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!

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!

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!

Becoming ALL BOY–A Review

Hi there!Today I’m sharing my review for a recently published transgender New Adult romance from Mia Kerick. ALL BOY is a coming of age and coming out story for a transgender teen living life on his terms. I have enjoyed many books by this author, including LOVE SPELL, THE WEEKEND BUCKET LIST, and THE ART OF HERO WORSHIP.

About the book:
Seventeen-year-old Callie Canter knows all about screwing up—and being screwed over. After her so-called boyfriend publicly humiliated her senior year, taking a fifth year of high school at Beaufort Hills Academy is her second chance to leave behind a painful past. But her need for social acceptance follows, and going along with the in-crowd is the difference between survival and becoming a target. Staying off the radar is top priority. So, falling for an outsider is the last thing on Callie’s “to-do” list. Too bad her heart didn’t get the memo.

With his strict, religious upbringing and former identity far away in Florida, Jayden Morrissey can finally be true to himself at Beaufort Hills Academy. But life as a trans man means keeping secrets, and keeping secrets means not getting too close to anyone. If he can just get through his fifth year unnoticed, maybe a future living as the person he was born to be is possible. Yet love is love, and when you fall hard enough, intentions crumble, plans detour, and secrets are revealed.

From multi-award-winning author Mia Kerick, comes a powerful, timely, and life-changing novel, which follows two teenagers nursing broken hearts and seeking acceptance, and who together realize running away isn’t always the answer.

My Review:
Callie Canter is at an exclusive prep school trying to finish her his school diploma now that she’s in a healthy place. In her hometown she’d been a victim of partner abuse, with a controlling, demeaning boyfriend whose constant criticism led to body issues, and whose release of a nude video completely humiliated Callie. She’s not sure about this new school, but she’s determined to use her therapy-gained emotional management skills to get past the crap she otherwise would have folded under. She’s got a great new roomie, and her soccer skills have garnered the attention of the kind of guys she’d usually dated: built jocks with more quips than thoughts. Except, those are the types of guys she’d been abused by in the past.

Instead, she’s really drawn to Jayden Morrisey. He’s thin and lithe, and funny and so smart! Why does Jayden live off campus and work, though? It’s peculiar, and intriguing. Jayden’s always standing up for Callie, and she likes that he’s not aggressively sexual, that they have a connection that is intellectual and emotional rather than only physical. Naturally, this makes Jayden a target for the suitors Callie’s attracted. He’s not big enough to stand up against the bullies, and the more he antagonizes them the more the threats ramp up.

Jayden has a big secret, it’s his first time living on his own, in his own skin–transitioning in dress and manner into the man he’s always been on the inside. He’s attracted to Callie, but he has a lot going on, not least of which is his hyper-conservative family who can’t understand why he didn’t accept the full-ride softball scholarship at a Christian college. This first taste as living authentically is an amazing experience, and Jayden considers coming out to Callie. But the guys chasing Callie aren’t willing to let her go–and make moves to “unmask” Jayden before he can discuss it with Callie.

I liked how authentic the relationship between Callie and Jayden felt, as well as the fast friendship she has with her roomie. Jayden’s got a hot mess to unravel, and he thinks it’s best if he does it off campus. While not ideal, Jayden heads home, and it’s up to Callie to make amends. That raises other issues that Callie must manage for herself, namely her dependence on others to define her self-image. Throughout the story, Callie’s insecurities in herself dictate her actions and inactions. That’s right, Callie’s lack of action cause Jayden great harm, and she has to mount a road-trip to help Jayden get justice. I liked how it turned out, even if I was disappointed by Callie for a large chunk of the book. The resolution is a heart-warming experience, with Jayden and Callie finding the refuge they needed to make their way into the world in healthy and positive ways.

Interested? You can find ALL BOY on Goodreads, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble.

About the Author:
Mia Kerick is the mother of four exceptional children—all named after saints—and five nonpedigreed cats—all named after the next best thing to saints, Boston Red Sox players. Her husband of twenty-two years has been told by many that he has the patience of Job, but don’t ask Mia about that, as it is a sensitive subject.

Mia focuses her stories on the emotional growth of troubled young people and their relationships, and she believes that physical intimacy has a place in a love story, but not until it is firmly established as a love story. As a teen, Mia filled spiral-bound notebooks with romantic tales of tortured heroes (most of whom happened to strongly resemble lead vocalists of 1980s big-hair bands) and stuffed them under her mattress for safekeeping. She is thankful to Dreamspinner Press, Harmony Ink Press, and CreateSpace for providing her with alternate places to stash her stories.

Mia is a social liberal and cheers for each and every victory made in the name of human rights, especially marital equality. Her only major regret: never having taken typing or computer class in school, destining her to a life consumed with two-fingered pecking and constant prayer to the Gods of Technology.

Where to find Mia online: Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Out now! THE LAST MYSTIC–A Review

Hi there! I’m so excited to share a review for a brand new dystopian YA adventure/romance from Susan Kaye Quinn. THE LAST MYSTIC is the fourth book in her Singularity series, and should be read in order. Having loved THE LEGACY HUMAN, THE DUALITY BRIDGE, and THE ILLUSORY PROPHET, I couldn’t wait to read this thrilling series conclusion.

