Picture drawn by Maggie Stiefvater, 2009. Header made by S.F. Robertson, 2010.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Darkbound by Scott Tracey

Darkbound by Scott Tracey
"Malcolm Denton wants to be free . . .

. . . of the unbreakable coven bond that ties him to his siblings, of his life as a witch in the hated Moonset coven, and of everything magical.

His longing attracts the attention of a demonic Abyssal Prince who offers Malcolm a deal: uncover the truth about a twenty-year-old murder and the Prince can sever the coven bond.

If only it were that simple. Malcolm soon realizes that working with the Prince means getting everything he ever wanted. But it also means betraying his siblings, condemning the teens of Carrow Mill to the Prince’s dark agenda, and learning that the Moonset orphans’ special bond goes deeper than he ever imagined."- summary from Amazon

In this sequel to Moonset, Tracey switches perspectives to Malcolm, and what I love about him is that while he's gay, it's such a small, accepted fact in the storyline. It's handled in that perfect way- it's not ignored, but it's not a focal point.

Moving on from that though, I also love the witchy world that Tracey has set up. There's communities, rules, a crazy backstory, extremely fleshed-out characters. Even though we've only been in two POVs, the reader really gets a sense of all 5 siblings. The sarcasm present in a lot of Tracey's novels is also welcome because that is my preferred sense of humor, and it's always nice to have that balance of dark and humorous, especially in a paranormal book.

There's some great stakes here in the book, and I'm interested to see where Tracey takes this series next (no new books are announced yet, but I am hoping!). This series is highly recommended!

FTC: Received e-galley from Netgalley. Link above is an Amazon Associate link; any profit goes toward funding contests.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Broken Hearts, Fences and Other Things to Mend by Katie Finn

Broken Hearts, Fences, and Other Things to Mend by Katie Finn
"Gemma had her summer all planned out, but it takes sharp turn when she gets dumped and finds herself back in the Hamptons after a five-year absence.

Being there puts her at risk of bumping into Hallie, her former best friend (that is, before Gemma ruined her life). But people don’t hold grudges forever. Do they?

Gemma intends on making amends, but a small case of mistaken identity causes the people she knew years ago—including Hallie and her dreamy brother Josh—to believe she’s someone else. As though the summer wasn’t complicated enough already.

Can Gemma keep up the charade? Or will she be found out by the very people she’s been hiding from?"- summary from Amazon

I absolutely loved Finn's Top 8 trilogy and was so excited to see a new book (and trilogy!) being released from her this year. I completely flew through this book (well, when I was actually reading it; I was going through a difficult time while I was reading it and that detracted from my reading) and loved reading about Gemma's journey through summer. There were times where I was like "Just explain yourself, Gemma!" but then there wouldn't be as many hilarious, crazy moments throughout the book. This book is definitely funny; I laughed out loud many a time. The characters are all fun to read about and to get to know; I of course enjoyed the burgeoning friendship/relationship with Josh. But I also really enjoyed getting to know Gemma's family as well as the director her dad works for, his family, and the housekeeper/assistant. Also, there is a crazy-ass ending and I need the second book now, please.

Overall, a fantastic, fun start to a totally beach read trilogy and I cannot wait to read more!!

FTC: Received ARC from publisher. Link above is an Amazon Associate link; any profit goes toward funding contests.

Monday, June 23, 2014

7th Year Blogoversary!

I seriously cannot believe it's been 7 years since I first started this blog. It really doesn't feel like it, and that's due to how much fun I have with the members of this community and how much I love doing this.

I've talked about all the fun I've had over the years in previous posts. So I'm just going to focus on stuff that happened in the past year.

I missed BEA last year but to make up for it, I went to YALLFest for the first time and absolutely loved it. I got to meet so many people and see some friends again, and had a great weekend in Charleston. I cannot wait to go again this year.

During that time, I had gone through about a month of chemotherapy treatment by the time I went to YALLFest. I was diagnosed last September with Hodgkin's lymphoma and it amazed me so much how much love, support and generosity I got from the YA blogosphere. I feel so grateful for how many people prayed for me, kept me in their thoughts, and asked me how I was doing whenever I was at a book event (and lots of hugs too, which I loved!). While I obviously had so much love and support from my friends and family, having a whole online community looking out for me too made me feel so loved and cared for, and I cannot thank you all enough.

