Book Review: Greg Honey by Russ Gregory

Honey Agency: If we can’t solve your problem, we’re sorry.

Greg Honey has bigger issues than a sketchy tagline for his one-man detective agency. To start with, his mother is pressuring him to date debutantes, his stalker keeps leaving threatening messages, his new boyfriend is at least four levels higher up on the gay boy food chain, and his best friend, Willa, has lost her panties. To top it all off, things keep pointing toward trouble at the family estate. Will Greg figure out what’s going on in time to help Willa find her panties? Lord knows he wants to because Greg is more than a detective… he’s also a Honey.

WARNING: Do not read this book late at night while others around you are sleeping. You will likely cause them to wake up and be angry with you for all the laughing and snorting you will be doing. This is especially important if you live in an apartment building with paper thin walls.

With that out of the way, I must say I LOVED this new book by Russ Gregory. If you’re expecting a romance, just stop. Greg ain’t got time for that. Well, actually he does, with Matt, the guy he’s seriously crushing on, but that’s not the focus of this book. The focus is the mystery and, well, the comedy. Because this book is HILARIOUS.

Greg is a private investigator in his own, mostly new firm. His family is obscenely wealthy, but he’s not. Along with his friend Willa – who talks nonstop and misunderstands everything – he takes on cases and tries not to get shot or tased on the way to his next paycheck.

I think one of the funniest aspects of the book is Greg’s grandmother, Lucille. She has no filter whatsoever and calls it like she sees it. And when she wants to know something, she asks. Even if it’s the mechanics of Greg’s relationship with Matt.

This cast of characters is fun, mostly lovable, sometimes aggravating, and just all around bigger than the hair in Texas, which does make a special appearance.

If you like mysteries, comedies, or the two combined, do not miss this spectacular new book. I am praying that there is more in the works for Greg Honey, because I need to know what his next case load is going to bring!

You can purchase this book directly from Bold Strokes Books. It will be released September 1, 2013.

Book Review: Lake Thirteen by Greg Herren

It seemed like a good idea at the time….

Every summer three families take a trip together—this year it’s to a remote resort in the mountains of upstate New York. Scotty, a teenager who’s just come out, is nervous about how his friends will react to him. A late night visit to an old nearby cemetery seems like a great idea to the bored teens, but the old cemetery holds dark secrets hidden for almost a century—secrets that might have been better left undisturbed.

And what originally seemed like a boring week in the mountains gradually becomes a nightmare of terror for the teens and their families.

Yet another great young adult book by Greg Herren. This mystery follows Scotty and his friends on a vacation to a mountain lodge that’s more popular in the winter. As such, they are the only guests there. After visiting a cemetery on the road, the five teens start to experience paranormal activities around the lodge. And Scotty can’t help but feel a connection to deceased Albert Tyler, whose grave he found.

The story that follows brings the kids on a frightening journey, which might put them and their loved ones in danger.

The book does has its scary moments, especially when the author moves into the stream-of-consciousness style. With the lack of punctuation, you can’t help but read it faster and faster, which puts you on the edge of your seat wondering what is going to happen next. The scenes also shift from present to the past very rapidly. For the reader it can be disorienting, which is exactly how Scotty feels when it happens to him.

Despite it being a mystery and horror, there are some tender, romantic moments, and also some rather heavy sadness concerning Albert. I felt what Scotty felt, both the terror, the heartbreak, and the joy.

The only gripe I had was how abrupt it ended. I really wanted Scotty to get home to Marc and see the two of them interact outside of Scotty’s mind. But at the same time, the final line was perfect, and any more may have taken away from the bittersweet ending. I just wish Scotty and Marc got a moment together like the other two lovers in the story.

You can purchase this book from Bold Strokes Books.

FANTASTIC DEALS!

Hey everyone! You do NOT want to miss out on this at all. For some reason, maybe for Pride Month, Amazon is running a sale on a ton of Bold Strokes Books titles. Many of them are the incredible young adult novels that are NOT to be missed. I’ve included the titles and links in the following list so you can take advantage of the sale now while they’re only $.99 cents! YES. 99 CENTS. Can you even believe it?!