About the book:
What if you knew there was life after death?
Eli is back from the dead… and determined to stop the powerful ascenders who blasted him out to the void. But in the three days he was gone, the world moved on. The girl he loves is determined to build an army of augmented humans to fight the ascenders—with herself as the next Offering. The ascenders are lining up in a death cult based on the charismatic ascender Eli accidentally released from storage—and all the restraints that have kept the ascender world in balance are now off. Everyone is rushing to be the first to bring a Second Singularity—to reach the numinous world from which Eli just returned—regardless of the cost. And the chaos and bloodshed of the first Singularity show just how high that cost can be. How can he stop the world from hurtling off the cliff when he’s the one who proved there’s something to reach, if only you could learn how to fly?

The Last Mystic is the thrilling conclusion to the Singularity series. This philosophical, HopePunk sci-fi series explores the intersection of mind, body, and soul in a post-Singularity world.

My Review:
This is the fourth book in the Singularity series, and needs to be read in order.

Elijah Brighton is not entirely human. Nor is he an Ascender–one of the millions of minds that are electronically connected since the Singularity several hundred years prior. Earth is not the place we know, it’s far advanced technologically, and humans that live here are kept as legacy populations in Ascender controlled cities, or they escape to join the Resistance, or the Makers, or an even lesser-known cult.

Eli has been through the wringer in this series, learning that he’s not simply a human, but one generated with Ascender tech in his very DNA. He was designed to answer the question of whether Ascenders had souls, and if they could transcend technological death into and afterlife. Eli now knows–and he’s the bridge to that destination. When the book opens it’s Eli,coming back from a Fugue–a state on non-consciousness where he can touch the souls of others, including Ascenders. There is a terrifying new foe cutting down humanity to find him–or his body–and bring about a Second Singularity, in which Ascenders will be able to travel into an afterlife, and return–like Eli does. Eli’s first thought is to bring back the consciousness of two of the most respected Ascenders to quell the drive toward another Singularity. These entities have been considered dead, and if Eli can get them to re-integrate with the Orion collective consciousness then he can convince Ascenders they don’t need to sacrifice their minds, or the bodies of humans, to achieve afterlife for their soul.

Eli isn’t only trying to help humanity survive the Ascender assaults; his human girlfriend, Kamali, is next in line to attempt a Second Singularity. She believes that Eli will bring her back from the dead if the Makers are unable to complete the transformation. For Eli, it’s personal, as well as philosophical. He’s funneled the consciousness of many low-functioning bots into the afterlife, and still wonders if he did the right thing–granted he took those “minds” from killer bots that were rampaging through unprotected human populations, but it troubled him. And losing Kamali–even if he could bring her back–is just untenable. Instead, Eli digs deep within himself to find what makes him unique among those on Earth–and he grows into the being his Ascender mentors had always envisioned: more than a bridge, a way to embrace life–human or Ascender. He’s able to rewire humanity and Ascenders to find the divine within themselves and each other, using his deep love of life to open the minds of the populace in a figurative and literal way. It’s a creative means to an end that only builds more love, more connections. The Second Singularity arrives not through tech, but through compassion.

It’s an amazing transition, and an inspiring end to a series built on finding the best of humanity, even when the most powerful haven’t been human in centuries. If you are into futuristic societies and big moral and ethical quandaries, this philosophical take will open your heart and mind to possibility.

Interested? You can find THE LAST MYSTIC on Goodreads and Amazon.

New to the series? The first book, THE LEGACY HUMAN, is currently FREE. Check out my review and catch the buy links here.

Susan Kaye Quinn is a rocket scientist turned speculative fiction author who now uses her PhD to invent cool stuff in books. She writes young adult science fiction, with side trips into adult future-noir, royal fantasy romance, and middle grade. Her bestselling novels and short stories have been optioned for Virtual Reality, translated into German, and featured in several anthologies. She writes full-time from Chicago, inventing mind powers and dreaming of the Singularity.

Chat with her about our coming robot overlords in her Facebook group.

More about Sue: website | Facebook Page | Twitter | For Writers

Out Now! LOVE SPELL Review and Giveaway

Hi all! Well, it’s been a long break. I seriously fell into a blog-time-out for health and sanity reasons…mostly I couldn’t keep up the blogging with the pressure of THREE part-time jobs, finishing my third degree, and job-hunting for a stable position. But, all that’s just a blip in my history, and I hope to be blogging more regularly going forward.

Today I’m sharing my review for LOVE SPELL by Mia Kerick. This is a contemporary YA M/M romance which is wholly clean and really compelling. Chance is a gender-fluid teen–that means he’s as likely to dress male or female. He’s confident that he’s gay, and 58% (or so) sure that he’s not transgender, but he really doesn’t want to think about it. Or talk about it. He just wants to find the right guy, and he’s pretty sure (probably 95%) that this right guy is Jasper.

About the book:
Chance César is fabulously gay, but his gender identity—or, as he phrases it, “being stuck in the gray area between girl and boy”—remains confusing. Nonetheless, he struts his stuff on the catwalk in black patent leather pumps and a snug-in-all-the-right (wrong)-places orange tuxedo as the winner of this year’s Miss (ter) Harvest Moon Festival. He rules supreme at the local Beans and Greens Farm’s annual fall celebration, serenaded by the enthusiastic catcalls of his BFF, Emily Benson.

