saw a fading image of the great bird.

And then darkness took him.

*

One month earlier

Tommy was sitting in his boat on a beautiful sunny afternoon, the handle of his pole loosely resting in his hand, his mind wandering. It was the first time his father had ever allowed him to go out fishing by himself.

As various thoughts crept across his mind, he happened to glance up, and there it was, soaring on the edge of the heavens.

The great bird stretched its wings and floated in wide swirling spirals. As Tommy watched it, a light breeze floated over him. The briny air filled his lungs, and he sighed, pushing sandy brown locks out of his eyes.

It had been a perfect day.

Well, almost perfect. He’d wanted it to be special, one to remember—and normally, he would have invited his friends John Webster and Wendy Harris to come along. The trouble was, lately, John and Wendy always seemed to be getting on each other’s nerves. And if Tommy only invited one of them, it would hurt the other one’s feelings. So, he’d snuck out by himself and spent the whole day fishing and thinking while the hours drifted by like the water all around him.

He glanced at his watch. It was four thirty.

“Keep an eye on the time,” his father had said.

“You be sure to get home early for supper,” his mother had added.

They always treated him like a child.

He looked up again at the great bird.

Probably on the prowl for a rat or fish or something.

He imagined having wings and sailing through the air. He’d soar and dive across the sky like he did underwater when he was swimming. He’d float up high like the great bird. He’d be free.

He smiled at the thought. Then, as he lowered his gaze, something caught his eye. It emerged in the inlet between Mulberry Island and the peninsula.

Tommy blinked and leaned forward, squinting into the distance. It looked like some kind of fish, but it was huge—it had to be for him to see it from all the way out in the middle of the bay.

For a moment, it sat there, and then, in the same unexpected way it had surfaced, the giant fish made a slow descent, vanishing below the surface.

Wow. That was incredible! But what was it—a whale? It would be very odd if it was. They never came this far inside the sound. And this fish had a large dorsal fin that looked more like some kind of weird top hat than a fin. He’d never heard of a whale that looked like that.

It was so strange, and all the more so because of where it was. But then again, everything strange seemed to be connected to Mulberry Island somehow.

“They’ll never believe it.” They never do anyway.

Tommy’s parents never took him seriously. His teacher said he had a “vivid imagination.” But as far as his family—and most of the people in Bayside, the tiny village where they lived—were concerned, he was either absentminded or just plain dumb.

It’s not fair. Mom and Pop treat me like a child.

It was like this boat. It had been a thirteenth birthday present, but he’d never even been allowed to use it on his own before today.

“Come on, Pop,” he’d pleaded over a year ago. “It’s embarrassing. I’m almost fourteen. It’s been nearly a year since you gave me the thing. I mean, why even call it mine?” Here he was begging for permission to do something his friends had been allowed to do for at least a year, if not longer.

“What a joke,” he had muttered under his breath.

“Yeah, Pop,” his brother Jacob had said. “Give the kid a break. He’ll be okay.”

Tommy would have been grateful for the moral support, but then Jacob had tousled his hair and added, “Won’t you, little guy?”

It was something Tommy positively despised. At twenty years old, Jacob wasn’t a bad guy, and he often sided with Tommy. But he had the uncanny knack of treating him like a silly but lovable little puppy, which irritated him to no end.

But it didn’t matter anyway. In the Oakley house, a “no” was a “no.” His fourteenth birthday came and went, the school year started, and winter passed into spring. Finally, it was the beginning of his last summer before high school and tenth grade. He had just turned fifteen.

They were all listening to the radio, and the news had just finished with a report about President Eisenhower’s remarks on the war in Korea. Tommy took the opportunity to ask his father one more time, only to be told no yet again, and he had despaired of ever being treated like anything more than a child.

Then, last night, his father had surprised him and said if he wanted, he could go out in his boat without adult supervision in the morning. At first, Tommy had thought he was joking, but his father assured him he was serious.

Of course, there had been a few “ifs” to go along with this bestowal of generosity: He could go if the weather was promising, if he made sure to return before suppertime, and if his mother didn’t need him for chores. That last “if” was almost a deal breaker. Tommy’s mother was famous for making up excuses to keep him under her wing—something the other boys at school often teased him about.

But somehow, he’d managed to get away. And despite not having John and Wendy with him, it had been the best day of his life.

And then he’d seen that big fish.

My Review:
It’s the summer of 1952 and Tommy Oakley is 15, preparing to enter the 10th grade at a big-ish high school. He’s best friends with John Webster who is also 15. They live in Bayside, what sounded like a coastal Virginia (my guess, because it’s never stated) community which has few residents and fewer opportunities. Most of Bayside’s residents are fishermen, and life had been prosperous back when the Mulberry’s ran the fishery, but they closed it down long ago and only their Great House remains. Wendy Harris is also a resident of Bayside, though she’s a year older and already in the high school. Wendy likes Tommy and John likes Tommy and Tommy’s tired of their bickering.

Tommy got a boat for his 13th birthday, but his parents didn’t trust him to captain it until this summer, when he turned 15. He’s out in the boat alone, fishing and sailing, when he sees what appears to be a giant fish in the inlet between abandoned Mulberry Island and the peninsula on which Bayside sits. He knows John and Wendy won’t believe him, but he confesses his vision to them. Wendy wants to explore, to see if there is anything to it. She’s clearly smitten with Tommy, and he’s a bit shy of her advances.

