Reviewer for The Novel Approach

I decided I would share the links to reviews I do for The Novel Approach on my blog, as the books I get a chance to read are great. I also post the reviews on Goodreads, but these links will redirect you to The Novel Approach. I will also keep a list through my review pages.

Keep in mind, unless otherwise noted, these books are for mature audiences, and as such readers should be warned.

The Sensualist and the Untouched by Susan Laine – 12/26/14

Green the Whole Year ‘Round by Rowan McAllister – 12/31/14

On Wings of Song by Anne Barwell – 1/4/15

A Spartan Love by Kayla Jameth – 1/7/15

Slave Eternal by Nasia Maksima – 1/10/15

The Year In Review! Books – 2014 edition

Continuing the tradition from last year, I recount the books I’ve read over the course of 2014. While last year I read a ridiculous 141 books, this year I did not come that far. I did read quite a lot, though, and many of them due to graduate school. I mean seriously. The two courses I took this year were filled with books, and many of them I completely enjoyed. So let’s review, shall we?

Total books read: 128

Not bad considering my original goal was 110, but I fell behind so I dropped it back to 100!

First book of the year: Souvenir Boys by David-Matthew Barnes

I had forgotten about this one! This is why I love this process. This is a book of poetry by fellow Bold Strokes Books author David-Matthew Barnes who has some amazing YA novels that I’ve reviewed here before. I enjoyed this book of poetry as well. My favorite poem was “Dear Mr. Sanchez” from this collection. It even inspired me to write some of my own poems, one of which I submitted for publication but which was rejected. Sad face. You can read my review right here on this site!

Last book of the year: In His Arena #1: Slave Eternal by Nasia Maksima

What a great end to the year! I reviewed this book for The Novel Approach Reviews, which I was recently accepted to as a reviewer. This book was fantastic. As a fan of Spartacus I enjoy stories with gladiators, and since I love Agron and Nasir, I thought this would be perfect. While totally different because it has fantasy elements, I adored this book. At this moment the review isn’t posted for The Novel Approach Reviews, however you can read my review on Goodreads here.

Adult books read: 47 (I think. Mature graphic novels and classic fiction not included.)

Favorite: This is a tough call. I really enjoyed Valerie Bronwen’s Slash and Burn, but I ended the year on such a strong note with Slave Eternal. I guess I’ll stick with both of those!

Teen books read: 6 (not including manga, of which there was a lot).

Favorite: I feel like this number should be higher. Oh well. But my favorite was definitely I Kill the Mockingbird by Paul Acampora. It’s the book I wish I had written. Not only is it about students who are obsessed with To Kill a Mockingbird, but it takes place in Connecticut! And the author is also a Bristol native, like me!

Children’s books read: 6 (More were read to my younger students, however many of them are not listed online so I didn’t include them.)

Favorite: Definitely One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia. Having gotten into recycling plastic bags and turning them into useful products, this book was awesome. I did an environmental project for my school based on plastic bags, so this was fantastic.

Manga read: 42

Favorite: Attack on Titan series by Hajime Isayama

I completely blame my students on this one. They kept talking about this series and begging me to get it for them so I reluctantly agreed to buy the first one to preview for myself as I knew it was a violent series.

FOURTEEN VOLUMES LATER I’m all caught up. WHAT AN EMOTIONAL RIDE! Characters die left and write, it’s incredibly gruesome, but I love the characters! Jean and Levi have grown to be my favorites. Volume fourteen left on such a cliffhanger I freaked out because the next volume doesn’t come out until APRIL. My student who is reading it keeps bothering me about the book, even though there’s nothing I can do to make it come faster.

Graphic Novels read: 2

Favorite: I only read two and while both were good, they weren’t favorites I suppose. Sisters by Raina Telgemeier was cute and a graphic novel memoir. Soppy by Philippa Rice was cute and simple in it’s drawings, but enjoyable.

