Book Review: Love is the Higher Law by David Levithan

Blurb: The lives of three teens—Claire, Jasper, and Peter—are altered forever on September 11, 2001. Claire, a high school junior, has to get to her younger brother in his classroom. Jasper, a college sophomore from Brooklyn, wakes to his parents’ frantic calls from Korea, wondering if he’s okay. Peter, a classmate of Claire’s, has to make his way back to school as everything happens around him.

Here are three teens whose intertwining lives are reshaped by this catastrophic event. As each gets to know the other, their moments become wound around each other’s in a way that leads to new understandings, new friendships, and new levels of awareness for the world around them and the people close by.

For those who are too young to remember, or for those not yet born, September 11, 2001 might seem like some date in history. Maybe they know about it because their parents or older siblings talk about it sometimes. Or maybe they know about it because every year on that day their school does something to remember those who died. But for someone like me, who was just a year younger than the characters in the book, I remember all too vividly what happened on that terrible day. Reading this novel brought back every single emotion I felt on that day. Like Claire, I was mesmerized yet terrified by what happened. I may have been a state away in Connecticut, but it still shocked me to my core. In this book, author David Levithan has perfectly recreated those confusing days in the eyes of teenagers who experienced it.

The novel follows Claire, Peter, and Jasper. All three are loosely connected to each other. Claire and Peter go to school with each other, Peter and Jasper met at a party and were supposed to go on a date, and Jasper finds Claire on the street where she remembers him from that same party where he met Peter. Because of their shared experiences on 9/11, they form an unbreakable bond, and the book follows them in the days, weeks, months, and years after the events.
What I liked most about the book was how the characters always asked other people “where were you when it happened?” or “what were you doing?” For those that lived through this day, it’s a phrase that was heard often. I even tell my own students my story when they ask about it on September 11th every year: I was a junior in high school, gym class had just started, and we were getting ready to go outside to play tennis. We heard from someone who had heard from someone else who had heard it from a teacher, and of course we thought it was a joke. The teacher announced outside that a second plane had hit and we went back inside. I was in art class when the towers fell and I watched them on the television. I have never heard our school grow so quiet or felt more terror at one time in my entire life before or since.
Let Claire, Peter, and Jasper take you through that day, through their eyes, and from those around them. See how others grieved and started to move on. Like them, become a part of the history. Even if you weren’t there for it, even if you weren’t born yet, you can still get a taste of the horrors through this masterfully crafted novel from David Levithan.
You can purchase this book from Amazon.

Book Review: Tapestry by Hallie Burton

In Ollas, anything that stirs the emotions is forbidden by the governors—especially music. So when Tallie Tarmelin, a farm boy from a lower-tier guild, is offered a scholarship for his talent in design, he keeps his head down and follows the rules. He’s terrified of breaking one of his society’s many laws and ruining his future. But feeling lost and alone in an unfamiliar city takes its toll, and Tallie accepts sympathy from a guildless social outcast even though he knows it could destroy his reputation.


Despite the rules against casual touching and fraternizing in public, Jonis Sinter offers Tallie comfort instead of denouncing him for an excessive emotional display, and they fast become friends. Secret friends, though, because Worran, the respectable son of a governor, has asked Tallie to be his partner.


When Worran’s mother learns of Tallie’s association with an outcast, she dispatches the militia. Worran sends Tallie a warning, and Tallie flees the city and civilization with Jonis. Surviving the wilds will take every ounce of perseverance they can muster, and the rediscovery of music might be their only solace— unless they recognize the love that’s growing between them.

First of all, I adore the cover. But aside from that, here is my real review:

Wow. Where do I even begin with a book like this? I’m not even sure what genre it would be categorized under. It has some elements of fantasy, but not like in major fantasy novels, as the magic is not real, just assumed. It’s epic in scope, and features a utopian society. Parts of me feel like it takes place in our future where a section of our country is partitioned off by some method and then they seem to regress in some ways. So… historical at the same time? I even felt a bit of steampunk in there at times. Overall it’s a wonderfully disorienting experience when you read something so refreshingly new.

Tallie and Jonis are wonderful characters that I loved throughout the novel. At many parts they tugged at my heart and I needed a few moments to compose myself before reading on. I wanted to rush through the story to get at the end, and yet at the same time I forced myself to slow down and enjoy it. I didn’t want it to end. I want more from Tallie and Jonis, yet it feels like their adventure is over at the end of the book, especially given the last line. Another story in that world would be great, and yet I don’t think it would be as enjoyable without Tallie and Jonis present.

What a wonderful experience this book was, and that’s just what it is. An experience. Hallie Burton fully immerses readers in the world she created where loving someone of the same gender is so completely normal that it’s not questioned in the slightest. No one objects to it. The things that are objected to, the things that are forbidden, are elements we take for granted, such as music and dancing. And affection. Can you imagine living in a world without those things? I can’t.

Book Review: Sock It To Me, Santa by Madison Parker

It might not be Christmas, but who doesn’t love a good holiday/winter story any time of the year?

Ryan is assigned to make a handcrafted gift for flamboyant and openly gay Jamie, Ryan will be the laughing stock of the school. It’s a good thing no self-respecting boy would be caught dead in a craft store, because otherwise he’d be at risk of being spotted when his mom drags him to her weekly craft workshops. He hopes Jamie will appreciate all the trouble he’s going to for this assignment. Finding the perfect gift is gonna be tricky. Jamie deserves something good, though, after all the crap he has to put up with at school. At least, Ryan tells himself that’s the reason he’s putting so much thought into the gift. It couldn’t be that he has feelings for Jamie, could it?d to Jamie Peterson for his class’s secret gift exchange. If word gets out that he has to 

This is SUCH and adorable story! And for the extreme value price, who could say no? Sock It To Me, Santa, is a cute, short holiday story that is told from Ryan’s perspective as he tries to figure out the best course of action when has to become Jamie’s Secret Santa in his advisory. Ryan is buried in his closet, and Jamie is definitely not. Ryan fears that even giving him a gift when he’s assigned to him will cause adverse effects on his reputation. And it’s not like he’s even interested in him. Or is he?

