Book Review: Timothy by Greg Herren

Blurb from Bold Strokes Books website: “I shall always be in his shadow, unable to live up to the standard he set at Spindrift, hoping that someday Carlo might love me the way he loved his lost Timothy…”

The memory of Timothy haunts every corner of Spindrift, the beautiful mansion on the Atlantic shore. His face was flawless, his body breathtaking perfection. Everyone who saw him loved him, desired him, wanted him—whether they first laid eyes on him in a magazine ad, on a billboard, or on a box of underwear. No one ever forgot him, once they had passed through his orbit. They remember his wit, intelligence, and sense of style. He was the perfect match for wealthy Carlo Romaniello. Spindrift was the perfect backdrop for the glamorous couple, and the unforgettable, fabulous parties they hosted there. But then tragedy took Timothy, and darkness descended on the beautiful house on the beach. Carlo closed the house, and its secrets remained hidden within.

When Carlo reopens the house as a home for himself and his new young husband, those old secrets begin to creep out into the light. And those secrets might just prove deadly for his new spouse, a young man who has to compete with the memory of the unforgettable Timothy…

Okay, give me a moment to recover before attempting to write this review…………….

Greg Herren has pulled off a wonderful young adult gothic romance in his new novel, Timothy. Fans of the genre will surely love this one, as it takes you to a world of the elite through the eyes of the young main character whose name is never revealed.

Told through his point of view, the narrator, called “Mouse” by his husband, is swept away from his life of work and loneliness into society as we know it today. As readers get to know his new world along with him, their hearts will break as he comes to believe his husband, Carlo, is still in love with his deceased husband, Timothy, who was perfection to all who knew him.

But there is a mystery here, and readers are pulled into it as the narrator’s world starts to unravel. I truly felt for him and at one point had to stop reading because I felt his despair so strongly.

I found it interesting that the narrator is never given his own name. He is so overshadowed throughout a majority of the novel by the dead Timothy that it is like his existence isn’t as important. Clearly it is as he is the narrator, but others are so enamored by the memory that they can’t even speak to him by his given name. And not even he uses his name. This technique reminded me of Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, which was another novel I loved, but for very different reasons. I was also reminded of Sarah Water’s The Little Stranger because of the presence of the house, Spindrift. It is one of the driving elements of the novel, just as Hundreds Hall is in Water’s novel.

In short, I loved this novel. I could write a paper on it, discussing the wonderful qualities it has, comparing it to wonderful works of classic and contemporary literature. I can only hope that Greg Herren writes more novels like this.

Timothy can be purchased from Bold Strokes Books and Amazon.

Book Review: In Stone: A Grotesque Faerie Tale by Jeremy Jordan King

I’ve always loved Faerie Tales (Fairy Tales, however you want to spell it) whether they were the original Grimm stories are watered down Disney versions. I’ve also been on a kick recently with buying retellings of fairy tales for my classroom, as there seems to be a surgence in popularity with them. There is one particular series of books that features amazing stories that takes tales like Sleeping Beauty or The Frog Prince and twists them into other stories.

In Stone: A Grotesque Faerie Tale is not a retelling. It is the authors own story, and he has done a marvelous job. Throughout the novel, readers are given two stories – that of Jeremy, the narrator, from his perspective, and that of Garth from the beginning of his existence, told as if he is telling it to Jeremy.

I will admit, the first time I read the synopsis I was intrigued but upset at the same time. My reason? The narrator’s name is the same as the author’s name. To me it spoke of self-insertion and reminded me of my fanfic days and reading Mary Sue and Gary Stu stories. However, before everyone bristles, let me tell you this: it WORKS. Especially when you read to the end. Like me, you may end up wanting to harass the author to find out if this is true, and he has really experienced all of these things because… well it’s that well written.

From the Bold Strokes Books website:

Jeremy is stuck, like most young New Yorkers, in a world between adolescence and adulthood. Just when he thought that he was an average, blend-in-with-the-crowd gay kid, he becomes the victim of a terrible act of homophobia. Thankfully, a mysterious something comes to his aid. Garth is a gargoyle, trapped in stone and cursed to live an immortal life. Human and monster must become friends and confront the mysterious and magical events of the past that have brought them together.

I loved the story. Jeremy’s tale is a unique one that blends the modern world with that of faerie tales and makes them feel real, as if they are happening around us. It also speaks of a love that traverses time and multiple forms of existence. Each character brings something fantastic to the story. Jeremy is very much your modern young adult living in New York with the same fears about job security as the rest of us. Then you have Garth, who takes his job very seriously and is willing to sacrifice it all for those he cares the most about. And Bryant. I want more of him. I was torn throughout the story between wanting Jeremy to end up with Garth or Bryant, and then when Robbie mentions loving multiple people, I was like yes! That! Awesome!

I really hope that this is not the last story by author Jeremy Jordan King set in this world of his. I want to know more. What happens to Garth, Jeremy and Bryant? What other Immortals are around, and what are their stories? Is the evil cousin truly gone?

This book can be purchased from Bold Strokes Books in their Soliloquy line, or ordered from Amazon.