LGBT books read (adult and teen, not including manga): 48

Favorites: Why do I do this to myself? So many of the books I read over the year were great. I ended strong with Slave Eternal, and Sweetwater by Lisa Henry was pretty phenomenal as well. And really interesting and different was Pet to the Tentacle Monsters! by Lilia Ford. Really great year for LGBT books!

Nonfiction books read: 14

Favorite: More tough decisions as each of the books had something great to offer. I think maybe my favorite would be Why Is Sex Fun? The Evolution of Human Sexuality by Jared Diamond. I read it for my Spring semester course and it was a fascinating look at how human sexuality has evolved since our earliest ancestors and what drives humans today. It really was fascinating.

Books read for Graduate school: 16

Favorite: Hard to choose as both of my courses offered fantastic books. I loved Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. Not only was the edition amazing, but I was so obsessed with the book I read every single annotation and then watched the miniseries. I also adored Maurice by EM Forster which I had read and enjoyed before. For my Fall course I really enjoyed The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner, and I renewed my love for The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I cannot wait for my next course!

 

Tristant and Elijah – OFFICIALLY RELEASED!

So excited! Tristant and Elijah has officially been released everywhere and so far the reviews are great! Head on over to the reviews section of the page to see more, but here’s a few excerpts!

I truly loved the supportive role that Tristant played for Elijah in his journey. Elijah’s anguish, and Tristant’s empathy and kindness are palpable. These two are really tender boys–and I’m glad that they found each other. – Veronica from V’s Reads

 

I found the story to be relevant and one we can all relate to. Many of us have had the experience of having a crush on someone we cannot have. – Amos Lassen

 

Have you read Tristant and Elijah? Let me know what you think! I’d love to hear from you!

 

YA Recommendations hosted on Women and Words

The other day – Tuesday really – I was approached by Jove Belle over at Women and Words to for a blog post on young adult fiction for middle school age girls coming out.

Now, I’ve read a lot of LGBT fiction, but it’s actually hard to find age appropriate lesbian fiction for middle school! I mean, there are tons of books out there, but so many have mature themes that not all readers are ready for.

But, thankfully I do have some books that fit the bill, and I was happy to provide a short list of six books for the website. And now I’m on the hunt for more books! I’d love to do a follow up guest blog!

You can read my recommendations over at Women and Words.

Book Review: Slash and Burn by Valerie Bronwen

The Angels and Demons Literary Weekend brings former New Orleans resident Winter Lovelace back to town from her gig as writer-in-residence at a prestigious women’s college in upstate New York. Winter desperately needs a break from the book she is struggling to finish, and hopes that this weekend will inspire her and trigger her creativity.

 But while waiting for a friend in a hotel courtyard, a body lands at her feet, and Winter is dragged into a baffling mystery quite against her will. The victim is a notorious “m/m romance” author who is also a homophobe, and the list of people who wanted her dead is quite extensive. Winter herself is considered a suspect! 

 To make matters worse, Winter’s ex shows up to cover the story for a local news station…an ex Winter had hoped she’d never see again.

Move over Stephanie Plum! (Okay, I probably shouldn’t say that as I’ve never read a Janet Evanovich book, but whatever, still move over) There’s a new detective (sort of, accidentally) in town! In this first novel by Valerie Bronwen, Tracy Norris comes to life on the page as a teacher and mystery writer of a best-selling series about Laura Lassiter. She’s also a best-selling lesbian romance author on the side under the penname Winter Lovelace. When she goes to New Orleans for a writing convention, little does she know she’s about to have a body land at her feet. Literally.

I loved this story. I wish there was another one right now because I wouldn’t even be writing this review now, I’d just immediately dig into it. Tracy is an unforgettable narrator with a sharp sense of humor. I found myself quite frequently either laughing or biting my lip from being too loud. I may have even snorted a few times.

Anyone who has ever been deeply involved in a fandom needs to read this book. There’s always that ONE PERSON who thinks they are the god of that world, and in this book you have Antinous Renault. From the first page I wanted to punch her face, and reading more about her just made me think of all the people I’d encountered in my various fandoms over the years.