Although he refuses to visually fade into the background of his rural New Hampshire town, Chance is socially invisible—except when being tormented by familiar bullies. But sparks fly when Chance, Pumpkin Pageant Queen, meets Jasper (Jazz) Donahue, winner of the Pumpkin Carving King contest. Chance wants to be noticed and admired and romantically embraced by Jazz, in all of his neon-orange-haired glory.

And so at a sleepover, Chance and Emily conduct intense, late-night research, and find an online article: “Ten Scientifically Proven Ways to Make a Man Fall in Love With You.” Along with a bonus love spell thrown in for good measure, it becomes the basis of their strategy to capture Jazz’s heart.

But will this “no-fail” plan work? Can Chance and Jazz fall under the fickle spell of love?

This is a second edition of the novel–originally published in 2015.

A yummy taste…

Chapter One: Shine On, Harvest Moon

Just call me brazen.

It occurs to me that brazen—unabashedly bold and without an inkling of shame—is the perfectly appropriate word to describe moi right about now. It is, however, the only perfectly appropriate part of this evening. Which is perfectly appropriate, in my humble opinion. So get over it.

I lift my chin just enough to stop the stiff orange spikes of glitter-gelled hair from flopping forward onto my forehead. Who can blame me? These spikes are razor sharp—best they stay upright on my head where they belong. And gravity can only do so much to that end.

Okaaaayyyy…sidetracked much? Forces rebellious thoughts on business at hand.

Chance César is a brazen B.

I stare ’em down, but only after I pop the collar of the blinding “Orange Crush” tuxedo I’m rockin’ and shrug my shoulders in a sort of what-the-fuck fashion. Rule of thumb in this queen’s life—first things must always come first.

Pop, shrug, and only then is it kosher to stare. I clear my throat.

“Eat your ginger-haired heart out, Ed Sheeran.”

Based on the buzz of scandalized chatter blowing about in the crisp evening breeze, I’m reasonably certain that nobody in the crowd heard me speak. And although several of the girls currently gawking at me may do double backflips over my red-haired counterpart across the pond, they don’t give a rat’s ass about Chance César. In fact, I have a sneaking suspicion that they view my atomic tangerine locks as more reminiscent of Bozo the Clown than of the smexy singer-songwriter.

They are, however, completely unaware that this carrot top is going to make Harvest Moon Festival history tonight.

Refusing to succumb to the impulse to duck my head, I take a single shaky step forward onto the stage that’s been set up on the dusty ground beside a vast—by New England standards—cornfield. The stage doesn’t wobble, but my knees sure as shit do. Okay, I’m an honest diva and I tell it like it is. And I’m what you might call a freaking wreck.

Nonetheless, this brazen B takes a deep breath, blows it out in a single gush, and starts to strut. This boy’s werkin’ it.

Smi-zeee!! Yeah, my smile is painted on, just like my trousers.

Chance, you are by far the edgiest Miss Harvest Moon this ramshackle town has ever had the good fortune to gaze upon. I am a major fan of positive self-talk.

Using the feigned British accent I’ve perfected—thanks to long hours of tedious practice in my bathroom—I dish out my next thought aloud. “I wish I’d put in a tad more practice walking in these bloody heels before going public in ’em.” And despite one slight stumble—a close call to be sure—the clicking sound my pumps make is crisp and confident. I saunter out onto the catwalk.

#TrueConfessions: Faking foreign accents is a hobby of mine. I can yammer it up in improvised French, German, Mexican, Russian, and plenty more accents, but I don’t mimic Asian languages, as it seems too close to ridicule. My plan for the rest of the night is to continue vocalizing my abundant thoughts in Standard British, with a hint of Cockney thrown in for charm. After all, New Hampshire is the “Live Free or Die” state, and I’ll do what I laaaa-like. Yaaasss!

“Introducing this year’s lovely…or, um, handsome Miss…ter…Harvest Moon. Let’s hear an enthusiastic round of applause for Chance César!” Mrs. Higgins always speaks using a lolling Southern twang, although I’m sure she’s lived her entire life right here in less-than-gentile, way-too-many-dirt-roads, Fiske, New Hampshire. (Like, can you say backwoods Fiske without it sounding too much like backward Fiske?) TBH, I’m thrilled: it seems I’m not the only one with an affinity for a colorful accent. But the applause is disappointingly, but not surprisingly, scattered.

“Woot!” A solitary hoot splits the night—it’s quite impossible to miss— and I recognize an undeniably shrill and nasal quality in the sound. I know without a doubt that the hooter is my best (only) friend, Emily Benson. In my not so humble opinion, Emily’s hooting for my benefit is as liberating a sound as Lady Gaga bellowing “Born This Way” live on the Grammy Awards after emerging from a large egg.

My Emily is everything! Not to be dramatic, but whatevs.

In any case, the single, supportive hoot is followed by mucho expected heckling. “Chances are, Chance César is gonna moon the crowd!” It’s a girl’s voice, for sure. I do not have a lot of female fans here in Fiske.

“Come on, Miss Harvest Moon, bend over and flash us your full moon!” A dude mocks me next. I’m proud to say I’m an equal opportunity victim of harassment.