Tommy and John plan a sail and a camp-out to go shrimping, and they see lights in the Great House–and they know it wasn’t the caretaker, old Mr. Hess, because he shows up later. Who’s in the mansion? And, does this have anything to do with the giant fish? John doesn’t want to investigate, because he’s afraid it will lead to trouble and get Tommy hurt. And, there is no one in the world that John cares for more than Tommy. (I’m going to pause here and mention that John is regularly beaten and emotionally abused by his father, and his mother doesn’t speak up about it because she’d likely be beaten in his stead.)

This is a mystery and adventure with just a little bit of romance. Tommy and Wendy and John make a quarrelsome triad in friendship, but there seems to be a connection between Tommy and John that John is beginning to explore. With the elements of danger, and the riskiness of the situations, John is the bold one, taking deeper risks to ensure Tommy’s safety–because he feels like Tommy is the only person in his life who truly cares for him.

I can honestly say this is an engaging, and thoughtful YA LGBTQ read. The bad guys are not immediately apparent and the stakes get ever higher as the action plays out. We have mercenaries, and insane men planning insane plots, and a hurricane blowing in. Tommy and company don’t know who to trust, but Wendy is ever-forceful in asserting what their trio should do–and how to do it. This causes conflict with John, who wants to back out completely, but he won’t leave Tommy to fend for himself. In the end, there are some unlikely heroes and some really spectacular fireworks–which thankfully take out the bad guys’ big plans. I liked the pacing, and the storytelling, and was especially grateful to see how the fathers of Bayside finally do what’s right and ensure John has a loving home and the care he deserves.

The blurb didn’t prepare me for either the slightly historical setting, or the descriptions of physical abuse and overt emotional/verbal abuse John suffers. His connection to Tommy is what eventually saves him. Tommy’s father won’t stand for Mr. Webster’s abuse of his John–or Tommy–when slurs get flung. Beyond this, the adventure and mystery are engaging, as are the glimpses of physical love between Tommy and John.

Interested? You can find THE RIDDLES OF MULBERRY ISLAND on Goodreads, NineStar Press Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Smashwords.

****GIVEAWAY****

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

About the Author:
Huston Piner always wanted to be a writer but realized from an early age that learning to read would have to take precedence. A voracious reader, he loves nothing more than a well-told story, a glass of red, and music playing in the background. His writings focus on ordinary gay teenagers and young adults struggling with their orientation in the face of cultural prejudice and the evolving influence of LGBTQA+ rights on society. He and his partner live in a house ruled by three domineering cats in the mid-Atlantic region.

Catch up with Huston on his website Facebook and twitter.

A New Beginning: YOU BROUGHT ME THE OCEAN–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a contemporary LGBTQ YA graphic novel from the writing team of Alex Sanchez, Julie Maroh and the DC Universe. YOU BROUGHT ME THE OCEAN is a creative re-imagining of Aqualad’s origin story, falling for a boy while growing up in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico.

About the book:
Jake Hyde doesn’t swim––not since his father drowned. Luckily, he lives in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, which is in the middle of the desert, yet he yearns for the ocean and is determined to leave his hometown for a college on the coast. But his best friend, Maria, wants nothing more than to make a home in the desert, and Jake’s mother encourages him to always play it safe.

There’s nothing “safe” about Jake’s future—not when he’s attracted to Kenny Liu, swim team captain and rebel against conformity. And certainly not when he secretly applies to Miami University. Jake’s life begins to outpace his small town’s namesake, which doesn’t make it any easier to come out to his mom, or Maria, or the world.

But Jake is full of secrets, including the strange blue markings on his skin that glow when in contact with water. What power will he find when he searches for his identity, and will he turn his back to the current or dive headfirst into the waves?

My Review:
Jake Hyde is an African American high school senior growing up in land-locked Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. His best friend, and next-door neighbor, Maria has a deep and unrequited crush for Jake. Jake suspects this, and tries to maintain some distance, because he really cares for Maria but he’s pretty sure that he’s got his own crush…on Kenny Liu, a green-haired swimmer at school. Kenny is out and proud, fighting back against bullies Jake doesn’t really want to tangle with.

Jake has no knowledge of his father, and his overprotective mom works long hours as a nurse, so he spends a lot of time bonding with Maria’s father. Jake has secretly applied to Miami University to study marine biology, his real passion. This is antithetical to Maria’s plans to attend the Univ of New Mexico together–and to stay far from the ocean–his mom’s dearest wish.
The essential conflicts are clearly elaborated in the limited writing format of the graphic novel, and well-supported by the evocative illustration. It’s easy to read the youthful yearning of Jake, Maria and Kenny. Their expressions and body language translate the story without confusion The bullies are ever present, and Jake is about to discover the true nature of the odd markings on his arms.

I enjoyed the story, which has a predictable, yet affirming, coming-out story. For me, knowing that this was a coming-out story, as well as an origin story, meant the plot needed to encompass a lot of changes in a little time. Jake has to navigate the difficult conversations with Maria, Kenny, and his mom about his plans, his attractions and the startling powers he’s discovering by accident. I felt the combined written story and illustration did manage to support the many points of intersection between youth, sexuality, coming of age, and development of Aqualad’s powers.