Who needs to read this book? Quite frankly, everyone. Like mystery? Read it. Like reading about authors and their struggles? Read it. Like lesbian authors? Read it. Like m/m romance? Read it. Have no idea how crazy some writers can be? Read it. Ever in a fandom with the BNF that everyone loathed? Read it.

I can’t wait for the next Valerie Bronwen book. You can bet it will be preordered the minute there is a release date!

This book can be ordered from Bold Stokes Books right here.

Book Review: Souvenir Boys by David-Matthew Barnes

This collection of previously published and award-winning poems explores the themes of seduction, obsession, lust, desire, and unrequited love.

I’ve read David-Matthew Barnes before and I enjoy his young adult and adult fiction. This is the first poetry I’ve read of his, and I must say I enjoyed it. Each of the poems in this collection is very personal and tells a story. They’re written with different styles, and though they all have similar themes, it’s never redundant.

A few of the poems stood out to me and I highlighted them in the book. “Paper Boy” really resonated with me because I was a paper girl when I was younger, and I felt much the same way. The poem really captures that feeling of being alone and free and contemplating the future. I was twelve when I had my first paper route, and I remember biking along dreaming up what my life would be like, especially since I was “sophisticated” and had a job.

“Souvenir Boy,” where the title I assume comes from, stood out to me because of the last lines “Although we’ve come close, there are more than hot white seconds between us – there lies a lost country or two.”

“Look for Homer” felt so much like a fantasy to me, I wondered if this really happened. I got lost in the poem and placed myself there on Mylopotas Beach, and at the end I was sorry for the poem to end, and sorry for the poet to leave.

“Dear Mr. Sanchez” might be my favorite. I really loved the style this one was written in. As a letter, it’s so effective in getting the meaning across and translating the poets emotions to the readers. I’ve reread it several times and have started my own poem using this form now.

“Celebrity Skin” felt like another fantasy to me, and I wanted to drop the book and email the poet right away and ask if it was real and if it were, who the person in question was. It was deliciously scandalous, like something you’d read in a novel.

This book is currently only available as an ebook and can be purchased on Amazon here. Though I would like it to be known that I would purchase a print copy if this were to become available.

The Year In Review! Books

2013 was a great year for reading. Despite being busy at the beginning of the year at my new teaching job, and this fall starting grad school, I read a lot.

And by a lot I mean a RIDICULOUS amount of books. My goal on the Goodreads site was for 100 books. The same I’ve had for the last several years. Usually I beat the record by a few. Maybe a dozen at most. But this year I read 141 books.

Umm…when did I have time? Seriously? There was so much work I did, including an editing FRENZY of Meeting Chance in three days due to deadlines outside of the control of my editor.

So, let me take a look back, and take a trip down memory lane.

First book of the year: Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion

Ahh! I remember this now! Wow, how long ago this was. I started the book on January 1 and finished it the next day. I started reading it because of the movie, and I was curious to see how the two matched up. I read the book first, and then received free tickets to see the preview of the film. Both excellent, even if different. What a great start to the year!

Last book of the year: Gardens Where No One Will See by T.C. Mill

An interesting story with a m/m romance at the center of the fantasy story. It was short and I think it would have been better as a longer novel, but still worth the read.

Adult books read: 53 (not including more mature manga)

Favorite: Letters from a Murder by John Matthews. I reviewed it here as well. I just really enjoyed it, despite there being no LGBT content, which is my typical fair. Either way, I can’t wait for a sequel because the characters are phenomenal.

Teen books read: 23 (although this might be a bit subjective, as some books might be considered younger readers)

Favorite: Fire and Ash by Jonathan Maberry. My students and I were waiting for this book since last year, and it did not disappoint. The last book in the Benny Imura series and it goes out with a bang. I was literally screaming and cheering at one point it was so crazy.

Children’s books read: 20

Favorite: 43 Old Cemetery Road: The Phantom of the Post Office by Kate Klise. I loved this book. As the fourth installment of the series, it was not only my favorite of the bunch, but my favorite children’s book of the year. Old and new characters, all of them great, and this book is all about writing letters and enjoying writing. Perfect!