I don’t blink once in the face of the jeering. This type of inconvenience is par for the course in my life, and thus, I consider it a challenge of stoic endurance. I simply place one fine pointy-toed pump in front of the other, my eyes focused on the mountain in the distance. I’m especially proud that, amidst the chaos, I remember to offer the crowd my best beauty queen wave.

Yeah, this is some beauty pageant realness.

“Thank you, lovelies, for coming here today.” I speak in my most Princess Diaries-esque tone.

“Werk it, girlfriend—werk hard!” Yes, it’s Emily again. And like always, she’s got my spectacular back.

“Aw, shit, we must be havin’ a lunar eclipse or somethin’.” It’s another pubescent male voice, and a deep one at that. “There ain’t no moon to be seen ’round these parts!” The heckler is a douche I know too well from school named Edwin Darling—whom I less than fondly, and very privately, refer to as “Eddie the Appalling.” I watch as he looks away from me to take in the full moon in the dark night sky and shrugs.

The lunar eclipse one-liner is actually fairly humorous. I toss out ten points for creativity in Edwin’s general direction by allowing a restrained smile, but I never remove my eyes from the single treeless spot on Mount Vernier.

Time for a mental detour. Why is this one spot bare-assed of all trees?

That’s when the music starts, and I’m more than glad for the downbeat. It helps me focus, plus it’s much easier to sashay to the sound of a jazzy snare drum than to the unpleasant clamor of heckling. Not that my backside won’t wiggle righteously to any sound at all. Because, rest assured, it will.

“Shine On, Harvest Moon.” Whoever is in charge of the sound system plays the Liza Minnelli version, which may be the silver lining to this farce. For as long as I can remember, it’s been the more traditional, not to mention folksy, Four Aces version for Miss Harvest Moon’s victorious stroll up and down the creaky runway. I will say that tonight is a first for the Liza rendition, and I’m curious as to whether it is coincidental.

But who really cares? Ring them sparkly silver bells for Liza M!

On a side note, I wonder: Is it a good thing or a bad thing that Liza Minnelli’s voice brings out the dramatic streak in me? Okay, okaaaayyyy…so maybe it doesn’t take more than a gentle nudge to get me going in a theatrical direction. But, hey, drama ain’t a crime. My mind is pulled to the back of my bedroom closet (how ironic), where my flapper get-up hangs. Panic sets in… Should I have worn that instead? But it’s a muted peach—not a vivid orange—as seems fitting for a pumpkin festival. And then there’s the whole not-a-single-soul-except-Mom-Dad-and-Emily-has-yet-seen-Chance César-in-full-female-garb thing that held me back from rockin’ the vintage coral dress with its spectacular tiers of flesh-colored fringe.

Tonight is Beans and Green Farm’s Annual Harvest Moon Festival, and for northern New Hampshire, this is a big freaking deal—the whole town shows up for cheesy shit like this. In light of this recognition, I confirm that pumpkin orange attire is mandatorbs. I mean, I went so far as to dye my hair for tonight’s festivities; the least I can do is choose garments that enhance my Halloween-chic style.

At the end of the catwalk, I indulge the audience by providing them with their deepest desire. I stand there, still as a scarecrow—for ten seconds, give or take—so they can drink in the sight of me, from spiky glittering head to pointy patent leather toes. I allow them this rare opportunity for freeze-frame viewing pleasure. Whether they admire me for having the balls to strut around ultraconservative Fiske wearing a scandalously snug-in-all-the-wrong-(right)-places orange tuxedo and four-inch black pumps—which I will admit is a public first for me—or they wish the shining harvest moon would fall on my house and crush me while I sleep, what they all really want most is a good long moment to study me.

To twerk or not to twerk, that is the question.

When the spectators finally start to squirm, I throw out a few of my best vogue fem moves to the tune of some subtle arm, wrist, and hand action, followed by several full-body poses, avoiding the death drop move as I haven’t yet mastered it in pumps. And when it’s time to once again get this glam show on the road, I pivot on my toes and strut briskly—America’s Next Top Model style—back to the stage where my boss, the owner of Beans and Greens Farm, stands nervously clutching my crown.

Mrs. Higgins is a tall glass of water, in the manner of a large-boned Iowa farm girl, but she’s accustomed to crowning petite high school junior girls, not nearly grown senior boys in four-inch heels. I crouch beside her politely and, I dare say, delicately, and she carefully nestles the crystal-studded crown in my spiky mop of neon-orange hair.

“Be careful, Mrs. H,” I warn beneath my breath. “Those spikes might look harmless, but they’re sharp enough to slice off your little finger.”

She offers me half of a crooked smile, for which I give her credit. I, Mrs. Higgins’ very own “boy with the bad attitude on cash register three,” have broken about every rule Beans and Greens has established for its hordes of Fiske High School summer workers, right down to the “no jewelry at work” clause. But a couple of points go to the lady because she manages to force out a grimace that could be mistaken for a smile…if your standard for smiles is on the low side. Besides, I’m not about to remove my nose ring. It in no way impedes my ability to count, ring up, and bag cucumbers.

This is when I spin on a single heel to face the crowd.

“You don’t happen to have any…very brief…words of wisdom for our audience, do you, Chance?” Mrs. Higgins asks, speaking into an oversized microphone. But despite the laid-back accent, I can tell she’s wary. Like a rat in a corner.