I read a preview copy and couldn’t stop turning the pages. I enjoyed the artwork, felt it conveyed all the descriptions a traditional novel would describe. It’s a compelling story, and I appreciated the inclusive character drawings. Kenny’s Asian-American, and Maria has Mexican descent. The youthful struggles Jake experiences are only magnified by the increased inadvertent development of his water-bending powers. The secret of his paternity is a heavy burden to carry, and I liked how that solidified his resolve to make better choices. He’s able to best his bullies, using good sense and a little bit of humor. The resolution demonstrates Jake’s willingness to do the right thing, taking his place in the DC superhero pantheon. He’s true to himself in all the ways possible.

Interested? You can find YOU BROUGHT ME THE OCEAN on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and wherever graphic novels are sold. I read a review copy provided by NetGalley.

About the Author:
Alex Sanchez has published eight novels, including the American Library Association “Best Book for Young Adults” Rainbow Boys and the Lambda Award-winning So Hard to Say. His novel Bait won the Tomás Rivera Mexican American Book Award and the Florida Book Award Gold Medal for Young Adult Literature. An immigrant from Mexico, Alex received his master’s in guidance and counseling and worked for many years as a youth and family counselor. Now when not writing, he tours the country talking with teens, librarians, and educators about books, diversity, and acceptance. He lives in Penfield, New York.

You can find Alex on his website, twitter, Facebook.

About the Illustrator:
Julie Maroh is a cartoonist, illustrator, feminist, and LGBTQ+ activist from Northern France. They wrote and illustrated the graphic novel Blue is the Warmest Color, about the life and love of two young lesbians, which was adapted into the award-winning film of the same name.

About DC’s YA Graphic Novels:
DC’s young adult graphic novels introduce DC’s most iconic Super Heroes to a new generation of fans with stories told by some of the most successful authors from the young adult publishing space. The YA titles are standalone stories, not part of DC’s ongoing continuity, and completely accessible to new readers who have no previous knowledge of DC characters.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

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!

Managing the MONSTER OF THE WEEK–A Review

Hi there! Today, I’m sharing a review for a paranormal-type YA gay romance from F.T. Lukens. MONSTER OF THE WEEK is a sequel to THE RULES AND REGULATIONS FOR MEDIATING MYTHS AND MAGIC is about a high school senior who takes a part-time job so he can save money for college. But, his new job comes with all sorts of weird, and he’s soon caught up in disaster after disaster.

About the book:
Spring semester of Bridger Whitt’s senior year of high school is looking great. He has the perfect boyfriend, a stellar best friend, and an acceptance letter to college. He also has this incredible job as an assistant to Pavel Chudinov, an intermediary tasked with helping cryptids navigate the modern world. His days are filled with kisses, laughs, pixies, and the occasional unicorn.

Life is awesome.

But as graduation draws near, Bridger’s perfect life begins to unravel. Uncertainties about his future surface, his estranged dad shows up out of nowhere, and, perhaps worst of all, a monster-hunting television show arrives in town to investigate the series of strange events from last fall. The show’s intrepid host will not be deterred, and Bridger finds himself trapped in a game of cat and mouse that could very well put the myth world at risk. Again.

My Review:
Bridger Whitt is a high school senior with mere months to graduation. He’s dating an almost-hero, Leo, and a fab job helping intermediary Pavel Chudinov to help keep cryptids (think sasquatch), myths and magic folk from being noticed by humans. IN this he’s aided by his human bestie Astrid, Elena the werewolf, and a pair of pixies, Nia and Bran, and now his familiar “Marv” (aka Midnight Marvel) who looks like a kitten, but is not. Marv was a gift for his 18th birthday. Though Bridger and Leo have been dating a few months, they’re both still “unicorn-friendly” which means they’re virgins, because a unicorn will not approach a person who is sexually impure.

Bridger has been raised by his mom, but his absentee father has inexplicably returned and wants to build a relationship now that Bridger’s about to head off to college. It’s shady, but Bridger is used to the weird. What he’s not used to is having a reporter hanging around his tiny town of Midden, Michigan. Summer Lore is the host of the “Monster of the Week” show, and though she seems to be rather bored of doing her bit, she’s still an investigative reporter. It’s not long before Summer is trailing Bridger all over town, and trying to find out what happened when Bridger nearly drowned last term–in a rare and unexpected merpeople attack. While Astrid and Bridger try to diffuse this situation, some of his classmates are vying for the TV camera attention.

Summer’s aggressive tactics may be freaking Bridger out, but Pavel’s not that worried. Well, he puts Summer on warning, but Bridger knows it’s a matter of time before she’s at him again. Prom’s coming and Bridger and Leo are in the running for Prom Kings–which is a situation Leo’s dad has trouble understanding. But that’s not the worst thing. No, the worst thing is Summer trying to pry cryptid secrets from Bridger, even if she has to steal them…

This is as sweet and funny a story as the first book in the series. Bridger is an awkward and compassionate character and all his friends are interesting and cool. There’s some really troublesome issues surrounding Pavel’s position and Bridger’s status as his assistant–because of Summer’s interference. I loved getting to see Prom with a dash of magic a la magic portal, and graduation that becomes a bit of a showdown, what with the clashing guests. Bridger barely makes it to graduation, thanks to an out-of-control myth, but ends the book happily, in a lightly less unicorn-friendly state. It’s all tender and YA appropriate, and a book I’d read over and over. The one part I’m sad over is it seems that we’ve reached the end of this series! Otherwise, highly recommend.