 

Book Review: The Culling by Steven dos Santos

I love a lot of books, so when people ask me what my favorite is, it is incredibly difficult for me to come up with a title. However, I think now I might finally be able to come up with an easy answer.

In The Culling by Steven dos Santos:

Lucian “Lucky” Spark has been recruited for training by the totalitarian government known as The Establishment. According to Establishment rules, if a recruit fails any level of the violent training competitions, a family member is brutally killed . . . and the recruit has to choose which one.

 

As the five recruits form uneasy alliances in the hellish wasteland that is the training ground, an undeniable attraction develops between Lucky and the rebellious Digory Tycho. But the rules of the training ensure that only one will survive—the strongest recruits receive accolades, wealth, and power while the weakest receive death.

 

With Cole—Lucky’s four-year-old brother—being held as “incentive,” Lucky must marshal all his skills and use his wits to keep himself alive, no matter what the cost.

The Culling portrays a bleak future after an apocalypse that has covered what seems to remain of the world in an Ash that causes many to die at an early age from a terrible coughing disease.

It is clear that Lucian cares very deeply for his little brother, Cole. After losing both parents, Cole is all he has left. When Cassius returns from his training, Lucian is eager to reconnect with his old friend in the hopes the he will help them.

Digory and Lucian are amazing characters who are strongly motivated for their own reasons. Their connection was deep and nearly instant, though it might not be clear to all readers what the connection might be until much later.

Though it is never stated implicitly, Lucian is indeed gay and has feelings for Digory. Their attraction towards each other grows throughout the novel, and despite the horror around them and the bleak outlook for their lives, there are moments of such heart breaking tenderness that I stopped and reread the scenes over to myself many times before moving on. Their shared moment under the stars, the dancing before their graduation ceremony… my heart still aches at the beautiful way the author portrayed these scenes.

I am glad this is the first book in a series, because I am in love. I want more from this author, and my only regret is that I can’t have more right now.

The Culling will be available for purchase on March 8, 2013, but it can be preordered now from Amazon.

Provincetown – Women’s Week Report

This past weekend I had the most amazing opportunity to attend Women’s Week in Provincetown, MA. My publisher, Bold Strokes Books, had panels and book signings. Though I wasn’t able to attend for the entire week, I did go up late on Friday after work and stayed through Sunday. What a weekend!

This was my first time in Provincetown, and I honestly can say I cannot wait to go back. I will most definitely be attending next year if it is in my power to do so. It was great to meet the other authors and readers. One of my former students attended with her two moms, and hanging out with them was such a blast!

Day One

Driving to Ptown was a bit of a haul. I left right after school on Friday and arrived after seven. There was a little traffic, but it wasn’t bad. It was my first time driving alone for that long. It was also my first time going through a toll booth on my own! Haha, boring to many but exciting for me. Once I got to the hotel I checked in – another first for me on my own – and got my room. It was so comfortable! I had a balcony which I didn’t use, but it was nice nevertheless.

I am glad that I didn’t decide to walk on the beach that night I arrived. Harbor Hotel was literally on the ocean. I thought I could cross the rocks and end up on the beach…but that wasn’t the case as I found out the next morning! I would have been going for a swim!

That night I met Barbara Ann Wright, whom I have been stalking on the internet since we both received our contracts from BSB. It was great! She joined me for dinner and we chatted about what I had missed. It was great fun! I finally turned in for bed rather early – after cranking the heat in my frigid room – and crashed for the evening.

Day Two

Not going to lie, I slept in. My bed was so comfortable! I didn’t want to get up, but I did. I met up with Barbara and we walked into the center of Ptown to meet up with my former student and her moms who came up for the event. The walk in was a bit long, but the day was perfect and I enjoyed seeing everything. I got a mocha at Wired Puppy which is a great cafe! While there I met Toni Whitaker, who also works for BSB. After running into the kiddo and her parents we wandered around and shopped.

There’s this great, small used bookstore in Ptown. You have to enter this gate and go down a long walkway, but I loved it! There are quite a few nice books in there, and the LGBT fiction section is quite large, especially compared to the used bookstore I go to. I picked up three books that I loved as ebooks and was thrilled to find in paperback, such as Erastes’s Frost Fair, J.L. Langley’s The Broken H and an anthology I don’t have with Ally Blue in it. I’ve read them all and have them as ebooks, but I enjoyed them so much I’ve wanted them for my bookshelf for years.

The panel I participated in at Gabriel’s was excellent. Carsen Taite moderated, and with me was MJ Williamz, Barbara Ann Wright, Shelley Thrasher, Ali Vali, and Lee Lynch. It was such an honor to be with not only new writers, but accomplished authors like Lee Lynch. Carsen Taite was our moderator, and she asked great questions and was funny, which helped my anxiety!

It had very humorous moments, too. MJ read a rather racy scene from the novel, and my former student is not quite reading those scenes yet, and she turned bright red. All the authors teased her, but it was all in good fun! She has a great sense of humor.

Afterwards we had a signing at Recovering Hearts, which is a wonderful shop. I got to meet more of the authors that I hadn’t met yet, and bought books from everyone that had read on the panel before mine. My student meeting those authors was quite the experience for her, too, as she wants to be a published author as well.