“Yes, as a matter of fact, I do.” My clipped British accent momentarily stuns the woman, and I take the opportunity to snatch the microphone from her less-than-dainty hand. Realizing it’s now in my possession, Mrs. Higgins shudders. “I just want to thank you all, my beloved coworkers at Beans and Greens Farm, for voting me in as this year’s Miss Harvest Moon.” I wipe imaginary tears from my eyes with my wrist, sniff for added effect, and, of course, I employ a most gracious, high-pitched tone of voice. “I am so honored to represent you all here tonight.” I sound like Eliza Doolittle in the stage play, My Fair Lady.

The crowd is silent. Maybe it’s a stunned silence. I sincerely hope so.

I follow dainty sniffling with my best duck-faced lip pout. Mrs. Higgins makes a sudden grab for the microphone, but I’m more agile. I only have to twist my shoulders ever so slightly to the left to block her move. She eyes me with a new respect.

And then I lower my voice so it’s all man—momentarily losing the delightful British inflection—and pose my question to the crowd.

“So you thought voting for me as Miss Harvest Moon would humiliate me—dull my shine or rain on my parade, perhaps?” I wag one well-manicured finger at the crowd while swishing my ass back and forth in matched rhythm. “Well, in your face, my sorry backwoods homies, cuz I’m here and I’m queer and I’m shining on—just like that big ol’ harvest moon!”

Without hesitation, I bend, just enough to grab Mrs. Higgins around the waist, and lift her off her size eleven feet (by my best visual estimate) and swing the lady around, probs ’til she’s seeing more stars than the ones in the dark Harvest Moon sky.

I’d bet my ahhh-mazing ass that no other Miss Harvest Moon has ever given Mrs. Higgins a joyride like that!

My Review:
Chance Cesar is an out gay teen, a senior in his rural New Hampshire high school and the new Miss Harvest Moon. That’s right, he was voted to be the pageant queen, as a cruel joke, but he werks it, strutting down the aisle in an orange tux and black pumps. That’s how we meet Chance, and henceforth his fabulousness cannot be denied.

Chance has always known he’s attracted to boys/men, but he’s still not clear on his gender identity. He struggles with his daily wardrobe–dress or pants–and he wants a boyfriend. A nice boyfriend. He kinda has his heart set on a boy from the vocational school, Jasper Donahue. “Jazz,” as Chance dubs him, is a burly boy with lots of responsibilities. He works to help support his mother and sister, and when he isn’t working, he’s babysitting his sister so his mom can work. Still, Chance is smitten, and he’s not even sure if Jazz swings his direction. Jazz seems to invite Chance’s attention, but there is no clear movement into Boyfriendland. All the discussions and intimate moments could be construed as simple friendliness.

So, Chance comes up with The Plan–well it’s more like The List for The Plan–of ten things to do to capture the heart of a boy. He spends weeks getting to know Jazz, hooking him in–if he can–and having hilarious misadventures. At the heart of this is a serious connection that Chance needs to make with himself, coming to terms with his gender and how that might affect a potential partner. Chance is a reliable narrator, and his narration is funny. He’s a diva, and his brilliance is often overwhelming to his objective: getting Jazz to love him. Thing is, he is super insecure, and that softens his manic edges. It’s a lot Notting Hill, with a boy standing in front of a boy, asking him to love him. This is a completely innocent book, sexually. The romance appears to be completely one-sided but it develops into a very tender friendship as Chance learns to love, and to give love, for no other reason than to help Jazz find happiness. Also, I enjoyed how Chance saw Jazz’s life, and how his privilege of money didn’t make for near as happy a home as Jazz’s criminally broke but bursting with love family.

I think the Love Spell part of it was rather short, and not the main focus, at all. It was great to walk through Chance’s gender-fluid shoes and get a better sense of the insecurity and frustration of not really KNOWING if he was a he-girl or a she-boy or somewhere in the middle, and I’m certain it will resonate with questioning teens. This was the second LGBTQ YA novel I’ve read from Ms. Kerick and the characters are always intense and sincere with real life plights that are honestly told. It took me a little time to settle into Chance’s voice because he’s got a flamboyant speech pattern, which is part of his quirky charm.

Interested? You can find LOVE SPELL on Goodreads, NineStar Books, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and Smashwords.

****GIVEAWAY****

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

About the Author:
Mia Kerick is the mother of four exceptional children—all named after saints—and five nonpedigreed cats—all named after the next best thing to saints, Boston Red Sox players. Her husband of twenty-two years has been told by many that he has the patience of Job, but don’t ask Mia about that, as it is a sensitive subject.

Mia focuses her stories on the emotional growth of troubled young people and their relationships, and she believes that physical intimacy has a place in a love story, but not until it is firmly established as a love story. As a teen, Mia filled spiral-bound notebooks with romantic tales of tortured heroes (most of whom happened to strongly resemble lead vocalists of 1980s big-hair bands) and stuffed them under her mattress for safekeeping. She is thankful to Dreamspinner Press, Harmony Ink Press, and CreateSpace for providing her with alternate places to stash her stories.

Mia is a social liberal and cheers for each and every victory made in the name of human rights, especially marital equality. Her only major regret: never having taken typing or computer class in school, destining her to a life consumed with two-fingered pecking and constant prayer to the Gods of Technology.

