Goodreads Giveaway!

Not only does the giveaway allow you to enter for a free copy of Andy Squared, but it also serves as a countdown for the books release! If you have a Goodreads account, enter to win today!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Andy Squared by Jennifer Lavoie

Andy Squared

by Jennifer Lavoie

Giveaway ends September 18, 2012.

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Book Review: Swimming to Chicago by David-Matthew Barnes

I’m having a hard time writing a review for this because I want to do it justice, yet I’m afraid my words won’t be sufficient. There were so many beautiful pieces of imagery that stuck out and followed the characters throughout the book that it really is a remarkable piece. Though tragedy strikes the characters, they get through it, together.

First, the pink and white sandals, flowers, and everything else that seems to follow Jillian around. It shows a sense of innocence, and yet her actions are far from. But at the same time, she is innocent because she isn’t completely aware of her actions and what chaos they will cause.

Then there is the way the characters are brought together, particularly Alex and Robby, as well as John and Martha. Alex loses his mother, and in walks Robby. He’s clearly a fragile person who has suffered at the hands of others, and Alex, fresh from his grief over finding his mother having committed suicide, he clings to Robby. Here is someone he can protect and keep safe, unlike his mother. Likewise, John, having just lost his wife, it isn’t surprising when he falls for Martha, a woman who is in a terrible relationship and looking for some way out.

While some may not believe the relationships, especially Alex and Robby, I thought it was very real. In times of grief, people do what they can to protect themselves. Alex was angry that he couldn’t help his mother, but he can help Robby, or so he thinks.

I thought their relationship was beautiful. I just wish more had been told from their point of view.

Really well done, but as I said before, my words fail to express how beautiful this novel was.

Swimming to Chicago is available for sale Bold Strokes Books and Amazon in paperback and e-book form.

Book Review: OMGQueer by Radclyffe and Katherine E. Lynch, PhD.

This is a much different book review from what I’ve written before, because I’m writing my reactions to each of the stories as I go.

OMGQueer is an anthology of short stories by queer youth that has been put together by Radclyffe and Katherine E. Lynch, PhD. The stories are varied in content and voice, and for that reason I chose to write about my reactions to each one. I felt there was no way to justify just saying the book was amazing and leaving it at that.

These authors are young. Some may be close to my twenty-seven years of age, but others are likely even younger. And they are definitely names to watch out for in the future. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to see some of them start publishing their own full-length novels in the near future. So here we go, a review of eighteen incredible, yet incredibly different, short stories. I’ll try to be, well, short.

Oh, and there might be spoilers for some of the stories. So, you’ve been warned.

“Jelson” by Brenna Harvey

WOW. This story blew me away. I loved the idea presented and found myself believe it, and the voice of the narrator was perfect. Jelson is the name of the best friend of the narrator, who happens to be a Swop. In this story, a Swop is a person who can change their gender at will. (Kind of like if you saw that movie Zerophilia, except in the movie it’s not really at all…) Jelson is able to change from boy to girl and back again whenever s/he wants to. By the end something more interesting is revealed about the narrator and Jelson. I loved the revelations and thought it was brilliantly executed. This is an author to look out for.

Maybe some more books with this idea? I’m all for that!

“The Tea Bowl” by Justine F. Lane

Any story that takes place in Japan, especially involving English teachers, is going to pique my interest. This one did just that. The end of the story isn’t sad, however it does have a wistful tone to it. In reading this, it felt almost like a memoir to me, and I wondered if the author actually did experience this. Well-written and while not overtly exciting, it is a wonderful story about longing for something one cannot always obtain and the complexity of love.

“The Piano Player” by Thomas Graziano

Will falls for a boy after hearing him play the piano at his grandmother’s funeral, and then runs into him on campus while he is doing just that – playing the piano. The story is sweet and light, despite the sad opening. I especially liked the pact Will and Tiffany had made about turning 40. I wonder just how many teens make pacts like that. I know I did, and it gave me a connection to the narrator.

“Crystal Crisis” by A.J. Slater

A story where girl falls for her friend that is dating a guy, and takes readers from the past to the present to tell the story. I enjoyed that part the most about it. Seeing Ryan’s story from what it was like for her in high school to where she is now gives hope to the reader that even when things are bad, they will eventually get better. The one part that bothered me was just because of my profession. When Ryan and Crystal are being tormented and the teacher doesn’t notice, and then when it gets even worse, there is no teacher around. As a teacher who doesn’t tolerate anything like that, it made me cringe, and it worries me that teachers like in this story actually do exist out there.