I also had another great milestone earlier this year with the publication of my first short story in the Best Gay Romance 2014 anthology. I was extremely excited to be included, especially among so many authors I admired, and it felt like fate. I randomly came across a retweet one morning in February of last year for a call for submissions and submitted. The other funny thing is that I rarely buy gay anthologies and adult novels, but back in 2009, I actually bought the first anthology Timothy and Becky did called Fool or Love and now they were my editors for this new anthology! I've continued working on some other short stories and submitted some others, and have made some great new writing friends- Gavin Atlas, N.S. Beranek, and Bryson McCrone who have been helping me with some feedback on my stories, which I really appreciate.

Again, thank you all for following and supporting me all these years and continuing to be such wonderful friends and peers. I am constantly astonished at the amazing authors, bloggers, and publishers I get to know and be friends with.

Also, I've started doing videos again on my Youtube channel, so please check them out and subscribe!!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Only Everything by Kieran Scott

Only Everything by Kieran Scott
"High school romance is tough—even for a bona fide love goddess. Can Cupid succeed as a mortal matchmaker?

When Eros (aka Cupid) is expelled from Olympus for defying Zeus after falling in love with Orion, she is banished to what she believes to be hell. We call it New Jersey. If she ever wants to go back to the comforts of her old life, she will have to find love for three couples—without using her powers.

Eros, now calling herself True, immediately identifies her first project in Charlie and believes finding him love will be a piece of cake. Charlie is new at school and eager to break out of his old image of band geek, so it’s lucky for him when he falls in with the right crowd on his first day. But music is still his passion. That is, until he meets Katrina...

Katrina is floundering after the death of her father and takes refuge with a boy who, while not entirely supportive, will be there when she needs him, unlike her mother. Too bad True thinks any girl Charlie talks to is perfect for him. Can she get out of her own way and help Charlie and Katrina connect, or will she be stuck in New Jersey forever?"- summary from Amazon

I absolutely loved Scott's previous trilogy and was excited to read a new trilogy from her, and I like the mythological twist in this contemporary series. The book is absolutely hilarious and I really enjoyed reading True's emotional journey throughout the novel. The story is told from three different perspectives- True, Charlie and Katrina. Scott does a great job inhabiting each character and making them distinct, and the romance between Charlie and Katrina is adorable. There's plenty of obstacles keeping them apart (including True's failed matches for Charlie, which provide some comic relief) and it really adds some layers to their relationship. Also, the ending is crazy and makes me want more; luckily, the next book comes out in September (and the third, next February).

Overall, a great start to a new trilogy and what I love about this is that each novel tells its own story, with a thread running through all three to keep readers hooked. This is not a case where one story is broken up abruptly into three parts.

FTC: Received signed ARC from author (thanks Kieran!). Link above is an Amazon Associate link; any profit goes toward funding contests.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Museum of Intangible Things by Wendy Wunder

The Museum of Intangible Things
"Hannah and Zoe haven’t had much in their lives, but they’ve always had each other. So when Zoe tells Hannah she needs to get out of their down-and-out New Jersey town, they pile into Hannah’s beat-up old Le Mans and head west, putting everything—their deadbeat parents, their disappointing love lives, their inevitable enrollment at community college—behind them.

As they chase storms and make new friends, Zoe tells Hannah she wants more for her. She wants her to live bigger, dream grander, aim higher. And so Zoe begins teaching Hannah all about life’s intangible things, concepts sadly missing from her existence—things like audacity, insouciance, karma, and even happiness."- summary from Amazon

Wunder is now one of my favorite authors. I absolutely loved her debut, and this new offering really cemented my love for her and her novels. I love road trip novels, though I don't really read that many, and I liked this little spin on it. Hannah is having to keep an eye on Zoe and keep her in line a bit, while also trying to branch out and live big, but there's this sad/dark undertone to it all that keeps them together (i.e. Zoe's mental illness). The adventures they have are simply fantastic and, at times, humorous. But this is a book that deals with some heavier issues, so if you want a little more oomph in your summer reading, this is the book; there is, however, an ADORABLE romance in it. And I would like my own Danny, please and thank you.

Overall, a great follow-up and I cannot wait to read more from her!