Where to find Mia online: Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Now Available in Paperback! THE IMPOSSIBLE VASTNESS OF US

Hi there! I’m just spreading the word on a newly released paperback version of a YA contemporary novel by Samantha Young. THE IMPOSSIBLE VASTNESS OF US was released last year, but it’s now out in paperback! I’m really intrigued…

About the book:
“I know how to watch my back. I’m the only one that ever has.”

India Maxwell hasn’t just moved across the country—she’s plummeted to the bottom rung of the social ladder. It’s taken years to cover the mess of her home life with a veneer of popularity. Now she’s living in one of Boston’s wealthiest neighborhoods with her mom’s fiancé and his daughter, Eloise. Thanks to her soon-to-be stepsister’s clique of friends, including Eloise’s gorgeous, arrogant boyfriend Finn, India feels like the one thing she hoped never to be seen as again: trash.

But India’s not alone in struggling to control the secrets of her past. Eloise and Finn, the school’s golden couple, aren’t all they seem to be. In fact, everyone’s life is infinitely more complex than it first appears. And as India grows closer to Finn and befriends Eloise, threatening the facades that hold them together, what’s left are truths that are brutal, beautiful, and big enough to change them forever…

How about a little taste?

“India, I’m not using her. I mean, I am, but it’s not like that. Eloise is getting what she wants out of this relationship, as well.”

“Like what?”

“I can’t tell you.”

“You are using her.”

“I’m not.” His chair screeched as he pulled it closer so our knees touched. His dark eyes moved over my face and I sucked in my breath at the open appreciation I saw there. “I’m not using her…but we are in a relationship together. I guess it just never occurred to me that I might actually meet someone in high school. Someone I…”

That feeling in my chest, that thick, hot feeling, threatened to overwhelm me at all the things he wasn’t saying. “Finn, Eloise is going to be my family.”

He looked so forlorn it took everything within me not to reach for him.

“What is it you’re hiding?”

“I can’t tell you. Please, just trust me.”

Hurt and frustration swept through me in equal measure but I tamped it down. It wasn’t my place to demand his secrets.

My frustration was suddenly mirrored in his eyes as he looked up at me. “I wish things were different.”

But they weren’t different. And yet they were the same, history repeating itself. I cared about someone and they didn’t care enough about me back to be honest about what was really going on.

I didn’t know if I was angry at Finn or just angry that nothing ever seemed to be easy for me. Everything was always a fight.

It felt like I lived in a constant clusterfuck.

I gave a huff of laughter. “Story of my life.” I shook my head, grabbed up my bag and, unable to look at him, said, “Thank you for your help tonight.”

“You’re not leaving without me.”

His protectiveness confused and pissed me off even more. “I’m not? Funny, it looks like that’s exactly what I’m doing.”

His familiar scowl was back in place at my sarcasm. “You’re also not going home alone after what happened here. I’ll give you a ride.”

“Finn.” I slumped, suddenly feeling exhausted. “I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

Sadness flittered through his eyes before he managed a carefully blank expression. “I think I can handle driving you home.”

Still a trembling mess after everything that had happened, I gave in and followed Finn out to his car.

The tension that we’d shared before was nothing compared to how it was now. Now that Finn had in a roundabout way admitted he liked me and I’d realized that what I was feeling for him was attraction, the tension could not be mistaken for anything else but sexual.

I’d never felt anything like it before—it was the most frustrating, scary and exhilarating feeling in the world.

When we eventually pulled up outside the house, the guilt washed over me. I shouldn’t be feeling this way about Eloise’s boyfriend and he certainly shouldn’t be feeling this way about me.

I felt like we were to blame for the whole thing but I didn’t know why.

I hadn’t asked the universe to make Finn like me.

And I had definitely not intended to like him in return.

“India,” he said just as I moved to get out of his car. “I’ve never really cared what anybody thought of me before…but I really don’t want you to think I’m a bad person.”

I stared into his beautiful eyes. “I can’t imagine ever thinking you’re a bad person. I meant it earlier…thank you for coming for me tonight. I’ll never forget it.”

“This feels weirdly like a goodbye,” he said with a bitter twist to his gorgeous lips.

“Maybe it is. I guess we’re both just a complication the other doesn’t need.”

Slowly, so slowly my heart had time to increase in hard, steady thumps, Finn slid his hand over the center console between us and stroked his thumb along the side of my hand. I felt that simple touch in every nerve, my body reacting to it in a way it never had to the touches and deep kisses that had come before it.

I stared at our hands for a moment, wondering how different my life could be if Finn wasn’t Eloise’s boyfriend, if we’d just met as strangers at school, felt the inexplicable bond between us and were free to do something about it.

Suddenly very aware of how long I’d been sitting outside the house in his car, I fumbled for the door handle. “See you around, Finn.”

Interested? You can find THE IMPOSSIBLE VASTNESS OF US on Goodreads, Amazon (US, US eBook, UK) Barnes & Noble, iBooks, IndieBound, GooglePlay and Kobo.

