Book Review: Asher’s Fault by Elizabeth Wheeler

The day fourteen-year-old Asher receives a Minolta camera from his aunt Sharon, he buys the last roll of black-and-white film and takes his first photograph—a picture of a twisted pine tree. He’s so preoccupied with his new hobby he fails to notice his dad’s plan to move out, his increasing alienation from his testosterone-ridden best friend, Levi, and his own budding sexuality. When his little brother drowns at the same moment Asher experiences his first same-sex kiss, he can no longer hide behind the lens of his camera. Asher thinks it’s his fault, but after his brother dies, his father resurfaces along with clues challenging Asher’s black-and-white view of the world. The truth is as twisted as the pine tree in his first photograph.

I loved this book. So much so that, despite having to work the next morning I stayed up until the wee hours of the morning to finish it. Teens everywhere, gay or straight, will relate to Asher, Garrett, Levi, Jennifer, and Kayla. There are so many different personalities in this book, each one so realistic I felt as if I knew them personally.

Asher is struggling to accept his parents divorce, especially when his father leaves his mother for another woman. His younger brother, Travis, annoys him, but as you find out from the blurb alone, his brother dies right at the same moment he has his first kiss with another boy. And I mean literally right at that moment.

What follows is a beautiful story about truths and lies. What is the truth? How do we know who is telling the truth and who isn’t? Asher’s friendship with Levi starts to fade when his friend becomes a member of the football team, and though Kayla is so different from him and doesn’t want to fit any mold, she appears to be the one person who understands him the most.

I love that Asher uses an old camera to capture his photos rather than a digital camera. There’s just something so much more special about taking a photo that way. His care in taking the photos is shown very carefully on the page.

I’m very happy that there will be a sequel because I want more of everyone. I want to know what happens between Asher and Garrett, and if Asher ever confronts his mother and father with the truth about Travis. Needless to say I was shocked when at the VERY end you find out a secret.

And reader’s are left with the biggest question of all. When it comes to Travis’s death, whose fault was it really?

You can purchase Asher’s Fault from Bold Strokes Books here.

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.

2014 Nutmeg Nominees

Each year a list of books is nominated for the Nutmeg Award. What’s really fantastic about this award is that the winners are chosen by students around the state, who read the books and vote for their favorite!

The winners of the 2013 Nutmeg Award are as follows:

Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea for Intermediate and Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry for Teens. I’m thrilled that Rot & Ruin won because it was such a fantastic novel. My students and I enjoyed it thoroughly!

This year is a little different because there are three categories. A new one was added for High School readers, and the books are great. It’s my hope to read many of them, and will included my reviews here. I did already read one, a graphic novel, and will post the review soon. I’ll also include a picture of the fun board I put up for students to challenge themselves with the novels.

Book Review: Play Me, I’m Yours by Madison Parker

Yesterday I was fortunate enough to have Madison Parker host a stop on her blog tour here. The topic was Party Games, and if you haven’t read it, I highly recommend you do! It was a fun read, and I’m glad she asked me to participate.

The tour is for her new young adult novel, Play Me, I’m Yours from Harmony Ink Press. I am happy to say that I have read the book and LOVE it.

Description from Goodreads: Fairy Tate. Twinklefingers. Lucy Liu. Will the taunting ever end? Lucas Tate suffers ridicule because of his appearance and sensitive nature. When he’s not teased, he’s ignored, and he doesn’t know which is worse. He feels unloved by everyone, but the one comfort in life is his music. What he wants more than anything is to find a friend.


Much to his dismay, both his mom and a schoolmate are determined to find him a boyfriend, despite the fact Lucas hasn’t come out to them. His mom chooses a football player who redefines the term “heartthrob,” while Trish pushes him toward the only openly gay boy at Providence High. But Lucas is harboring a crush on another boy, one who writes such romantic poetry to his girlfriend that hearing it melts Lucas into a puddle of goo. All three prospects seem so far out of his league. Lucas is sure he doesn’t stand a chance with any of them—until sharing his gift for music brings him the courage to let people into his heart.

I adored Lucas in this book. There were so many emotions and so many wonderful characters that I loved and loved to hate. Seeing all of the characters grow throughout the novel made me feel as if I knew them personally.

Mason, Lucas’s younger brother, doesn’t like that his brother is gay because of the torment HE receives. It’s not that he’s gay. It’s just the bullying he faces because of his brother’s sexuality. But over time he grows and becomes a supporter of his brother.

Alex is wonderful. I had wanted him and Lucas to end up together, despite him being straight, but he’s a young man who is comfortable in his own skin and becomes a great friend to Lucas. The two bond, and not even harassment from Alex’s other friends will tear Alex from Lucas.

Trish is kind of one-track minded at first, but she also experiences growth when she realizes how she’s been treating Lucas. She and Alex make a great pair.

I wish I had gotten to know Zach more, though. I loved the poetry he wrote in class, but I wanted to see more interaction with his mother while Lucas was there. And what happened between him and David? I would have loved more of that tension. Maybe a sequel or something?

A wonderful novel that will simultaneously break your heart and make you feel good inside. You can buy the book through Amazon.

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.

National Coming OUT Day Book Talk

If you couldn’t join me on September 22nd for my book release, don’t worry! You can still see me talk about Andy Squared. I’ll be at Central Connecticut State University on October 9th from 4:30 to 6:00 PM talking about my book and doing a signing. Stop by!

Release Party Success!!

My former students decided to sit at my feet while I read. Just like old times!