Interested? You can find MONSTER OF THE WEEK on Goodreads, Interlude Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, and Kobo.

About the Author:
F.T. wrote her first short story when she was in third grade and her love of writing continued from there. After placing in the top five out of ten thousand entries in a writing contest, she knew it was time to dive in and try her hand at writing a novel.

A wife and mother of three, F.T. holds degrees in psychology and English literature, and is a long-time member of her college’s science-fiction club. F.T. has a love of cheesy television shows, superhero movies, and science-fiction novels—especially anything by Douglas Adams.

Connect with F.T. on her website, Twitter, Tumblr and on Goodreads.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

Wild Escapes in EXIT PLANS FOR TEENAGE FREAKS–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a contemporary LGBTQ YA paranormal romance from ‘Nathan Burgoine. EXIT PLANS FOR TEENAGE FREAKS is a rollicking adventure featuring a high school senior with an inexplicable ability to teleport!

About the book:
Being the kid abducted by old Ms. Easton when he was four permanently set Cole’s status to freak. At seventeen, his exit plan is simple: make it through the last few weeks of high school with his grades up and his head down.

When he pushes through the front door of the school and finds himself eighty kilometers away holding the door of a museum he was just thinking about, Cole faces facts: he’s either more deluded than old Ms. Easton, or he just teleported.

Now every door is an accident waiting to happen―especially when Cole thinks about Malik, who, it turns out, has a glass door on his shower. When he starts seeing the same creepy people over his shoulder, no matter how far he’s gone, crushes become the least of his worries. They want him to stop, and they’ll go to any length to make it happen.

Cole is running out of luck, excuses, and places to hide.

Time for a new exit plan.

My Review:
Cole Tozer is two weeks from his high school graduation when his normal plan-making life gets upended. Instead of heading inside from the lunch courtyard, Cole steps through a door and into the aviation museum 80 kilometers away. Then, he botches the return trip–not entirely sure how teleport–and ends up inside his own locker at school. It’s only the perfect mess that he’s rescued by Malik King, a boy Cole has crushed on for some time. And then, he promptly passed out.

This isn’t the first time Cole’s had struggles with times and places. He wad kidnapped as a child–some of the nastier kids call him “Colenap” as a joke, but he’s re-evaluating that situation in light of his newly discovered teleporting ability. Still, he’s always been an odd ball, so he fastidiously plans to ensure he doesn’t get himself into any trouble, ever. And, now, with every door he walks through potentially being a door to another plans, Cole needs to keep his wits about him–or else he might just find himself in worse positions if he keeps thinking about Malik, who happens to have a curiosity streak a classroom wide and a glass door in his personal bathroom shower at home…

This is a really creative and interesting story, with a lot of great moments–like when Cole and Malik go out on their first…outing together. Turns out Malik is recently accepting that he’s bisexual, but he’s not exactly out, and he’s not sure how to deal with it. Cole’s experience as a sign interpreter of Deaf people helps him read the situations and draw connections that help Malik. Also, there’s some folks who are trying to track and attack Cole, to lock his teleportation down so he can’t get into trouble like back when he was a kid. Yep, for all his awkwardness, Cole’s precocious when it comes to his powers of teleportation. It takes some doing, but he manages to outsmart the beaurocrats and endear himself to Malik in the process. Well, for part of the climax, anyway. Cole gets some help with his traveling from a gal more experienced than he, and he’s able to save the day–and rid himself of the controllers on the teleportation pathway.

The pace of this book was brisk, and Cole’s narration is sardonic and adorably self-deprecating. His habits of mind: list-making, signing in ASL, extensive planning, all helped create a fully-developed, slightly goofy, teen boy. I was amused and “transported” along with him on this journey of self-exploration. I liked how the romance aspect developed–just the right tone for YA–and wanted to keep taking adventures long after the resolution closed. It’s a fun and sweet read, with a collection of realistic characters whose details I wanted to discover and figure out further.

Interested? You can find EXIT PLANS FOR TEENAGE FREAKS on Goodreads, Bold Strokes Books, Amazon, Barnes & Noble , Kobo, and iTunes.

About the Author:
‘Nathan Burgoine grew up a reader and studied literature in university while making a living as a bookseller. His first published short story was “Heart” in the collection Fool for Love: New Gay Fiction. Since then, he has had dozens of short stories published, including in This is How You Die (the second Machine of Death anthology), and has released his first collection, Of Echoes Born (Bold Strokes Books).

His first novel, Light, was a finalist for both the Lambda Literary Award for LGBT SF/Fantasy/Horror, and the BOTYA 2013 Gay & Lesbian (Adult Fiction) ForeWord award. His second and third novels, Triad Blood and Triad Soul, are also available from from Bold Strokes Books. ‘Nathan’s first YA novel, Exit Plans for Teenage Freaks, released December 2018 from Bold Strokes Books, and is a finalist for the Prix Aurora Award.

