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.

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: Swans & Klons by Nora Olsen

What does it take to survive in a world built on lies?

Sixteen-year-old Rubric loves her pampered life in the Academy dormitory. She’s dating Salmon Jo, a brilliant and unpredictable   girl.   In their all-female world, non-human slaves called Klons do all the work. But when Rubric and Salmon Jo break into the laboratory where human and Klon babies   are   grown in vats, they uncover a terrifying secret that tears their idyllic world apart.

Their friends won’t believe them, and their teachers won’t help them. The Doctors who rule Society want to silence Rubric and   Salmon   Jo. The two girls must flee for their lives. As they face the unthinkable, the only thing they have left to believe in is their love for each other.

Imagine a world where men do not exist. Women not only run society, but they ARE society. As in the only members. In the distant future, male children are born with something wrong with them that ultimately causes them to become what the women call “Cretinous Males.” They are physically and mentally weaker to a large degree, making them giant children essentially. In this future society, women do not even give birth anymore. All children are created and raised in giant tubes until they are able to be born. And in order for humans to have a more meaningful life free from menial labor, Klons are created.

This book has a wonderful plot that takes readers on a journey of self-discovery, and shows what happens when the basic principal you have been taught all your life turns out to be a lie. Rubric and Salmon Jo do not find anything wrong with their world until they see something that makes them question just how Klons and Humans are created. They begin to wonder, what makes someone human? Even though this book is set in the distant future, it is a plausible world and when you consider genetic engineering that is done, and the creation of highly advanced AI, you have to wonder what DOES make someone human? What does it mean to be human?

I can easily see this as the first in a series, because the book leaves off at a place that could be the end, but also the beginning of another grand adventure. I’d love to see more of Rubric, Dream, Salmon Jo, and everyone else. There is a lot of potential here with what the author could do.

This book will be available from Bold Strokes Books on May 1, 2013. You can preorder your copy here.

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. 

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.

Movie Review: This Is What Love In Action Looks Like

This is a short but well paced documentary that looks at the ex-gay group Love In Action that has an in house program for teenagers called Refuge. When a young, gay teen is sent there against his will by his parents, he blogs about it and what happens next is nothing short of outstanding. Considering the time period, social media was really just taking off. The boy, Zach, found that his friends spread the word about what was happening to him and very soon a group of people stood outside the Refuge for the entire 8 weeks he was there, trying to be “converted” to a straight teen.

The documentary focuses not just on Zach and his story, but the story of other men who went through this experience and came out with serious after effects that took years to resolve. It shows just how dangerous it can be when others take your life into their hands.

One of the people interviewed surprised me. It was the man who was a director of the Refuge, and because of the protesting, he had a change of heart. By the time the Refuge was shut down, he changed gears and began to welcome gay members into his church. This change of heart just shows how much of an impact one person can have. Because of Zach a light was shined on the Refuge and what they were doing, and as a result, lives were changed and possibly saved.

I highly recommend this documentary. It can opens viewers eyes to the damage done to teenagers who undergo this kind of “treatment,” often at the consent of their parents.

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.

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: 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.