FTC: Received signed ARC from author. Link above is an Amazon Associate link; any profit goes toward funding contests.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Bright Before Sunrise by Tiffany Schmidt

Bright Before Sunrise by Tiffany Schmidt
"Jonah and Brighton are about to have the most awkwardly awful night of their lives. For Jonah, every aspect of his new life reminds him of what he has had to give up. All he wants is to be left alone. Brighton is popular, pretty, and always there to help anyone . . . but has no idea of what she wants for herself. Her seemingly perfect life is marred only by Jonah, the one person who won't give her the time of day, but also makes her feel, well, something. So when they are repeatedly thrown together over the course of one night, anything can—and does—happen. Told in alternating chapters, this poignant, beautiful novel's energy and tension, amidst the humor and romance, builds to a new beginning of self-acceptance and hope."- summary from Amazon

I flew through this book. I pretty much read it in a day or so because I couldn't put it down. Schmidt writes in such a page-turning way and I loved reading this dual perspective too. I really enjoy books like that and this did a wonderful job with it; both characters felt real, flawed, and each had their own backstory that made them the way they are in the book. There's some great chemistry between the two of them and Schmidt writes their gradual liking for each other very well; it isn't an insta-love type of story at all.

Overall, a fantastic follow-up to her debut and I'm eager to read more from her. She writes such fantastic contemporary YA.

FTC: Received e-galley from Netgalley. Link above is an Amazon Associate link; any profit goes toward funding contests.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Being Sloane Jacobs by Lauren Morrill

Being Sloane Jacobs by Lauren Morrill
"Meet Sloane Emily Jacobs: a seriously stressed-out figure skater who choked during junior nationals and isn't sure she's ready for a comeback. What she does know is that she'd give anything to escape the mass of misery that is her life.

Now meet Sloane Devon Jacobs, a spunky ice hockey player who's been suspended from her team for too many aggressive hip checks. Her punishment? Hockey camp, now, when she's playing the worst she's ever played. If she messes up? Her life will be over.

When the two Sloanes meet by chance and decide to trade places for the summer, each girl thinks she's the lucky one. But it didn't occur to Sloane E. that while avoiding sequins and axels she might meet a hockey hottie—and Sloane D. never expected to run into a familiar (and very good-looking) face from home. It's not long before the Sloanes discover that convincing people you're someone else might be more difficult than being yourself."- summary from Amazon

I really enjoyed this book; Morrill did a great job writing from both Sloane's perspectives and making them such different characters. I loved reading about each of them, and getting to know and understand them over the course of the novel. It's an interesting concept too, switching lives for a bit to get out of your own, and it was handled really well. The book was really humorous too and Morrill's writing pulled me in and kept me engrossed throughout the whole story. There was some romance sprinkled throughout both POVs and I liked seeing how Morrill dealt with each one, particularly Sloane Devon's.

Overall, a great sophomore effort and I'm eager to go back and check out her debut sometime soon!

FTC: Received e-galley from Netgalley. Link above is an Amazon Associate link; any profit goes toward funding contests.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

One Man Guy by Michael Barakiva

One Man Guy by Michael Barakiva
"Alek Khederian should have guessed something was wrong when his parents took him to a restaurant. Everyone knows that Armenians never eat out. Why bother, when their home cooking is far superior to anything "these Americans" could come up with? Between bouts of interrogating the waitress and criticizing the menu, Alek’s parents announce that he’ll be attending summer school in order to bring up his grades. Alek is sure this experience will be the perfect hellish end to his hellish freshmen year of high school. He never could’ve predicted that he’d meet someone like Ethan.

Ethan is everything Alek wishes he were: confident, free-spirited, and irreverent. When Ethan gets Alek to cut school and go to a Rufus Wainwright concert in New York City’s Central Park, Alek embarks on his first adventure outside the confines of his suburban New Jersey existence. He can’t believe a guy this cool wants to be his friend. And before long, it seems like Ethan wants to be more than friends. Alek has never thought about having a boyfriend—he’s barely ever had a girlfriend—but maybe it’s time to think again."- summary from Amazon

I absolutely loved this book. I will admit though that I'm usually biased toward gay books because I just love reading gay YA, so take my review with a grain of salt. I really enjoyed the budding friendship and eventual relationship between Alek and Ethan. It's so wonderful to see a romance (regardless if it's straight or gay) that really takes its time with the characters and doesn't rush into things quickly. Alek is still a bit confused about his feelings toward Ethan, and I think a lot of young teens will be able to relate to that.