About the Author:
Samantha Young is the New York Times,  USA Today  and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of adult contemporary romances, including the On Dublin Street series and Hero, as well as the New Adult duology Into the Deep and Out of the Shallows.  Every Little Thing, the second book in her new Hart’s Boardwalk series, will be published by Berkley in March 2017. Before turning to contemporary fiction, she wrote several young adult paranormal and fantasy series, including the amazon bestselling Tale of Lunarmorte trilogy. Samantha’s debut YA contemporary novel The Impossible Vastness of Us was published by Harlequin TEEN in eBook and hardback June 2017.

Samantha has been nominated for the Goodreads Choice Award 2012 for Best Author and Best Romance for On Dublin Street, Best Romance 2014 for Before Jamaica Lane, and Best Romance 2015 for HeroOn Dublin Street, a #1 bestseller in Germany, was the Bronze Award Winner in the LeserPreis German Readers Choice Awards for Best Romance 2013, Before Jamaica Lane the Gold Medal Winner for the LeserPreis German Readers Choice Awards for Best Romance 2014 and Echoes of Scotland Street the Bronze Medal Winner for the LeserPreis German Readers Choice Awards for Best Romance 2015.

Samantha is currently published in 30 countries and is a #1 international bestselling author. Catch up with her online on her website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Goodreads.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

Cephalopod Coffeehouse May 2018–Trio of Love: THE WEEKEND BUCKET LIST–A Review

0ed81-coffeehouseHi there! Welcome one and all to the Cephalopod Coffeehouse, a cozy gathering of book lovers, meeting to discuss their thoughts regarding the tomes they enjoyed most over the previous month. Pull up a chair, order your cappuccino and join in the fun.

This month I’m sharing a review for an atypical YA romance. In anticipation of the holiday weekend I’ve been featuring stories of three-way love, and this book fits the bill.  THE WEEKEND BUCKET LIST is an exploration in the spectrum of love, with three kids who connect in a way none had anticipated. I’ve read and enjoyed other books by Mia Kerick, including THE ART OF HERO WORSHIP, RANDOM ACTS, and LOVE SPELL so I was eager to read this one.

About the book:
High school seniors Cady LaBrie and Cooper Murphy have yet to set one toe out of line—they’ve never stayed out all night or snuck into a movie, never gotten drunk or gone skinny-dipping. But they have each other, forty-eight hours before graduation, and a Weekend Bucket List.

There’s a lot riding on this one weekend, especially since Cady and Cooper have yet to admit, much less resolve, their confounding feelings for one another—feelings that prove even more difficult to discern when genial high school dropout Eli Stanley joins their epic adventure. But as the trio ticks through their bucket list, the questions they face shift toward something new: Must friendship play second fiddle to romance? Or can it be the ultimate prize?

My Review:
Cadence and Cooper are the best of friends, but Cady has a massive crush on Cooper, who they both agree is likely gay. They live in a small New England town and make a pact to complete ten zany things on a weekend bucket list quest before graduation. On this list are facing fears and getting tattoos and…along the way they collect a carny drifter named Eli. Eli is a lithe young man who essentially quits his job, and is rendered homeless in the process, to follow his new best friends on this quest.

While they share some beers on the beach, and skinny dipping in the brutal Atlantic, Cooper is able to kiss both Eli and Cady–and realizes that he’s maybe bisexual. This weekend of experimentation has rough results, though. Cady is frustrated that Cooper and Eli seem to connect, and Eli is blithely unaware that his new pals aren’t the staying type. The story is told from all three points of view, and this final summer before college is a giant turning point for Cady and Cooper’s friendship. Cady’s family is struggling with her addict brother coming back from yet another stint in rehab, and Cady’s anger with her home life bring even bigger problems.

Cooper and Eli connect, but not in the way Cady feared. They work on building a friendship and it’s beautiful and special. Eli needs help, and Cooper’s family becomes invested. It’s also important that Cady comes to terms with her family troubles and allows her brother the space to rebuild his relationships. There was a lot of hurt there and Cady’s a master at avoiding confrontation. Cooper isn’t about to let her just walk away from his life without giving their friendship a fight.

For a YA romance this isn’t traditional. Eli, Cooper and Cady build a bond that isn’t conventional, and it takes them some time to sort it out. The weekend they share is the beginning of the book, but the relationships they build map out their future, which seems sound. Aside from some lusty thoughts and a bit of kissing, there isn’t any steam. I really liked how naively introspective these kids are. Their lives are opening up in all new ways, and they have appropriate levels of angst. Eli, having had so little love in his life, is so loving himself. He’s hurt by Cady and Cooper, but his capacity for forgiveness is vast, and Cooper is a rock when Eli needs him to be. Cooper’s fledgling assertiveness added stability in a situation that was tenuous. These are all adolescents, and they make impetuous choices. So that felt realistic. I liked the kids and how they drove a new path, one that wasn’t dependent on their respective sexualities, but on their capacity to love each other without bounds.

Interested? You can find THE WEEKEND BUCKET LIST on Goodreads, Interlude Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes and Kobo. I read a review copy via NetGalley.

About the Author:
Mia Kerick is the mother of four exceptional children—all named after saints—and five nonpedigreed cats—all named after the next best thing to saints, Boston Red Sox players. Her husband of twenty-two years has been told by many that he has the patience of Job, but don’t ask Mia about that, as it is a sensitive subject.