Manga read: 44 (unless I miscounted by one)

Favorite: This is almost impossible, like the others. But I enjoyed every single Sailor Moon volume I read. I think of them, the best is Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon volume 12. Sure, it’s the last one, but it was great because I got to see some forms of the senshi that aren’t available in the anime. I also enjoyed seeing how things ended between Usagi and Mamoru, and the beginning of Chibi Usa. Ahh…my childhood.

Graphic Novels read: 5

Favorite: Even though there were only five, it was still really hard to choose. Each of them had their merit. Possibly Page by Paige by Laura Lee Gulledge. I enjoyed the art and the way the narrator “draws” her own story. I also know that my students read it quite a few times each.

LGBT books read (adult and teen): 50

Favorites: I had to split it between adults and teens, and even then it’s pretty impossible to choose. Most of them were excellent. For adults, I think I’d have to say For Want of a Fiend by Barbara Ann Wright. It’s the sequel to The Pyramid Waltz, and I was waiting for it since I finished the first book! A review can be found on my site here.

For teens, another tough decision, but I’m going with Night Creatures by Jeremy Jordan King. I also reviewed this book on my site. And like the last book, it’s a sequel to a series I love. Technically it’s more New Adult than teen, but whatever. It’s still a great book that follows my favorite supporting character from the first book as the main character in this one.

Nonfiction books read: 7

Favorite: This might sound surprising, but this one is actually tough for me. I enjoyed all the nonfiction books I read, even if there weren’t many, and they were all vastly different. That said, I think the one that stuck with me the longest is Compact Houses: 50 Creative Floor Plans for Well-Designed Small Homes. I know, it probably sounds strange, but I actually did enjoy the book and read it cover to cover. I was given a copy to review on NetGalley and I became obsessed with it. I even found what I hope will be my future home in that book, and for that reason I must obtain a physical copy. The book has beautiful homes, each one unique. Not only are they compact in size, but they have wonderful, green features to make the housing more affordable. I learned a lot about lighting and space-saving designs as well, and have decided that my future home will have a central atrium and built in bookshelves.

 

Book Review: Night Creatures by Jeremy Jordan King

It’s 1981, and Bryant thinks his move to New York will be the beginning of a new life. But the men he meets are being threatened by a mysterious illness. Could transforming into a Night Creature save him and his loved ones from certain death? Book Two of The Immortal Testimonies travels back in time to the gay community’s darkest days.

 

Since I finished the first book in this series, In Stone, I have been dying to get my hands on the sequel/prequel, especially when I found out the main character was going to be Bryant, my favorite side character in the first book.

In this book, readers meet Bryant before he’s been turned into a vampire. The time is the 1980s, right at the start of the AIDs crisis, and Bryant has just moved to New York City. He enjoys his life, but when an encounter with a mysterious man in a bath house leaves him sick, he freaks out. First he thinks it’s the flu, and then, when his lover and other friends start dying, he realizes it’s much worse.

Except, he’s not affected.

In comes Jonathan, the man from the bath house. One of the Immortals. What follows is an adventure as Bryant learns to adjust to his new life as he erases his old identity and tries desperately to stop AIDs from taking more lives.

This book was amazing. I mean, seriously. It really packs a hard punch, especially with the descriptions of the beginning of the AIDs crisis when doctors didn’t know what they were dealing with. Told from Bryant, it was so realistic I felt like I was living through it with him. What made it more chilling was the way the author didn’t just immediately say what was happening. Because no one did know at the time. We know now, and reading it, knowing what’s happening and what’s going to happen to everyone who gets sick… well, it was heartbreaking. I think this book is incredibly important for young adults because so many don’t understand the AIDs crisis and what it really meant to everyone. It’s been so many years that most – if not all – of those first impacted have died, and these young adults are seeing a world where AIDs may not have a cure yet, but has treatments, and being told you have it is not an immediate death sentence like it was in the 80s.

I cannot wait for the next book in the series. You do not need to read In Stone first in order to enjoy this book, but I would anyway.

This book is available for purchase from Bold Strokes Books.