The book is a bit quaint but I attribute that to Alek's traditional upbringing and it makes sense that he's naïve and unknowledgeable about various things that Ethan then introduces to him. But Alek has a few tricks up his sleeve too, and it's so cute seeing the two of them interact. There's also some great scenes with Alek's family and the emotional arc involving them is handled so well too.

Overall, Barakiva has written a fantastic debut novel and I cannot wait to read more from him! Don't forget to check out my interview with him from the other day!

FTC: Received ARC from publisher. Link above is an Amazon Associate link; any profit goes toward funding contests.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Author Interview- Michael Barakiva

1) How did you get the idea for One Man Guy?

I didn’t come out until I was 21. And I don’t regret that – I think everyone comes out when they’re meant to. But I tried to imagine the set of circumstances that would’ve needed to transpire for me to have come out at 14. Naturally, they involved a hot skater boy. That was the germ of the idea for One Man Guy.

2) Are you working on any new novels now? Can you tell us anything about them?

Yes yes yes! For the last three years, I’ve been working with two dear friends, Suzanne Agins and Rosemary Andress, on The Aether Wild, a fantasy/sci-fi epic set in the future where young people are born with superpowers. We’re hoping to have it finished by the end of this year.

My editor Joy and I are also talking about working on another book together. The protagonist would be Seth, a minor character who appears in a flashback early on in OMG.

3) You also work in the theatre as a director and playwright. How did you get involved with theatre, and what do you love most about it?

Theater is my first love. It took me around three years to gather the courage to audition for a show. I was cast as Orphan #1 in Oliver in 6th grade, and then grew into more mature roles, like Man #2 in Fiddler on the Roof in 7th grade and the Gatekeeper in The Wiz in 8th grade.

As my casting indicated, I was never a good actor, but I loved the people who were in the plays. Like many theater people, I didn’t really fit in anywhere else during those formative and horrible teen years, and finding my clan made me feel like life might be bearable one day.

In college, I directed plays obsessively, and was accepted into Juilliard’s (now-defunct) Directing Program afterwards. I’ve been making my living as a director since.

I think what I love most about theater now is really different than what drew me to it all those innocent years ago. Now, I love the chaos. A rehearsal process is like playing chicken – the temptation in the process is to “set” things, the way in chicken your impulses are telling you to swerve out of the way of the vehicle charging at your full speed. But if you set too soon (or swerve too soon), you lose. Now, in theater, I try to wait until the last possible moment to set things, experimenting and questioning and challenging and creating as much as possible.

4) What is your favorite Jelly Belly jelly bean flavor(s)? Or, if you don't eat those, your favorite snack to have while writing or as a reward for writing? Feel free to talk about other foods you love since your bio mentions you as a "lover of food" (aren't we all though? hehe).

It’s a great question – is everyone a lover of food? I guess we all are, which comforts me in some way. I don’t just love to eat food, though, I love to make it as well. Right now, I’m in the process of founding a theater ensemble, The Upstart Creatures, whose mission statement is to create events that combine theater with food.

I don’t really eat jelly beans any more – I’m trying to stay away from that kind of processed sugar after one summer in Ithaca that just lives as a Sour Skittles/Red Bull blur in my mind.

While I’m writing, I reward myself with snacks the way I used to with cigarettes (smoking is evil and you should never do it). I like to have something in the fridge that’s rich and delicious so that just a little goes a long way, like chicken liver mousse (I just found a great recipe that uses yolks instead of butter and cooks in a water bath) or roasted, salted nuts.

When I’m out of town directing a play, I cook furiously because it’s the perfect way to come down after rehearsals. I leave rehearsals in this state of delirium – exhausted and wired, and cooking engages me just enough to bring be back down to normal. My favorite weekday recipes include salt-crust roasted chicken, shell steaks in a shallot/red-wine reduction, kale in almost any form, fresh pineapple (the carving is such fun!), butternut squash, and (since I married a Mexican) anything with jalapenos.

5) Had you read much Young Adult literature before writing One Man Guy? Or was it something you kind of fell into?