Mesmerized by David-Matthew Barnes: http://amzn.com/B007HBKZLO
In Stone by Jeremy Jordan King: http://amzn.com/B00A10E5LO
Father Knows Best by Lynda Sandoval? http://amzn.com/B0046REOMS
me@you.com by K.E. Payne: http://amzn.com/B0073YTUNE
Speaking Out edited by Steve Berman: http://amzn.com/B006F9FM44
365 Days by KE Payne: http://amzn.com/B005KCKYQS
Cursebusters! by Julie Smith: http://amzn.com/B007QPBRTK
Street Dreams by Tama Wise: http://amzn.com/B007FURBVO
ONLY $.99 CENTS GUYS! Get them while you can!

Book Review: The Plain of Bitter Honey by Alan Chin

From Bold Strokes Books website: Twins Aaron and Hayden Swann are fighting a corrupt government taken over by ultra right-wing Fundamentalist Christians in 2055 America. Each brother fights in his own way, Aaron with bullets, Hayden with words. Then one night their world is turned upside down when they are caught in a government sting and they must both flee north into the badlands between San Francisco and Canada, where the only safe haven is a place called The Plain of Bitter Honey, a refuge where heads of the Resistance operate. But the brothers don’t know that government agents are tracking them to the hiding place of the   Resistance. Can they find the inner strength to survive?

There are some books that are really easy to write reviews for. And there are others that are difficult. Not because they’re not great books, but BECAUSE they are great books. This is one of those. I cannot write my typical spazzing out sort of review for this book because it just wouldn’t do it justice. And this book deserves a lot of careful thought.

The Plain of Bitter Honey takes place in the not too distant future. The America that is painted for readers is very grim. At least for some. For some people, they might like the fact the Christianity has taken over and the States have become a Christian nation. However, it is hell on Earth for many people in the book. If you do not agree with the views of those in power, or if your life and loves are different from what they think it should be, you are placed in ghettos.

I’ll flash back to history here, because what the author has done is draw on the Holocaust. There are many allusions to what happened in Nazy Germany during World War II. It is done masterfully, because it shows just how horrific the world has become.

Aaron and Hayden Swann are identical twins that are part of the resistance. At least Aaron is. Hayden, it seems, is off in his own world of literature. As a gay man, he has to hide the fact that he loves his boyfriend Julian, for fear of either being placed in the ghetto or being treated. While Aaron is very hard and driven, Hayden seems so carefree.

Looks can be deceiving.

What follows is an incredible journey to save the twins, the reistance, and everything they hold dear. There were times when I thought for sure all hope was lost, but the beautiful thing about how is that it’s always within reach if you just keep believing.

The author also weaves in some beautiful moments of magical realism as well, such as when Aaron is training with Twig and he learns to blend into the trees and become a part of them.

The conclusion of the novel is ultimately heart-breaking and beautiful. It is full of hope and you want the characters to succeed. I stayed up past one in the morning to finish because I couldn’t stop, and when I finally came to the conclusion, I put the book down, curled up in the fetal position on my bed, and just cried.

Such a wonderful novel from Alan Chin. He has a way with words that will leave you thinking and praying that this is not the future that we are headed towards. Frighteningly enough, with the current state of our country, it at times feels that way.

I look forward to many more books from this author.

This book will be released in June, 2013, and will be available from Bold Strokes Books and Amazon.

 

Question from a reader

I’m really very fortunate. Either because I have some pretty amazing people reading Andy Squared or… I’m biased because this question came from one of my former students and she felt comfortable asking me because she knows me. Either way, the fact that she thought of something while reading my book and needed to know makes me happy. And it’s such a fantastic question I thought I’d post it and my response here!

The only question I really had was why have Andy be unware of himeself in that way, having Ryder kiss him and then giving Andy a few days to think about it then telling Ryder? What was the point you wanted to make? [some corrections made to question]

Excellent question. Why is Andy unaware that he is gay at seventeen years old? Why didn’t he have an inkling as to his true attractions? I could have made him a teenager who did know he liked guys but struggled to hide it, but that wasn’t what I wanted.

Andy is attracted to Ryder. From the moment they meet Andy is drawn to him in a way he hasn’t been drawn to someone before, and I feel that many of us old enough to have experienced this know that feeling. That is kind of what Andy is going through in that scene. But we’ll back up even more. Not all kids know they’re gay right away. Heck, some adults don’t even always know. They might realize after the fact what has been going on all those years, but it’s like the saying, “hindsight is 20/20.” That’s the case with Andy. He knows things are not working with his girlfriends. He figures it’s because he’s bored and doesn’t like the drama. That’s what he tells himself. He also figures as a popular athlete he has an image or reputation to protect. As sad as it is, there are many, many teenagers out there who go through this exact thing.