A cat lover, ‘Nathan managed to fall in love and marry Daniel, who is a confirmed dog person. Their ongoing “cat or dog?” détente ended with the adoption of Coach, a six-year old husky. They live in Ottawa, Canada, where socialized health care and gay marriage have yet to cause the sky to cave in.

Catch up with Nathan on his website, Facebook, and Twitter.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Bad Juju in WICKED CHARM–Review and Giveaway

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a release day review and giveaway for a contemporary YA mystery/romance from Amber Hart. WICKED CHARM is an interesting read about two kids finding a connection, and the killer who might be trying to cut them loose.

Catch my review and enter the gift-blast giveaway down below.
About the book:
Nothing good comes from living in the Devil’s swamp.
Willow Bell thinks moving to the Okefenokee area isn’t half bad, but nothing prepares her for what awaits in the shadows of the bog.
Girls are showing up dead in the swamp. And she could be next.
Everyone warns Willow to stay away from Beau Cadwell―the bad boy at the top of their suspect list as the serial killer tormenting the small town.
But beneath his wicked, depthless eyes, there’s something else that draws Willow to him.
When yet another girl he knew dies, though, Willow questions whether she can trust her instincts…or if they’re leading to her own death.

How about a little taste?

Though Gran’s land is mostly wet, there’s solidness, too. My eyes trace the long path that cuts the property between Gran and Mr. Cadwell in half. I’m expecting to see nature—the kinds of birds Dad and Mom study, snakes, grass, and forever sky—the same things I’ve seen every morning since moving here with Dad and Mom to help Gran, who’s ailing but doesn’t like to admit it.

I get halfway down the path with my stare before my eyes snag on something. A serving spoon falls from my hand with a clatter into the sink.

“Who,” I whisper, “is that?”

Across the way stands a boy. He’s staring at me, wearing a twisted grin like he knows me. The wind ruffles his depths-of-the-ocean black hair. He’s wearing a dark shirt and dark jeans, and I cannot tear my eyes from his.

Gran hobbles over and looks out the window. “What is he doing so close to our side?”

“You know him?” I ask.

I can’t stop staring out the old weathered screen.

“Hell right, I do. Grandson of the evil next door. Trouble in living form. Someone oughta hand that boy a Bible. Change his life forever and ever, amen.”

Gran curses a lot. “Hell” is her favorite word.

“Hell, you’d better look away first,” Gran says. “B’fore he snares you for good.”

I wonder if she’s right. I want to look away first. Okay, that’s a lie. I don’t want to look away at all.

“Mother!” Dad’s voice enters the room a moment before he does. “Did I just hear you cursing around Willow again?”

I rip my eyes away—though it’s hard—to see Dad clad in shorts and a T-shirt, ready for another day of observation. He and Mom are ornithologists, scientists who study birds. Mom follows Dad into the kitchen and takes a seat at the table; her strawberry-blond hair is braided and slipped through the adjustable hole in her hat. Dad’s hair is like Gran’s and mine, his eyes, too. Mom’s eyes are blue, and I’m secretly glad mine are not. I enjoy being like Gran.

“It’s not good to curse around her; she’s only seventeen,” Dad continues.

In Florida, Dad and Mom studied birds so much that I hardly ever saw them. Here’s no different, but at least now I have Gran to keep me company.

“Doesn’t matter, and you know it,” Gran says. “A heart is a heart is a heart. A few words here and there won’t change that.”

My stare goes to the window again. The boy is gone.

“Quit looking for that boy, you hear?” Gran says, knowing.

“I’m not looking for him,” I reply. But I’m a lying liar.

“What boy?” Dad asks.

I join him and Mom at the table.

“No one,” my lying self answers.

“Stop thinking about him,” Gran says.

“I’m not!” I say, frustrated. But only because she knows me so well that I can’t hide myself from her.

Clearly Gran isn’t a fan. We drop it and eat our breakfast, Dad and Mom jabbering about some new species of bird they think they’ve discovered. Gran watching me like a hawk. And me wondering about the gorgeous black-souled, trouble-in-living-form grandson of the evil next door.

My Review:
Willow Bell has just come to like in the Okefenokee swamp with her aging grandmother and her parents–who are ornithologists and often gone on bird-watching excursions. Her grandma’s property has one close neighbor, Mr. Cadwell, who her Gran states is the Devil. He shares his home with his twin grandkids, Beau and Charlotte. Willow, Beau and Charlotte are all seniors in high school, and Willow notices Beau rather soon after her arrival. His fierce stare and attractiveness pull her in, though she gives good weight to her Gran’s warnings about Cadwells and how they will break a woman’s heart.

Beau has a big reputation as a heartbreaker, and it’s well-earned. Still, Willow isn’t too starry eyed. She may find Beau attractive, but she’s also a girl with a mission on her mind. She wants to explore her new surroundings and make new friends. Any interaction with Beau is long on exploring–outside of one’s own mind–and short on the physical. Beau is deeply private, and the rumors swill regarding his parents and their long absence–though that didn’t make much sense to me; its a small community. Nosy parkers abound. Still, he likes that Willow gives him the space to be real, and he confides in her some of his deepest secrets. Their bond is tested once the bodies of two girls turn up in the swamp. Two girls that Beau briefly dated. Is Beau involved? What about his friends, who seem a mite too jealous of Beau getting all the girls to swoon for him?