I’ve only signed twice before on my own, and it was fun to work with other authors. For me it was a great experience, too, because it allowed me to see how they interact with readers.

From left to right: MJ Williamz, Ali Vali, Shelley Thrasher, Barbara Ann Wright, and me! Missing from the photo: Lee Lynch

After the signing was wandering, shopping, exploring Ptown, and then dinner.

The following day was just shopping around some more before heading home. I checked out of the hotel and wandered. Got more coffee at Wired Puppy, too!

Overall the trip was fantastic. I cannot wait to go again!

Who wouldn't want to go back to this?

Book Review: Unwind by Neal Shusterman

Also known as the book that scared the crap out of this reader.

It’s not rare that I find a book I love and give it five stars. It is, however, rare, for me to find a book that I love so much, it makes me regret giving those other books five stars, because they just cannot even compare. It’s times like this where I wish there was a + feature to add that to the stars so the book really stands out.

So what is it about this book that makes it stand out so far above the others? First, the characters. They were realistic and changed throughout the story in ways that made me appreciate them even more. Even the characters that I started to hate at first were redeemed at some point in the novel (at least the kids were – not so much the adults). The plot is brilliant and horrifyingly unique. I’ve never read anything that had an idea like this, and I appreciate that. Finally, this is the only book that has legitimately made me cry from FEAR. I felt it as an ache in my chest, and then me, a twenty-seven year old, started to cry for the atrocities that were being committed against the Unwinds right on the page. And not because I felt bad for them, either, but because it genuinely frightened me that a world like this even existed in a book.

Connor is an Unwind who runs away to save himself. Risa is an Unwind who runs when she sees the chance. Lev is a tithe who thinks being unwound is a holy thing. When the three of them meet up, the world they live in will be thrown off course.

Connor may start off as a kid who readers like and dislike, but by the end of the book I, like the other kids, saw him as a hero. The scene that did it for me was the short chapter from the Clappers perspective as Connor is being led to the Chop Shop, he looks up at Risa on the roof, and blows her a kiss. Somehow that just cemented him as a hero in my book. It was so brave, romantic, and terribly sad at the same time.

Risa is a wonderful character who finds that she has more value than others have previously found in her.

And Lev. I think he changes the most. From starting off as a tithe who WANTS to be unwound because it is the purpose in his life to the transformation he undergoes after witnessing CyFi’s breakdown… it’s incredible. And hard to remember that he is only thirteen the entire book.

Finally Roland. He may not be a main character, but it’s a scene with him that had me so frightened. He’s a jerk. No other way to look at it. And I wanted him to get what was coming to him because I thought he deserved it. Until it actually happened. The scene of Roland’s unwinding scared the hell out of me. It wasn’t that it was overly descriptive. But as a reader, you know what’s happening through what Roland sees… or doesn’t see. Like his feet. When he says he looks down but cannot see him, and then they remove the lower half of the table, I knew half of him was gone. And then my brain, lovely thing that it is, zoomed out as if it was a movie and showed him laying on a table, only exisiting from the waist up. And the thought that he was a) kept concious during the unwinding and b) the doctor’s treated him like a nonexistent specimen just made me feel sick. In fact, I feel sick again thinking about it!

I cannot recommend this book highly enough.

The Next Seven Days…

This week I feel like I’ve been terribly forgetful. In fact, I KNOW I have been. There’s just been so much on my mind that it’s hard to focus on any one thing, and as a result, a lot goes out of my mind!

Yesterday was the final tryout for my Odyssey of the Mind teams and after much deliberation and careful consideration, I was able to narrow down the 18 to my final 14 students. It was hard. All the kids that tried out were great and could bring different things to the program, but I can only have up to 7 students per team, and I’m already insane to take on two teams by myself.

Today we had field day. It was a BLAST. I cannot tell you how much fun I had. At my old school, field day was for some students, while the others and teachers just lounged around and watched. Not so here. At OCS, students are put into buddy groups from grades 5-8. There were 11 stations at a park we went to, and the students got about 10 minutes playing each of the games. I was in charge of the Capture the Flag field. CRAZY! Our section of the field was soaked by yesterdays rain and near the trees. Students from every team slipped in the slick grass and fell into it, but they had so much fun. I laughed so hard and got great pictures for the yearbook. I also nearly lost my voice from yelling and cheering so hard the entire time we were there. Oh, and don’t worry, I got soaked too. The water went up my jeans before I realized what was happening. But the fun was worth it!

My book was chosen as the October read for the YA LGBT Books group on Goodreads.

This weekend I’ll be working at the consignment shop and since it’s a sidewalk sale, my boss is setting me up to sell my books. Exciting! That’s this Saturday and Sunday. Monday we have off and I promised my students I’d go to the Book Barn to get more traditional fantasy books. I agree – not enough.

Tuesday I have a book talk at CCSU after school from 4:30 until 6.

And then Friday I’ll be heading to P-Town for Women’s Week!

So much coming up, it’s really no wonder I’m losing my thoughts!