When I wrote Andy Squared, I didn’t want to portray your stereotypical gay teenager because I wanted readers to see that there are ALL kinds of gay teens out there. Not everyone is as aware of themselves as Josh and Ryder. Not all gay teens look and act like Josh. Many could play sports like Andy.

My point is this: Gay teenagers are just like straight teenagers. They come in all shapes and sizes, all religions and ethnic backgrounds. They don’t always know what they want in life. They fight with siblings and keep secrets from their parents. They fight with friends. They struggle sometimes when they harbor a crush. They’re not always sure about their relationships.

Thank you former student for asking that question. I’m proud of you for thinking so deeply about the book! And other readers, please feel free to send me your questions as well. I’d be happy to answer.

Review: Kings of Ruin by Sam Cameron

Danny Kelly cares only for rock ‘n’ roll and fast cars. Too bad he’s stuck in the capital of country music and he’s banned from driving until he turns twenty-one. Plus he likes other boys, a secret that he’s vowed to keep until he graduates high school. When his stepdad’s new truck roars off on its own, Danny discovers a secret that is endangering cars and drivers across America. It almost kills Danny, too, until he’s saved by seventeen-year-old Kevin Clark. Kevin’s gay, handsome, and confident, but working with his dad’s secret government organization has left him lonely. It’s going to take a weekend of car chases, fiery explosions, and country-western singing to save the citizens of Nashville from certain death—but can Danny protect his heart and secrets as well?

Okay, so this book doesn’t come out until March, but I received a copy to review from NetGalley. I love Sam Cameron’s YA series Fisher Key Adventures, and just like those books, this one does not disappoint.

This book has definite science fiction elements. The Ruins are a sort of alien being that come and enter engines to take over them. The Kings are the biggest Ruins and are set on having fun and do not care about destruction.

I loved the characters, both human and Ruin. Danny is a great character because he’s flawed but trying to do his best. He is gay, but he so desperately wants to hide that part of him. When things get strange and he meets Kevin, who is open about his sexuality, he almost blows his chance at something.

The author included great non-human characters. Even though they didn’t speak and weren’t on the page for long, I completely fell for FIREBUG, 2KEWLE, and CHOPR. These Ruins were tiny and had very human reactions to what went on around them. I hope this series is going to be a sequel because I want to see them again.

The book is filled with action and drama, both real and science fiction based. It might be the book that bridges the gap for some kids who aren’t sure if they like science fiction novels. This is definitely a book worth having on your YA shelf!

The book will be released on March 18, 2013. You can preorder your copy from Bold Strokes Books. 

Book Review: Wonderland by David-Matthew Barnes

From Bold Strokes Books:

After her mother loses her battle to cancer, fifteen-year-old Destiny Moore moves from Chicago to Avalon Cove, a mysterious island in South Carolina. There, she starts a new life working part-time as a magician’s assistant and living with her eccentric uncle Fred and his hottie husband, Clark. Destiny is soon befriended by two outcasts, Tasha Gordon and Topher McGentry. She accepts their invitation to accompany them to a place called Wonderland, a former boarding house owned by the enigmatic Adrianna Marveaux. It’s there that Destiny meets and falls in love with Dominic, Tasha becomes enamored with Juliet, and Topher gives his heart to Pablo. When Destiny uncovers the reason she and her friends have really been brought to Wonderland, she’s faced with the most crucial choice of her life.

I have been waiting for this book since the author announced it would be coming out. I was intrigued by the concept and it did not disappoint. There are moments when there are Alice in Wonderland elements, however, it is not that at all. There is more romance and magic involved. Quite a few twists and turns as well.

The character I enjoyed the most was Topher. Not only is his name interesting, but I liked his character and how he begins to stand up for himself in the face of his bullies. I would have liked to have seen more of the story but from his point of view.

The only issue I had with the book was towards the end. I felt that it wrapped up so quickly! I wanted more! Adrianna tells Topher and Tasha what to expect, but I didn’t want that at all. I wanted to see, from their perspectives, what happens in order for them to save their soul mates. I wish it had been more difficult for Destiny, too. I felt that it was almost too easy for her at the end.

Aside from this, I did enjoy the novel. Perhaps a sequel with Topher in the lead roll?

This book will be release in February from Bold Strokes Books. You can purchase the book at Amazon or Bold Strokes Books.

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.

 

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?