Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Mia Kerick - The Red Sheet - Review & Giveaway

About the Book

One October morning, high school junior Bryan Dennison wakes up a different person—helpful, generous, and chivalrous—a person whose new admirable qualities he doesn’t recognize. Stranger still is the urge to tie a red sheet around his neck like a cape. Bryan soon realizes this compulsion to wear a red cape is accompanied by more unusual behavior. He can’t hold back from retrieving kittens from tall trees, helping little old ladies cross busy streets, and defending innocence anywhere he finds it.

Shockingly, at school, he realizes he used to be a bully. He’s attracted to the former victim of his bullying, Scott Beckett, though he has no memory of Scott from before “the change.” Where he’d been lazy in academics, overly aggressive in sports, and socially insecure, he’s a new person. And although he can recall behaving egotistically, he cannot remember his motivations.

Everyone, from his mother to his teachers to his “superjock” former pals, is shocked by his dramatic transformation. However, Scott Beckett is not impressed by Bryan’s newfound virtue. And convincing Scott he’s genuinely changed and improved, hopefully gaining Scott’s trust and maybe even his love, becomes Bryan’s obsession.

With a foreword by Cody Kennedy

My Review

Dropping into the middle of an ongoing story in the opening pages of a book is always an interesting tactic. Mia Kerick knows she has to bring you up to speed, and that you'll be playing a bit of catch up, but the way she does it, keeps you turning the pages at a lightning speed. If a writer commits to the journey and doesn't leave me hanging, then I'm with her all the way, and Kerick doesn't disappoint. She weaves her narrative together like the hands of fate stringing the threads of life through a loom. We don't know what Bryan did to Scott—for a reason. She wants us to find out when he does.

Collective memory loss is a common fictional device. Sometimes it's overused, but I think it works here. It's not simply inserted for plot purposes. There's a greater meaning behind why Bryan can't remember, you just have to wait for it. The explanation is as powerful as it is gut-wrenching, but to get to that point, we have to rebuild what happened to Scott along with Bryan, and it makes the emotional punch that much greater at the end.

Scott is delicate, blonde, blue-eyed. He's gay and everyone knows it. Bryan is insanely tall, the towering jock that nobody messes with. He's gay too—he just doesn't want anyone to find out about how he's been doing a lot more than kissing Scott behind closed doors. Sometimes gay romances are heavy on the self-hatred and the love scenes turn into crippled attempts at intimacy. Not so with THE RED SHEET. Kerick hits all the right notes. The love behind the gestures is what sold it for me. Bryan's not trying to use Scott's body to try to figure stuff out for himself. He genuinely cares about him. He wants to make him feel good and watch him experience the things he's doing to him. He's not self-absorbed, thinking about himself in these moments, he's thinking about Scott and that's what makes the whole sequence great. I bought their love story, even though I'm female, even though I'm straight, and to me that speaks to the talent of a great romance writer.

The shifts back and forth between the present and the past are easy to follow. I like how Kerick uses wads of rolled-up journal entries that Bryan finds in the wastepaper basket in his bedroom and how Scott lets him read the text exchanges they had. I like how literary means are employed to give Bryan a better picture of who he was and what his relationship with Scott meant to him. How sweet and cute they were together is juxtaposed with that arrogant side of Bryan when he was determined to keep things on the down low.

I judge a lot of books by how quickly I'm able to move through them. If the author hooks me. If the writing style flows, the syntax clear, the voice engaging. And I liked being inside Bryan's head because I tore through chapter after chapter, watching in amazement how my Kindle app said I was at the 30% then the 60% then the 90% mark. Young adult novels are at their best when they sweep you into the school year and I felt the weeks between Halloween and Valentine's Day fly by right along with Bryan and Scott. It shows that no matter how much things change, so much stays the same. Anyone who's been through high school experiences the same types of things. It's only in seeing them in a new way—like addressing male homosexuality in a modern day setting—that gives high school a fresh twist making it relevant for today's audience. Kerick's a young author to keep an eye on.