First, a HUGE thank you to everyone who came out for the official Andy Squared release party! It was a ton of fun and I got to see former students and colleagues. I was so happy for the support. One family even sent flowers because they could not be there! It was amazing.

Thank you to the Bristol Public Library for hosting us! I hope I can give a book talk in the future to readers!

Already I’m getting messages from those that went to the event and finished their book already. It thrills me to know they enjoyed it so much. My current students, too! There is a copy in my classroom and I love seeing books – especially Andy Squared – be passed around and recommended to friends after they finish it. Really, there is no greater feeling as a teacher and a writer.

Everyone gather around! I loved seeing everyone there!

But the event! What fun! I signed books for an hour and talked with people, then gave a short reading and answered questions on the book. They were insightful, too. One person, who had started the book prior to the event and brought his own copy to be signed, asked if I had done research on horses prior to writing the book.

The answer: yes and no. I rode horses when I was younger, and I love them, so a lot of what I learned I still maintained. There were some terms I had to look up, mostly in regards to the particulars of the English saddle, and others I checked, but I did remember most of what I had learned while riding.

I also have to thank my parents and my sisters who gave up a few hours of the day to be there. My youngest sister, Cassandra, is an author in the making. She’s currently writing her first novel at the moment, and is about halfway finished! I hope to someday have a dual book signing with her! How awesome would that be?

Cassandra on the left, Tiffany on the right

Happy Birthday to you~

It’s official! Today is the release date of Andy Squared, or as I like to call it, the book birthday! I’m really excited for it to be officially out, but it still seems so surreal to me. I mean, it was just another normal day at work. And yet, my book is now available in bookstores everywhere for readers to enjoy.

And I truely do hope everyone enjoys it or takes something out of the story. Andy and Ryder are such dear characters to me. I lived with them in my head for six years before their tale was finally told. I hope everyone else loves them just as much as I do.

If you’ve read the book and enjoyed it, I would love to hear from you. Please feel free to leave a comment or send me an email! I love getting mail.

Book Review: Sara by Greg Herren

Are you one of those people who often can guess the endings of books or solve the mystery before everyone in the book even has all the clues? Because the book is often that predictable?

Fear not. This book will leave you guessing until the end, and when all is revealed, you will be blown away.

Sara by Greg Herren is the story of Tony and his friend, Glenn. When Glenn decides to come out during the summer before school starts, Tony stands by him, but finds it difficult to accept the change. Nevertheless, he remains a friend and when others turn their back on Glenn, he stays by his side. Despite feeling uneasy about his friends newly revealed sexuality. When Sara shows up in town, things start to go very, very wrong. All the students who have tormented Glenn start showing up dead. One after another they die, and Tony starts to wonder what is happening in their small town.

This book was incredible. It is a mystery that will stay with you until the very last page, but it does have supernatural/paranormal elements at times. After all, why do these kids start to die? How is it possible?

I don’t want to ruin anything by saying to much, because the story is just that good. Go read it for yourself. I will, however, say that I loved the characters. Even the teachers are fantastic. When coach gives a speech to Tony about trusting teachers, and the reasons people become a teacher, I felt as if the author had taken my words from my mouth and put them in the book. It is the same thing I have said to my students time and time again. The reason I teach is because I care, and I want to help.

But I see Tony’s view, too. Teachers are often thought of as “untouchable.” I also can’t tell you how many times my students have seen me outside of school and are shocked that I actually emerge from the building to live a life outside of my classroom.

Let’s talk about Tony. He is a fantastic narrator because of how honest he is. And I found his discomfort around Glenn to be realistic. Though there are many people who stand by their friends when they come out, it’s not unreasonable that some of them do feel uncomfortable around them for a while because of the changes and the potential fear that they will have to face whatever prejudices the friend faces. And Glenn’s hurt at Tony’s slight rebuff is also realistic. If Tony is such a good friend, he shouldn’t care, should he?

This is a book that needs to be read. Trust me, you won’t regret it.

This book is available for purchase at Bold Strokes Books and Amazon.

NaNoWriMo 2011 Edition

I’m doing it again. After a year off, I decided to do NaNoWriMo again. (For those not in the know, that strange word stands for National Novel Writing Month.) I decided to challenge my students, and so far have about 21 signed up to participate. They have chosen word counts ranging from 3,000 to the full 50,000 like me. I have an idea so do they. We have plans! We have inspiration! We are… INSANE!

This will be my sixth year participating out of the last seven. I’ve only “won” twice by completing the word count goal of 50,000. My 2008 win was Andy Squared, the novel that is due out next year through Bold Strokes Books. I had completely rewritten the novel and finished it during that month. Of course that doesn’t take into account all the editing in the following years, but at least the story was finally fully out. No pun intended.

My novel this year will be centered on Aaron. He is disfigured from a dog attack when he was nine years old. Now sixteen, he decides he wants to overcome his fear of dogs by volunteering at an animal shelter. Like my other books, Aaron is gay, but his being gay is not at the center of the story. Yes there will likely be a small romance, but it is not the focus. The focus is overcoming his fear of dogs and living a full, carefree life like he had before the attack. I think too many YA LGBT books that are out there focus on the process of coming out and the reactions from peers and family. While that does happen with Andy in my first novel, I didn’t want a repeat in this new, as yet untitled work.

That aside, is anyone else doing NaNoWriMo? If you want to check it out, head over to www.nanowrimo.org for more information. I’ll be only participating on the Young Writer’s Program site: http://ywp.nanowrimo.org