Mia focuses her stories on the emotional growth of troubled young people and their relationships, and she believes that physical intimacy has a place in a love story, but not until it is firmly established as a love story. As a teen, Mia filled spiral-bound notebooks with romantic tales of tortured heroes (most of whom happened to strongly resemble lead vocalists of 1980s big-hair bands) and stuffed them under her mattress for safekeeping. She is thankful to Dreamspinner Press, Harmony Ink Press, and CreateSpace for providing her with alternate places to stash her stories.

Mia is a social liberal and cheers for each and every victory made in the name of human rights, especially marital equality. Her only major regret: never having taken typing or computer class in school, destining her to a life consumed with two-fingered pecking and constant prayer to the Gods of Technology.

Where to find Mia online: Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Thanks for popping in, and be sure to check out my fellow Coffeehouse reviewers, and see which books they liked best this month…

Tough Road to FINDING HOME–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a recently released YA story with a touch of M/M romance from Garrett Leigh. FINDING HOME is a touching tale of a troubled teen boy trying to protect himself and his younger, deaf, sister once they fall into the foster care system. I’ve really liked MISFITS, WHAT REMAINS, HOUSE OF CARDS, and JUNKYARD HEART, so I was eager to read this one.

<a href="https://vsreads.files.wordpress.com/2018/01/finding-home.jpg”>About the book:
How do you find a home when your heart is in ashes?
With their mum dead and their father on remand for her murder, Leo Hendry and his little sister, Lila, have nothing in the world but each other. Broken and burned, they’re thrust into the foster care system. Leo shields Lila from the fake families and forced affection, until the Poulton household is the only place left to go.

Charlie de Sousa is used to other kids passing through the Poulton home, but there’s never been anyone like his new foster brother. Leo’s physical injuries are plain to see, but it’s the pain in his eyes that draws Charlie in the most.

Day by day, they grow closer, but the darkness inside Leo consumes him. He rejects his foster parents, and when Charlie gets into trouble, Leo’s attempt to protect him turns violent. When Leo loses control, no one can reach him—except Charlie. He desperately needs a family—a home—and only Charlie can show him the way.

My Review:
This is a contemporary YA story with a hint of M/M romance set in England.

Leo and Lila Hendry were unwilling witnesses to their mother’s murder, and barely survived the fire their abusive father set to their home. At fifteen, Leo’s had a rough life, and his outbursts of temper are causing problems with their foster placements. Getting sent to the Poulton’s home is a last-ditch effort to re-home them together.

Charlie de Sousa has lived with the Poulton’s since he was a toddler. He’s fifteen and out-gay, always struggling to fit in in school. Though the youngest kid in this foster home, Charlie was formally adopted years ago. Still, his parents know how soothing a personality Charlie has, and they hope he can help Leo mellow out. Lila is shy and skittish, but Leo is openly hostile to Charlie’s dad. Something Charlie can’t understand. Both his parents are the most generous and loving people he’s ever known. His mom suffers some hearing loss and all the kids can sign, which helps Lila fit right in–and unsettles Leo.

The more time Charlie spends around Leo, the more he recognizes the signs of PTSD–night terrors and irrational hatred of certain men. He does become a buffer, of sorts, sometimes coming into Leo’s room to lay a comforting hand on him when the nightmares are too fierce. Also, there’s an attraction. Charlie definitely thinks Leo is cute, but he’d never force himself on another boy–he has no idea that Leo feels the same. An unplanned moment of intimacy leads Charlie to make a terrible decision that nearly gets Leo arrested. Just when it looked like Leo had gotten the better of his temper issues, too.

There’s a whole lot to this story that I haven’t mentioned. It’s dark and troubled; the kids all have tough backstories and we get a front-row seat to Leo’s tragic family. The love he feels in the Poulton’s home is enough to draw Leo into therapy for his anger issues, and seems to be the home he’d always dreamed of. I loved the ending of this story, and how fantastically this foster family operates. Charlie and Leo do have a wee bit of passion for Charlie and Leo, but it’s age appropriate and a small part of the narrative. The bigger part is coping with one’s self, and finding a way past tragedy. Charlie’s such a giving kid, and his eagerness to make Leo and Lila welcomed shined through. Expect some pretty graphic scenes–including drinking, fighting and some drug use. It all felt very realistic, and bittersweet. I loved it, honestly.

Interested? You can find FINDING HOME on Goodreads, Riptide Publishing, Amazon Barnes & Noble, iTunes and Kobo. I received a review copy of this book via NetGalley.

About the Author:
Garrett Leigh is an award-winning British writer and book designer, currently working for Dreamspinner Press, Loose Id, Riptide Publishing, and Fox Love Press.

Garrett’s debut novel, Slide, won Best Bisexual Debut at the 2014 Rainbow Book Awards, and her polyamorous novel, Misfits was a finalist in the 2016 LAMBDA awards.

When not writing, Garrett can generally be found procrastinating on Twitter, cooking up a storm, or sitting on her behind doing as little as possible, all the while shouting at her menagerie of children and animals and attempting to tame her unruly and wonderful FOX.

Garrett is also an award winning cover artist, taking the silver medal at the Benjamin Franklin Book Awards in 2016. She designs for various publishing houses and independent authors at blackjazzdesign.com, and co-owns the specialist stock site moonstockphotography.com with renowned LGBTQA+ photographer Dan Burgess.

Otherwise you can find her on her website, twitter or Facebook.