“A Tale of Modern Magic” by Olivia Dziwak

This one made me grin the entire time. The narrator is funny and awkward in a way that I’m sure most of us (at least I hope I’m not the only one) have been as teens. Especially aorund someone we are crushing on. In the midst of a World AIDS Day celebration, two teens who have barely spoken to each other find themselves working together, talking, and discovering they have some things in common besides their Polish backgrounds. I loved the writing. It, like the tale, felt magical.

“Indulge Me” by Ashley Bartlett

Interesting piece. I liked it, and felt that it was both too old for this volume and yet perfect for it at the same time. The narrator thinks she’s amazing, as many young adults do, and at the same time finds she’s not really all that. This story is very obviously written by a young adult, but it has qualities that make me think the author is older as well because of how reflective it is while being self-assuring at the same time.

“Ignite the Sky” by Julie R. Sanchez

This story goes from the present to the past and back again, but in a different way from the previous story that did. It doesn’t stay focused on two points in time. No. It goes over multiple days, which I found interesting. I did feel, however, that the story was cut short. What happens to the two girls at the end? Do they have a destination? Do they turn back? I would be interested in finding out.

“A Round Trip” by Warren Smith III

I grinned the whole time. If I had my way, I would have a romance like this one. Just a moment of connection with a person that turns into a spontaneous day of adventure. I didn’t want this story to end. I wanted to see more between Zack and Ethan. Lovely story, and written in what felt like an older style that was still incredibly effective.

“Butch Fatale” by Kirsty Logan

I think this might have been the shortest one so far, but I might be wrong. It just felt that way. I did like the relationship between Bex and the narrator, and the passage of time shows how good friends don’t have to be together all the time for their friendship to remain strong and for things to go back to the way they were before change is introduced. At least that’s how I read it. 🙂

“Pool of Sorrow” by Sam Sommer

I felt nostalgic while reading this, for a time that I could not have known, having been born in 1985. That’s how well written this piece was. It brought alive a time for me that I have never known. But it was also heartbreakingly sad. The boys – Teddy and AJ – are brought together because no one else is around during the summer, and while AJ knows his feelings for Teddy, we don’t know how Teddy feels about him. The ending was perfect for the length of the piece.

“My Lips” by Joseph Aviv

I feel repetitive and like I have nothing of value to say, but again, I LIKED the story. No, actually I loved it. I loved how the narrator ages, and we see how he changes through the actions of his lips. It was very well done and honestly not something I would have expected from this anthology. I think this one may be one of my favorites. I would like to read more from this writer.

“Fighting for Lies” by Aimee Lukes

Another story that shows that not everything is perfect in this world and we don’t always get what we want. Or that not everyone is honest with themselves. Painful yet honest story and well worth the read.

“There Was a Knocking on the Door” by Andrew Arslan

Is this one really a story or was it a memoir? Because it felt so real. I could feel the tension between the narrator and his parents. I understood his pain in having his mother repeatedly call him stupid, and his anger at his father’s hypocritical “acceptance” of anyone gay, unless it’s his own son. However, the ending had a hopeful note, and it made me feel less despair.

“My Aahna” by Ariana Montoya

Heartbroken. How I felt after reading this one. I really had hoped it would have a happier ending, but I know not all stories, unfortunately, have them. It was still beautifully written and I loved the narrator’s last words to her roommate, Aahna.

“First Time” by Archer Darke

Sophisticated yet young at the same time. I thought the elegance of the evening combined with the fast food was a fantastic touch that made it much more realistic and romantic at the same time. I also liked the dialogue because it was authentic to me. Two young people enjoying a moment together, yet each seems to parrot what the other is saying. However, at the same time this is definitely a story for older readers. I’m not used to sexual situations such as this one being in books for teens. Most of what I’ve read before fades to black and lets the readers imagination take over. This one most certainly doesn’t.

“Hella Nervous” by Rebekah Weatherspoon

Love love loved this one! Tracy and Oksana are very different characters that are drawn to each other. Maybe because of their differences? Either way, I liked that Tracy, the narrator, had a crush on Oksana for as long as she did. And I loved how everything turned out. The ending was adorable and perfect. Also, the ethnicity of Oksana was fantastic. I wish more books and stories were proud to show characters with different backgrounds.

“Chili Powder” by Anna Meadows

I liked that this story incorportated Spanish words, and while many of them I knew, for others I was confused about the context. When I asked my friend who speaks Spanish, she was also confused with some of them as well, as she had not seen them used in such a manner. However, I did like the characters and even though it’s brief, the beginning of their relationship is sweet. (Or should I say spicy?)