Willow is quick to defend Beau, but evidence points to someone close to him, and she’s not sure how to take it. Naturally, Beau defends his own, but the answer only comes to light when his family is threatened. It’s an interesting mystery/romance as Beau and Willow fight for their love against both Willow’s disapproving Gran, and the killer. I liked the action bits, and the context. The swamp is so well-described it’s almost another character in the book. These kids truly love their world, and are highly protective of the land and people who live there. That was interesting to experience, as a reader.

The end is a nice twist, with a killer that wasn’t the first suspect to mind. While Beau and Charlotte deal with their own personal tragedies, Willow’s there as a buffer, a friend, and more for Beau, just like she started.

Interested? You can find WICKED CHARM on Goodreads, Amazon (US, UK, CA, and AU) Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo and GooglePlay. I read a review copy provided by NetGalley.

Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win a gift bundle including a $10 Starbucks card, a signed copy of WICKED CHARM, and two ebooks.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Author:
Amber Hart resides on the Florida coastline with family and a plethora of animals she affectionately refers to as her urban farm. When unable to find a book, she can be found writing, daydreaming, or with her toes in the sand. She’s the author of Wicked Charm and the Before & After series for teen readers, and the Untamed series for adult readers. Visit her online at http://www.amberhartbooks.com

Catch up with Amber on her website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.

Revenge and Blood for MASK OF SHADOWS-A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a not so warm and fuzzy read. Linsey Miller released a gritty YA fantasy earlier this fall, and I really liked it! MASK OF SHADOWS is a fast-paced kill ride of challenges for a gender-fluid hero bent on having their revenge at long last. This is the first book with a sequel in the works.

About the book:
I Needed to Win.
They Needed to Die.

Sallot Leon is a thief, and a good one at that. But gender fluid Sal wants nothing more than to escape the drudgery of life as a highway robber and get closer to the upper-class—and the nobles who destroyed their home.

When Sal steals a flyer for an audition to become a member of The Left Hand—the Queen’s personal assassins, named after the rings she wears—Sal jumps at the chance to infiltrate the court and get revenge.

But the audition is a fight to the death filled with clever circus acrobats, lethal apothecaries, and vicious ex-soldiers. A childhood as a common criminal hardly prepared Sal for the trials. And as Sal succeeds in the competition, and wins the heart of Elise, an intriguing scribe at court, they start to dream of a new life and a different future, but one that Sal can have only if they survive.

My Review:
Sal Leon is a gender fluid thief who’s also the last of their people. When Sal was a child, Magic ruled their land, but some wealthy mages created the soulless shadows that gobbled up the humans in their path. It took the might of Queen to halt all magic in their realm brought an end to the shadows.

That was a decade ago, and Sal only survived because they had been playing in a tree in the instant the shadows swept the land. Sal’s sister at the base of the tree was a casualty Sal hasn’t forgotten. They made their way through semi-slavery into another land where Sal was trained in theft to survive. Sal’s handler is a well-known criminal, and when Sal learns of auditions to join the Queen’s Left Hand, a band of masked assassins, Sal makes their first killing–turning their handler’s head in as proof of Sal’s deadly might. As a Queen’s assassin, Sal would be able to cozy up to the nobles who have profited from the death of Sal’s homeland… and kill them.

So, Sal must survive a literal bloodfest, where twenty-two other applicants are also vying to be the last person standing, and take the single spot as the Queen’s Opal–all the assassins are named for gems. Under the guidance of Ruby, Emerald and Amethyst, the auditioners are gaining skill and picking off their competition. Sal is no match for the might and skill of the others, but they are wily, and used to living hard. As it stands, Sal makes it through two rounds of death, and gets the chance at a formal education; the Left Hand are part of the QUeen’s court and need to be literate. Sal’s tutor, Elise, is the daughter of one of the nobles Sal hopes to slaughter. Not easy thinking on these things, but Sal’s bloodthirst for revenge helps uncover a plot to overthrow the Queen. Expect intrigue and constant motion, as Sal works hard to stay alive and keep their eye on the rifts within the court.

I really enjoyed this one! It’s gore, but in the good way. I totally identified with Sal, and their need to avenge their family and homeland. It got a little confusing, at times, with all the names–because everyone has an alter ego it seems, and the formal names are long and twisty. There is a tiny bit of romance with Elise, and don’t expect any revelations on the gender front. Sal is equally comfortable in trousers or dress, and it’s common for men to wear tunics/skirts in this world. The end is not pleasant, another bloodbath of folks we’d all probably grown to love. But Sal has a new mission, and it involves saving both Elise and the Queen from destruction. I’m really looking forward to it!

Interested? You can find MASK OF SHADOWS on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound, and Book Depository.

About the Author:
A wayward biology student from Arkansas, Linsey has previously worked as a crime lab intern, neuroscience lab assistant, and pharmacy technician. Her debut novel MASK OF SHADOWS is the first in a fantasy duology coming in September 2017 from Sourcebooks Fire. She can be found writing about science and magic anywhere there is coffee.