To be honest, I hadn’t read much, although I’m a sucker for anything fantasy/sci-fi/post-apocalyptic/dystopic. If there’s magic in a world, I’m hooked.

6) What book(s) are you currently reading, or about to start?

Most of my reading is for my directing work, which is not to say it’s not interesting. One of the things that I love about directing is that I get to research and learn so much stuff. I also used to be one of those people who could only read one thing at a time, but obviously, I’m not anymore.

Next to my bed, which is where I keep the books that I’m reading:

WAS by Geoff Ryman
The Swerve by Stephen Greenblatt
The Hero With A Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell
The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks (this was a gift from Ethan Butler and Cory Tarallo, two of the many stunningly talented cast members in a production of Spring Awakening I just directed up in Syracuse)

7) Your Goodreads profile mentions that you're an avid board game player. Which ones do you most enjoy, and are there any that you don't like?

The only board game I hate is Agricola. My board game group loves it, and sometimes they make me play it and I hate it. It’s horrible. I hate it.

The games that I love:
Last Night On Earth, which was introduced to me by Craig Bridger and which I played incessantly with Joseph Midyett after Spring Awakening rehearsals.

Age of Empires: The Age of Discovery
I guess this is based on a computer game, but I gave up on computer games years ago because I realized they were less fun than board games. Or rather, in the computer game, the computer is your scene partner, and in board games, it’s the other players.

Race For the Galaxy
I play this at board game arena when I need to clear my mind, but I wish they’d update the game to include the deck expansions.

I’ve only played this online, which is sort of cheating, but it’s super fun.

One of the best boards for a board game ever made.

Titan and Talisman
These are old school games and my copies are incomplete for pieces lost over the decades, but if anyone had a complete version (Titan especially) and wanted to give it to me, I would be their friend forever.

Also fun: Smallworld, Ticket to Ride (especially India and Switzlerand), Catan (Cities and Knights only, please), Civilization, Cathedral, Citadels

8) Your pub day for One Man Guy falls the day after the 1-year anniversary of your marriage to your husband Rafael. How was it finally getting married to him, and is that week this year going to be one long celebration party?

Getting married was the best thing I’ve ever done in my life. When we were planning the thing, I thought, “Is it really worth it? All that money? All the energy and resources and time that you have to put into?” Remember, I’m a director, so I know about putting on a show, and having a wedding is like having to be your own producer, playwright, director and leading actor.

But then the day of, you just feel so blessed to be in front of your community. And that’s what it’s really about – taking those vows in front of the people you love. They witness. And the spoken words, the promises you make to the person you love, become powerful, binding things.

Last week was amazing. Rafael and I went to the Gaudalupe Valley to celebrate our one year, and were guests of some of the most gracious and hospitable hosts I’ve ever met, including Tru Miller at Adobe Guadalupe Inn & Vineyards. Our last day there was my pub date. We were off the grid, no cell or email, and then when we got back to New York I was amazed at the out-pouring of love, both for the congratulations of our first-year anniversary and for One Man Guy. To have the two events so close to each other made me feel like the luckiest guy in the world.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
"Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten."- summary from Amazon

Yes, I just read this book after it's been out for two and a half years because of the movie. Deal with it. It wasn't just because of the movie though; I've been meaning to read this for AGES. It's actually my first full John Green book (I technically got a little taste from reading Will Grayson, Will Grayson) even though I also own Katherines and Paper Towns. And obviously, I've heard wonderful things about all of his books, but especially The Fault in Our Stars.

I really can't say anything that hasn't already been said about the book. It's funny, real, heart-wrenching, full of wonderfully developed characters, etc. I particularly loved Hazel's voice and while I don't have terminal cancer, I did/do have cancer and really connected with her and Augustus on that level and dealing with it, both internally and externally. Like everyone else has said, it's a cancer book that's not about cancer; the cancer is used as an aspect of the two characters and doesn't define them in any way. It's simply another thing to deal with.

Overall, Green did a wonderful job with this book and it really makes me excited to read his other books in the near future. I am of course also excited for the movie this weekend and cannot wait to see it. It's going to be so much fun.

FTC: Borrowed book from library. Link above is an Amazon Associate link; any profit goes toward funding contests.