“Graduation” by Brighton Bennett

Pardon me for a moment while I curl up in a ball and cry for the wistful feelings I have after reading this one. How many of us have wanted to have another try or just one more time with a former boyfriend/girlfriend? How many of us have wondered, what if? This story gives the readers just that, with a conclusion that is both fulfilling and heartbreaking for reader and characters alike. A great ending to this anthology.

Overall I would have to say this anthology was fantastic. Especially after reading the varied accomplishments of the young authors of these stories in the contributors section at the end of the book. I applaud their efforts, and the editors who put this together. Absolutely a must read. I look forward to more from these authors.

Book Review: The Secret of Othello by Sam Cameron

Okay, so I was approved for a copy on NetGalley… and I was going to wait to read it, really I was… but I had it in my hands and HAD to read it. So I did.

AND I REGRET NOTHING.

First of all, I highly recommend reading the first book, Mystery of the Tempest: A Fisher Key Adventure, before reading this one. There are some situations alluded to in this book that happen in the first that might not make sense to new readers. However, they are few and I believe it COULD stand alone. But why would you want to read this and not the first? It was amazing and I have been waiting for the sequel since the first book was even announced! … if that makes sense…

As for this book, it stands up. The intrigue and mystery is just as good as in the first, and I was literally up all night reading it. I just couldn’t put it down.

Steven and Denny are great characters, and I was so excited to see more of Sean and Brian. Steven gets himself – yet again – into serious trouble with the girls (THREE of them this time), and Denny has trouble in his first relationship with a guy. He’s not sure of himself, and his awkward responses are hilarious but sweet.

I also loved Denny’s melodramatic responses to everything. He quite frequently announces that he’s going to go drown himself, and once even jumps off the boat and starts to swim away. I was laughing out loud quite often.

Irma and Ed are great additions as well. I would love to see more of them in the next book.

Did I mention next book? Yes I did, because there WILL be a third. There is a sample at the end, and the book ends on a cliffhangar that had me ready to throw my Kindle across the room.

If you’re a teen fan of mystery, check out this series. If you like reading about gay teens struggling to accept themselves and come out, Denny is a great character. No matter what, everyone should find something they like in these characters. From the twins’ father to their Aunt Riza, all the characters are fascinating and realistic.

This book will be available for purchase on September 18, 2012 from Bold Strokes Books. You can preorder from them here, or through Amazon.

Two Months To Go!!!

Today officially makes just TWO MONTHS until my first YA novel, Andy Squared is released from Bold Strokes Books!  I’m so excited! You can preorder the book on Amazon OR from the publisher. And know what’s cool? If you order it from the publisher, the book ships earlier! Who wouldn’t want that?

Today was also important for me because I had an interview at the CT Humane Society in Newington. I was interviewing two important people from the Society on policy and procedure for shelters. What I hope will be my second book, Second Chances, takes place in an animal shelter, and I needed more information.

These two amazing ladies – Alicia Wright and Melissa Zaluski – were very kind to take time out of their busy schedules and answer my many questions. I was also given a tour of the facility!

If you’re in the Connecticut area and are looking to adopt, contact the CT Humane Society in Newington. They’re a great place that truly cares about the animals. Or you can get involved! Just check out their website.

Not looking to adopt or volunteer? You can still help out! They have an extensive wish list with materials they are always looking for. Even just a single toy will make some animals day more exciting!

Mermaid: The Body Found Documentary

I’ve been watching the Mermaid: The Body Found documentary on the Discovery Channel. I pray it’s not faked, because this is fascinating.

Also excellent is the discussion I’ve had with a student while watching the program. I would love to teach a course on alternate evolutionary theories.

For example: Could merpeople really exist? There is evidence that certains species of whales are evolved from canine forms that entered the ocean. And is that is possible, why not an ape/human like species?

The program brings up good points. We have partial webbing between our fingers, yet apes do not. Human infants when tossed in the water at birth can instinctively hold their breathes, yet primate infants cannot. We have more flexible spines, like those of aquatic mammals.

The program claims that the reason for this is because for a time, the primates we evolved from moved to the coast for food. They adapted to the environment, and when it became necessary, moved back inland, retaining some of those features. But a separate group moved into the sea and evolved further over time.

I can believe it.

There are other programs that claim we are genetic engineering from ancient astronauts, and that is why there is a “missing link.” Because these engineers from the past took what they had, mixed it with our DNA, and created us.

I can also believe that.

I mean, why not? There is so much we don’t know about our world. So many new species are STILL being found. So, why not test every theory?