Book Review: Letters from a Murderer by John Matthews

New York, 1891: a rapidly changing city, torn between lamplight and electric light, where the burgeoning steel and railway industries attract a flood of humanity from every corner of the globe, fuelling cut-throat gangs, corruption and vice.

A prostitute is found brutally murdered. Immediately fear starts to spread. The victim bears the same hallmarks as Jack the Ripper’s recent killing spree in England. Could it be that the Ripper has crossed the Atlantic to fresh killing grounds? Or is this simply a copycat murder?

To solve the case, one of the original English Ripper pathologists, Finley Jameson, is teamed up with Joseph Argenti, one of the new ‘untouchable’ detectives, hand-picked by a New York Mayor eager to fight corruption.

But Michael Tierney, the city’s leading gangster, has his own ideas about how the city should be run. And as the body-count rises, and Jameson & Argenti are taunted by the killer in open letters, they find themselves fighting not just to save the next victim, but for the city’s very soul.

To get this book, you need to add the following things in a blender: Sherlock Holmes, New York City, Jack the Ripper, and Gangs of New York. Add a dash of unique and excellent characterization and you have one explosive novel that will not let you put it down until you’re finished, no matter how tired you may be.

Argenti and Jameson are excellent characters that must follow Jack the Ripper as he terrorizes New York City. Jameson, a former investigator of the Ripper murders in London, has moved to New York. The Ripper seems to have followed him there. Argenti, an investigator from NYC, is one of the few cops left who haven’t been corrupted by the crime boss Tierney. Both Argenti and Jameson are excellent characters because they have their flaws which make them all the more human: Argenti is hiding a secret about his sister, Marella, and Jameson is hiding a family secret that could put him in danger.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, and was kept guessing until the very end. And the last sentence of the book made me gasp. I’m very glad that this appears to be the first in a series, because I loved the characters and want to read more of them. Argenti and Jameson have great chemistry when working together, and they compliment each other much like Holms and Watson do. That’s not to say that they’re a copy of those two famous literary figures, though. No, far from it. They’re unique and perhaps even deeper because of their flaws.

I HIGHLY recommend this book if you like a good mystery or are a fan of either Sherlock Holmes or Jack the Ripper style books. Excellent read.

Book Review: Agamemnon Frost and the Hollow Ships by Kim Knox

Edgar Mason is ready to embark upon his new life at Agamemnon Frost’s side. But all is not perfect. Through torture, Pandarus, his Martian overlord, has implanted a dark voice in his mind, a voice that urges betrayal. And though he can keep close to Frost, there’s little room for romance under the watchful gaze of the engineers from Station X.

That changes when Mason and Frost reopen their investigation into their old enemy’s whereabouts. Posing as double agents and investigating cryptic rumors of “hollow ships,” they find him impersonating a London banker and worm their way into his confidence.

But their success brings them trouble in spades. Pandarus takes them into the belly of his ships, where he plans to transfigure them into mindless automata. And with Earth on the brink of invasion, Frost’s old flame Theodora reappearing, and Pandarus’s brainwashing growing more effective, Mason and Frost will find their bond tested as never before.

YES yes yes yes and yes. An excellent second addition to the Agamemnon Frost trilogy, and I am PRAYING that Kim Knox finds a way to push this past a trilogy and make it a full series. Because this is just to awesome to stop.

While the first book explores Mason and Frost getting to know each other while battling the enemy and being turned into automata, this next book picks up where the last left off. Mason is still torn between his implanted allegiance to his Ilarches, and Frost, who he wants. Badly. Whenever Frost gets close to him, Mason is able to push the voice inside his head away for awhile.

Now that they’re both automata, their mission is to find Pandarus and take him out. But it’s not that simple. He’s changed bodies and he might suspect Frost and Mason (also known as Achilles and Patroclus) are traitors.

What follows is an adventure that will leave you on the edge of your seat, charged with both action and sexual tension as Mason continues to want Frost, but is confused as to whether or not Frost truly wants him too, or is just using him to defeat their enemy.

Next book, please!