The Red Sheet can be purchased at:
Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Dreamspinner Press, All Romance Books

Prices/Formats: $6.99 ebook, $14.99 paperback
Pages: 190
Genre: Young Adult
Release: February 20, 2014
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
ISBN: 9781627987219
Click to add to your Goodreads list.

About the Author

Mia Kerick is the mother of four exceptional children—all named after saints—and five nonpedigreed cats—all named after the next best thing to saints, Boston Red Sox players. Her husband of twenty years has been told by many that he has the patience of Job, but don’t ask Mia about that, as it is a sensitive subject.

Mia focuses her stories on the emotional growth of troubled young men and their relationships, and she believes that sex has a place in a love story, but not until it is firmly established as a love story. As a teen, Mia filled spiral-bound notebooks with romantic tales of tortured heroes (most of whom happened to strongly resemble lead vocalists of 1980s big-hair bands) and stuffed them under her mattress for safekeeping. She is thankful to Dreamspinner Press for providing her with an alternate place to stash her stories.

Mia is proud of her involvement with the Human Rights Campaign and cheers for each and every victory made in the name of marital equality. Her only major regret: never having taken typing or computer class in school, destining her to a life consumed with two-fingered pecking and constant prayer to the Gods of Technology.

My themes I always write about:
Sweetness. Unconventional love, tortured/damaged heroes- only love can save them

Links to connect with Mia:
Web Site
Blog Tour Site

About the Giveaway

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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Michael J. Bowler - There Is No Fear - Review & Giveaway

About the Book

The most famous boy in the world is a prisoner. He’s been charged with a crime he didn’t commit, a crime that could send him to prison for the rest of his life. Languishing within The Compound, the most secure juvenile facility in California, while the district attorney vows to make an example of him because of his celebrity status, Lance must endure the daily indignities of the incarcerated.

New Camelot is fractured without him. Ricky and Chris are bereft, living for the weekly phone call that becomes their only lifeline to the brother they so desperately love, while Arthur and Jenny feel the loss of their son with a sadness that can’t be quelled. And what about Michael, the highly volatile teen who helped write the proposition that will change California forever? Could he really be the monster he says he is? His hatred of Ricky is palpable, and his instability may well threaten the lives of everyone at New Camelot.

As the election looms closer, Proposition 51 takes on an even greater significance in light of the pending trial of the century. The more harshly fifteen-year-old Lance is treated within the broken justice system, the more he contemplates the wisdom of his idea that children need more adult rights. If The Child Voter Act becomes law, won’t it simply allow adults to throw more kids into prison with impunity?

Whichever way the voters decide, his greatest fear remains the same: will he ever again be with the people he loves?

The Knight Cycle Continues…

My Review

Should children be treated like adults? That's the resonating theme that pulses through Michael J. Bowler's CHILDREN OF THE KNIGHT series. Now in its third installment, THERE IS NO FEAR, the consequences behind that decision couldn't be more dire. Bowler dives into the juvenile justice system headfirst when Lance gets arrested and thrown into prison.

It's a topic that Bowler knows a lot about. He's volunteered over thirty years of his life, helping children behind bars, providing them with a source of counseling and support. So he's the perfect man to explore the inner workings of a correctional facility, and show just how much needs to be changed in order to make things more humane for the youngest members of society.

The reader goes through every humiliating aspect of his incarceration right along with Lance. From the minute the officer tightens his handcuffs and bashes his head against the police cruiser, he knows he's in trouble. The D.A. is up for reelection and he's out to make an example out of him. Lance quickly learns that court proceedings don't hinge upon justice. Oh no, it's all about winning. Once Lance becomes the public face of the crime he's accused of, the cops stop looking for other suspects. Lance is their man, guilty until proven innocent.