Catch up with Linsey on her website, Facebook and twitter.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Stranger-Danger? EIGHT DAYS ON PLANET EARTH–Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Keeping with my pre-Halloween “weird” theme, I’m sharing a review for a soon-to-be-released YA adventure romance from Cat Jordan. EIGHT DAYS ON PLANET EARTH is the story of a boy who’s given up on space-stories…then finds a supposed “alien” girl on his property.

The book releases 11/7, but you can scroll down and pre-order it today! Also, enter the giveaway to win 1 of 3 $10 Amazon GCs or one of two signed copies of the book.

About the book:
How long does it take to travel twenty light years to Earth?
How long does it take to fall in love?

To the universe, eight days is a mere blip, but to Matty Jones, it may be just enough time to change his life.

On the hot summer day Matty’s dad leaves for good, a strange girl suddenly appears in the empty field next to the Jones farm—the very field in rural Pennsylvania where a spaceship supposedly landed fifty years ago. She is uniquely beautiful, sweet, and smart, and she tells Matty she’s waiting for her spaceship to pick her up and return her to her home planet. Of course she is.

Matty has heard a million impossible UFO stories for each of his seventeen years: the conspiracy theories, the wild rumors, the crazy belief in life beyond the stars. When he was a kid, he and his dad searched the skies and studied the constellations. But all of that is behind him. Dad’s gone—but now there’s Priya. She must be crazy…right?

As Matty unravels the mystery of the girl in the field, he realizes there is far more to her than he first imagined. And if he can learn to believe in what he can’t see: the universe, aliens…love…then maybe the impossible is possible, after all.

A heart-wrenching romance full of twists that are sure to bring tears to readers’ eyes, from Cat Jordan, author of THE LEAVING SEASON.

My Review:

Matty Jones is a high school junior on summer break when two things happen on the same day:  his unemployed UFO conspiracy-theorist father walks out, and a strange girl claiming to be an alien appears in the fallow field on his family’s defunct farm. Matty’s furious with his dad, a man who’d been slipping away from his responsibilities for years. His mother is devastated, but Matty had seen this coming.

Matty had grown up knowing that his dad was big into space and UFOs. It was local legend that an alien aircraft landed in their field on the night his father was born–but the government washed away the evidence. Still, Matty and his dad spent ages outside on the their twin telescopes searching the night skies for something out there. His dad blogged, and over the past few years the tenor of the blog had shifted from informative to conspiracy-oriented. Along with this, his dad pulled away from Matty and his mom–even going so far as to have affairs with some of his ardent blog followers. Matty thinks good riddance to his slacker dad, and is frustrated that his mom even harbors any hope he’ll return.

Meanwhile Priya, the “alien” in his field, is busy collecting data about Earth. Her home planet, she reveals, is deep in the Libra constellation, and Matty’s too lonely and downhearted to simply brush her off. He wants to believe that Priya is a confused girl who’ll move on soon–like all the other UFO lunatics his father had ginned up over the years. But, there’s clearly something wrong with Priya–she is dressed bizarrely–in a tutu and wearing a platinum wig over her dark hair–and has trouble with balance that she ascribes to differences in Earth’s gravity. She can read Matty’s thoughts, and it unsettles him. She also struggles with language, and he thinks maybe she’s from a different country, completely discounting the notion that she’s possibly an alien.

She’s still in his field the next day, and the next, and the more time Matty spends with her, the more he wants to be near her, even as she resurrects good memories of time spent with his dad. The conflict is real for Matty, but so is the compassion. He and Priya share some intimacy over this time, each night watching the skies for her ship to arrive and whisk her back through the wormhole to her planet.

Matty’s friends draw attention to Priya’s weirdness, and it leads to the big crisis and reveal of Priya for exactly who she is. It’s a good and honest twist, that breaks Matty’ s heart while at the same time restoring the abandoned bond between himself and his father. Though that makes it sound a lot more complicated than it is. At it’s core, this is a story about a boy falling for people who leave him behind, and learning how to deal with that. Matty is a strong character, a good guy who felt real. He’s not perfect; he’s a slacker like his dad, and plans to spend his summer riding dirt bikes, visiting the beach and getting high with his best friend. His encounters with Priya open his eyes to the wonder of his mundane life, and foster a new sense of purpose that he may, or may not, pursue.

The truth of it is, there are mysteries in this world that can’t be explained completely, and must be taken on faith. Gravity, Priya asserted, was one of those. Love, as Matty learned, was another. It’s a sweet book, with a heart-tugging resolution that fans of YA will really enjoy.

Interested? You can find EIGHT DAYS ON PLANET EARTH on Goodreads and pre-order it in advance of its 11/7 release on Harper Collins, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, and Indie Bound.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win 1 of 3 $10 Amazon GCs or one of two signed copies of the book.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Author In Cat jordan’s words…

When I was a teenager, the very first book I ever tried to write was pretentious and stilted and set in a future where there was no paper. Obviously, I fancied myself another Ray Bradbury (who I was thrilled to meet not once but twice!). The book had an awesome title and no plot but I had the most fun creating the characters and the world they lived in. That to me is the most enjoyable part of writing a novel: envisioning a world and populating it with all kinds of people and dogs. Gotta have a dog.