My one question is this: What would the religious institutions around the world do if Merpeople really do exist?

Book Review: Mesmerized by David-Matthew Barnes

First off, whoa. I hope you’re ready for an emotional ride with this book. It packs a punch that will leave you breathless, giddy, and full of hope.

If I wasn’t already fairly close to my siblings, this book would have me reaching out to them in a heartbeat. In fact, even though we are close, I almost put the book down to go hang out with them.

Serena is a high school senior who, before the start of the book, loses her brother to a hate crime. He is brutally murdered and left in the gutter because he’s gay. At the start of the book, Serena knows virtually nothing about who he was, and her parents are stuck in a catatonic state.

Through a series of events that can only be described as fate, Serena befriends hot boy Brodie and they meet Lance. Because of these meetings, Serena starts to learn more about the brother she had, and wishes more than anything she could have him back to talk to him.

My heart broke throughout the book for Serena and her family. Seeing her suffering from the loss was painful, but at the same time, watching the love of Brodie and Lance unfold through her eyes was beautiful. I could feel how intense it was by the words the author uses to describe their looks, their movements, and every other last detail.

Secrets are revealed throught the book, and I won’t ruin them here, but let’s just say I stayed up very late to finish it. I just couldn’t go to sleep without knowing what happened. In the end, Serena finds the courage to confront her brother’s killer with the help of her brother’s best friend, boyfriend, and her mother.

Also, the ending scenes with The Showdown? I would pay seriously good money to see this as a movie because of that scene. Barnes chose the PERFECT song for the dance sequence, and it was running through my head throughout it. So beautiful.

Do yourself a favor. Get this book. Read it. And then go hang out with your siblings and get to know who they REALLY are.

Mesmerized is available for purchase on the Bold Strokes Books website, or through Amazon.

Book Review: Boys of Summer, edited by Steve Berman

Boys of Summer is the perfect collection of short stories for a hot summer day. After reading it – particularly the last story, “Wheat, Barley, Lettuce, Fennel, Salt for Sorry, Blood for Joy,” I had the strongest urge to go swimming in the ocean.

Sadly, a pool had to suffice.

Each story looks at different aspects of summer: vacationing, working, reminiscing on school. You name it. But the one thing they all have in common? Cute gay boys looking for love.

“Bark If You Like Boys” by Sam Cameron features some characters that may be familiar to readers if they have read the authors book Mystery of the Tempest. Denny Anderson, one of the twins, has a short role.

I loved the first story in the collection, “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Swamp Thing.” It reminded me of being in Maine with my family. I liked both characters, Shane and Chase, and wish there was a full-length novel with their story. Chase is socially awkward in a way because of his love for amphibians, and Shane desperately wants to fit in. Who doesn’t know that feeling? In the end, as unlikely as it may seem, the two hit it off and discover they have other things in common.

The book is a fast read because of the short nature of the stories. It’s just enough to read one while sitting in the hot summer sun, sip on iced tea, and then go for a dip in the pool or inside to cool off before reading another one. Or you can just read them in one go.

Boys of Summer is available for sale through the Bold Strokes Books website or through Amazon.

Avengers: In which I will ATTEMPT a review but… basically just spazz…

I finally saw the Avengers movie on Sunday. And then again on Monday.

It was amazing.

So amazing, in fact, it has taken over the top spot in my favorite movies. Yes, that’s right, Transformers, move over. Bumblebee, I still love you, but Hawkeye was just too amazing… too… HAWKEYE! for me to keep Transformers up there.

For those that haven’t seen it, why not?! There is so much humor in it. The one-lines are HILARIOUS. Thor is hysterical. The banter between Thor, Iron Man, and Captain America is incredible, and the fight between Thor and Hulk is just legendary.

And then you have Hawkeye being all incredible with his amazing bow and awesome arrows and SHOOTING OVER HIS SHOULDER WITHOUT LOOKING.

Have I mentioned I love Hawkeye?

And let’s not forget Black Widow. She’s kickass. I typically do not like female characters because of how they’re portrayed, but she was fantastic. I liked that she had a bit of a softer side when it came to Hawkeye, but at the same time was a strong, fierce woman. And she tricks Loki, the trickster god. What’s NOT to love about that?

If you do go, stay through the entire credits. The final scene is a riot, even if no words are spoken. And of course there is a teaser for a sequel in there. Can I say I want it right now? Because… I want it right now.

Okay, so we have Captain America, Thor, Iron Man 1 and 2, The Incredible Hulk… and Captain America 2, Thor 2, and Iron Man 3 in the works. Can I get a Hawkeye movie, please? 😀