There were times in this story when I genuinely teared up. I felt so bad for both of them! I wish this story were longer or that there would be a novel length sequel, because I want to know what happens with Ryan and Jamie. I’m sure any relationship they have would be a bumpy ride, and the author, Madison Parker (who will be a guest blogger here in a few weeks!) makes them so endearing. Jamie is a sweet character who I’d love to know, and Ryan wants to do what’s right, but he worries too much about what others think of him.

You can buy this short for you Kindle on Amazon. 

Movie Review: The Curiosity of Chance

Sometimes Netflix really hits the nail on the head when it comes to recommending movies for me, and sometimes it really misses. In the case of The Curiosity of Chance, it was a complete hit! I wasn’t sure how I would like it at first, but in the end, I adored the film.

Tired of dealing with the homophobic school bully, out-of-the-closet teen Chance Marquis (Tad Hilgenbrinck) enlists two disparate friends — a flashy drag queen and the hunky school jock — to help him crush his tormentor in this offbeat comedy set in the 1980s.
The film is foreign, taking place and filmed in Belgian, but it is in English, so for those who steer clear of foreign films, please, don’t miss this one. It’s quirky, fun, humorous, with a side of serious at times.
Chance is a great character. Though it’s the 1980s, he knows who he is and doesn’t seem to care what others think. He’s going to do what he wants, dress how he wants, and forget everyone else. When he enters his international high school, he befriends the strange camerman and a girl with an attitude. The popular football (soccer) star has it out for him, though, and things get worse when he’s assigned to write an article about the team.
He finds another friend, though hesitant at first, in his neighbor, Levi, whom I adored. Though Levi turns from him for a while, he does come back after Chance’s words ring true.
The film is about self-discovery, expression, and acceptance. I cannot recommend it highly enough if you’re looking for a fun movie with a positive – and maybe surprising (though I was hoping for it!) outcome.

Movie Review: The Sensei

Ever rent a movie expecting one thing, and get something totally different? A movie that you perhaps had low expectations for that surpassed your initial thoughts and blew you out of the water? The Sensei is one such movie.

From Netflix: After punks at school hand him a savage beating, gay teen McClain Evans (Michael O’Laskey II) secretly begins martial arts training with Karen O’Neil (director Diana Lee Inosanto), a woman who has her own axe to grind with the narrow-minded rural community. But as Evans learns to stand up to prejudice and hate, the boy and his sensei unleash a firestorm of controversy in their small Colorado town.

When I rented this DVD, my thought was precisely this: Oh, a gay karate kid movie, awesome! I loved Karate Kid in all of its incarnations, and I love movies with gay characters, so I thought it would be perfect. I figured it would be low budget but that didn’t bother me. When the film started, I thought it was going to be cheesy. But once an older McClain starts to tell the story and goes back eight years to how his life changed and essentially began, I was swept away.

Set primarily during 1985, the story is about gay teen McClain who is savagely between by town homophobes in the school locker room. He has been trying to get lessons from the local martial arts studio but is turned away. Enter the studio owner’s female family member who has been gone many years. After a plea from McClain’s mother, she agrees to teach him, to give him a fighting chance.

It’s not perfect. McClain is still tormented by bullies both young and old, and the sensei, Karen, has her own demons to confront. In one particularly hard scene, both Karen and McClain are bleeding from an attack and she shys away from him, not wanting to be touched. This is where the twist comes in.

At this point in history, the AIDs crisis is huge. It was considered a gay disease and many people thought they could catch it just from touching someone gay. Obviously today we know this is different, just as we know it can affect anyone and everyone.

This movie takes preconceived notions and stereotypes and throws most of them out the door. The end is so heartbreaking and beautiful it left me crying and speechless for several minutes. I was absolutely blown away.

I am so glad I thought so little of this film at first, because it showed me just how beautiful and surprising some things can be. It has gone from a one time chance rental to a movie I will be buying for my shelves. Trust me. Take the chance and rent this. You won’t regret it.

Help Out! Kickstarter Project

Hi everyone! If you haven’t heard of the website Kickstarter, you are missing something amazing.

Kickstarter is a website for people to help get money for projects they need funded. It’s a fantastic way for smaller groups to become known to the world around them. I’ve helped fund many projects, and it’s not just donating, because that’s great too, but you also get cool stuff for helping out!

The newest project I’m helping fund is from the director’s of the AMAZING film Judas Kiss (review coming soon). They’re looking to raise $25,000 to purchase a Red Scarlet HD camera so that they can film TWO new movies this year.

Here’s the link for the project.

I honestly cannot wait for these two movies – The Dark Place and Something Like Summer to be finished and released because I know they’ll be amazing. Judas Kiss started Charlie David, and he is an amazing actor. But I’ll rave about that in the review post.

Even if you can only donate $5 ($6 will get you a cool postcard), please help out! I promise you, it’s worth it. Seeing the end results is amazing, and knowing you helped make the ideas come to fruition? It’s a great feeling.

Meeting Chance – coming October 14, 2013!!

It’s official! Bold Strokes Books has given me the release date for my next novel, Meeting Chance. Take a look at the lovely cover art! I really like the colors and the silhouette in the background.
Release Date: October 14, 2013
More information as it becomes available! (Including the official blurb once it’s posted!)

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: 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.