The worlds I create now as an adult are based on my travels from coast to coast in the US, to Europe and Mexico and Canada, and on the people I have met and loved and admired and feared. And dogs.

Currently I live in Los Angeles. With my dog.

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Learning THE RULES AND REGULATIONS FOR MEDIATING MYTHS AND MAGIC is Awesome!–A Review

Hi there! Halloween is approaching, and I’ll be sharing some reviews for books that fall into the weird/paranormal variety in celebration. Today I’m sharing a review for a paranormal-type YA gay romance from F.T. Lukens. THE RULES AND REGULATIONS FOR MEDIATING MYTHS AND MAGIC is about a high school senior who takes a part-time job so he can save money for college. But, his new job comes with all sorts of weird, and he’s soon caught up in disaster after disaster.

Having loved THE STAR HOST and GHOSTS & ASHES, I knew I wanted to read this book.

About the book:
Desperate to pay for college, Bridger Whitt is willing to overlook the peculiarities of his new job—entering via the roof, the weird stacks of old books and even older scrolls, the seemingly incorporeal voices he hears from time to time—but it’s pretty hard to ignore being pulled under Lake Michigan by… mermaids? Worse yet, this happens in front of his new crush, Leo, the dreamy football star who just moved to town.

Fantastic.

When he discovers his eccentric employer Pavel Chudinov is an intermediary between the human world and its myths, Bridger is plunged into a world of pixies, werewolves, and Sasquatch. The realm of myths and magic is growing increasingly unstable, and it is up to Bridger to ascertain the cause of the chaos, eliminate the problem, and help his boss keep the real world from finding the world of myths.

My Review:
Bridger is a high school senior who knows his life is going to take a turn…hopefully for the better. He’s recently come to understand that he’s likely bisexual–prompted to his attraction to his gorgeous new neighbor, Leo, who has a habit of moving the lawn in only his shorts… Bridger is scared of what this means for him, as he lives in what he considers to be a small, conservative, hometown: Midden, Michigan. In order to explore this facet of his being, Bridger believes he must go away to college so he can experiment far away where his mother, a nurse who’s working as many double shifts as possible to support them, won’t hear about it and be upset with him.

So, he tries to get an assistant job for a local nutty professor, or so he thinks. The first test is entering the house where the professor works–and it’s high stakes. Bridger bests the suit-clad fellow applicants by sheer grit and ingenuity, and that’s the beginning of his new weird life. Pavel Chudinov, his new boss, has a house filled with intrigues, from the stunning Elena who nearly bewitches Bridger, to the caustic gunk that pretty much dissolved Bridger’s new tennis shoes, Bridger knows lots of strange is happening all around him. He brushes it aside, though, because his mission of away-college-funding is all the more important as Leo begins to shine his popular glow all over Bridger and Astrid, his best friend. This leads to a beach party invite that ends with mermaids trying to kill Bridger.

And, later, a unicorn attack. Oh, and learning that Elena is a werewolf. Bridger takes all this info in with aplomb, and minor freak outs. The pay is good, and Pavel is kind, as are his house pixies who assist with the work of mediating between the human and myth worlds. People, Bridger comes to realize, will find any implausible reason they can to explain the unexplainable. But Bridger’s hours on the job mean secrecy between him and Astrid, and the time he spends with Leo also strains their relationship. Especially as Bridger isn’t sure if Leo is being friendly out of sheer friendliness, or mutual attraction. What if Bridger’s misunderstood, and makes a mistake that could get him bashed?

As the story unfolds, Bridger pieces together the unlikeliest of circumstances: the recent convergence of myth in Midden, Michigan is due to the presence of a hero myth…and that might cause some cramps in his high school if that hero goes the way most of them do: death in glory. Bridger, allied with Pavel, his pixies, and eventually Astrid, are set on dissipating the magic, but Bridger wants it done with the least amount of bloodshed–and heart ache. He’s a sweet guy with real issues happening beyond the magic. I loved how he and his mom got along, and also his tight friendship with Astrid. There are so many fabulous characters here, including Pavel and Leo, who teach Bridger that coming out isn’t the end of the world, and that he’s loved right where he is. The magic is fun, and poor Bridger is a bit downhearted that the unicorn hates him. I was enchanted by the myth-weaving, and the resolution made my heart race. I so wanted Bridger to solve the problem without losing himself in the process, and I was rewarded with the best possible outcome. Bridger finds both love and acceptance in places he never expected. It’s a sweet and happy ending that felt like a beginning–because the book ends but new adventures may arise that he needs to tackle. That blue door on the third floor was left open to such possibilites, in any event.

Interested? You can find THE RULES AND REGULATIONS for MEDIATING MYTHS AND MAGIC on Goodreads, Interlude Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Target, Smashwords, Kobo, Book Depository, and Indiebound.

About the Author:
F.T. wrote her first short story when she was in third grade and her love of writing continued from there. After placing in the top five out of ten thousand entries in a writing contest, she knew it was time to dive in and try her hand at writing a novel.

A wife and mother of three, F.T. holds degrees in psychology and English literature, and is a long-time member of her college’s science-fiction club. F.T. has a love of cheesy television shows, superhero movies, and science-fiction novels—especially anything by Douglas Adams.

Connect with F.T. on her website, Twitter, Tumblr and on Goodreads.