The conditions in the high security wing for violent offenders—dubbed "The Compound"—are animalistic at best. Lance is shackled whenever he leaves lockdown. Guards trip and kick him in the stomach. Other inmates are out to pick a fight with him, judging where they're going to place him on the food chain. Since he's a celebrity they're ready to cut him down to size, show him where he belongs. Lance, for the most part, holds his own, but cowers when he has to strip naked and shower with other boys, reliving flashbacks of his past abuse. He's not even given privacy to use the toilet. His cell is bleak and harsh, and the only relief he finds during his captivity comes from a Catholic priest, who visits once a week as the prison chaplain.

However, Bowler makes a point to provide a fully nuanced account of prison life. Not all of the guards are bad, some of them feel terrible that a fine, young man like Lance is forced to suffer the indignity of being chained and poked and prodded. Some of the boys he's locked up with can't believe he's there because even they don't think he deserves to be. They believe in "The Boy Who Came Back" just as much as most kids their own age do. They're not all out to bully and torment him just because he's delicately handsome or rumored to be gay or the most famous person there. They know he didn't get a fair shake, just like most of them. He's Latino. He's originally from the street. He used to be from a bad part of town. So it's sad to say that in a way, they're not totally surprised that he ends up where they did.

And that's what Bowler ultimately attempts to show—it can happen to anyone. It doesn't matter how rich or famous or successful you are, one slip up is all it takes, and he doesn't want to see any young person have to end up in jail. The reader gets the impression that based on Bowler's firsthand experience he would do anything to stop that from happening, even write a series of books about it.

When an author writes so passionately about a cause that's so close to his heart, a reader can't help but respond to his message. The authenticity behind his words backs up his story. It makes it more believable and his characters more genuine. Everything has the tinge of reality to it. It's not some fantasy world shrouded in the mists of Avalon, it's what's going on right now in modern day Los Angeles. The fundamental human rights of children are being taken away and adults are standing back and letting it happen. Bowler's portrayal is a rousing call to arms to become a "Warrior of Light."


There Is No Fear can be purchased at:

Prices/Formats: $4.99 ebook, $13.95 paperback
Pages: 284
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Young Adult
Release: July 17, 2014
Publisher: self-published
ISBN: 9780990306337
Click to add to your Goodreads list.

About the Author

Michael J. Bowler is an award-winning author of five novels––A Boy and His Dragon, A Matter of Time (Silver Medalist from Reader’s Favorite), Children of the Knight (Gold Award Winner in the Wishing Shelf Book Awards), Running Through A Dark Place, and There Is No Fear––who grew up in San Rafael, California. His horror screenplay, “Healer,” was a Semi-Finalist, and his urban fantasy script, “Like A Hero,” was a Finalist in the Shriekfest Film Festival and Screenplay Competition.

He majored in English and Theatre at Santa Clara University and earned a master’s in film production from Loyola Marymount University, a teaching credential in English from LMU, and another master's in Special Education from Cal State University Dominguez Hills.

He partnered with two friends as producer, writer, and/or director on several ultra-low-budget horror films, including “Fatal Images,” “Club Dead,” and “Things II,” the reviews of which are much more fun than the actual movies.

He taught high school in Hawthorne, California for twenty-five years, both in general education and to students with learning disabilities, in subjects ranging from English and Strength Training to Algebra, Biology, and Yearbook.

He has also been a volunteer Big Brother to seven different boys with the Catholic Big Brothers Big Sisters program and a thirty-year volunteer within the juvenile justice system in Los Angeles. He is a passionate advocate for the fair treatment of children and teens in California, something that is sorely lacking in this state.

He has been honored as Probation Volunteer of the Year, YMCA Volunteer of the Year, California Big Brother of the Year, and 2000 National Big Brother of the Year. The “National” honor allowed he and three of his Little Brothers to visit the White House and meet the president in the Oval Office.

He has already written the two remaining books that complete The Children of the Knight Cycle and both will be released in 2014.

He is currently at work on a horror/suspense novel based on his screenplay, “Healer.”

Links to connect with Michael:
Web Site
Blog Tour Site

About the Giveaway

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