Monday, September 15, 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

Bryan Dennison does what not many teenage boys take the time to do. Make an examination of conscience. He knows he did something wrong. He just doesn't know what. He wakes up one morning with a clean slate. He can't remember the last few weeks, yet he can't shake this overhanging sense of guilt nagging at him that he needs to make amends for something—something big. So he turns into a Superman of charity, volunteering at a soup kitchen, picking up random pieces of litter, buying a homeless guy a meal, shoveling a neighbor's driveway even if it makes him late for school, but none of these selfless acts bring any sense of clarity. He's as lost as he ever was.

Because what he did, he did to Scott, the boy he can't believe he's fallen in love with.

Bryan is supposed to be Mr. Superjock, star of the high school basketball team. And he was, up until developing a fetish for red capes and sticking his neck out for others. Scott won't speak to him and the group of bullies he used to call friends lead him to believe they caught him making out with Scott at a party in a closet and that he'd better shut up about it before they tell the entire school.

The transformative arc in Bryan's character doesn't come easy. He suffers all of the slights and barbs that come with being on the unpopular side of the cafeteria, but he never wavers. His newfound determination to be a better person is ingrained in him because he knows it's the only way he stands a chance at winning Scott back. He takes it a step at a time as he works his way there. He participates in a flash mob to serenade a teacher on her birthday. He goes roller skating with a group of kids, many consider misfits and outcasts. He spray paints (in washable chalk) inspirational quotes from Gandhi all over school property. But for Scott, it's not enough. He wants more.

Forgiveness is equated with strength throughout the novel, as well as, "Being the change you want to see in the world." When the true scope of what Scott endured is revealed, it's quite shocking. It makes it hard to like Bryan as a character, no matter how much he's changed. But Scott shows that the only way he can save Bryan is to forgive him, or else he'll never be able to forgive himself. It's a generous gift that illustrates just how much Scott loves Bryan if he's able to do that. It's a beautiful message of hope and understanding.

Scott has never been afraid to be himself. Years of bullying and abuse have shaped him into the survivor he is today. It takes Bryan longer to feel more comfortable about his sexuality and sharing it with the world. It's interesting to note that inwardly Bryan doesn't struggle so much with his attraction to Scott. He doesn't resist it in private. There's a flashback scene in Bryan's bedroom where he just wants to watch the look in Scott's eyes when he's touching him. He's not repulsed by his need to satisfy his desire, but he can't bear the thought of other people knowing about it. He's able to give his heart to Scott, even if he won't share a lunch table with him.

Scott's demand for more from Bryan is the wind that unfurls the red cape tied around his neck. Love isn't found in denial. It's found in acceptance. Once Bryan's able to make that leap, it really is like he's flying, no superpowers required. He's a fully actualized person, something not many teen boys in young adult novels get to be. A doting son to his mother. A hero to his little stepbrother. A champion defender of his boyfriend. Yep, Bryan Dennison is a guy worth rooting for to get it right.


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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Monday, September 1, 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

The Curse of Camelot descends upon Lance as he goes from hero to criminal in a tragic fall from grace. Accused of a brutal sex/hate crime he did not commit, the media is quick to label him a teenaged Jack the Ripper. Convicted in the court of public opinion long before he even goes to trial, the world thinks he's guilty the moment he's charged, believing the flimsy trail of circumstantial evidence linking him to the scene. How quickly things change. Everyone always knew that Lance was too good to be true, now they think they have the proof to back it up.

There's something contradictory about human nature that likes to place certain individuals up on a pedestal before tilting it over and knocking them off of it. As Michael J. Bowler explains in THERE IS NO FEAR, it's a way of dealing with one's own failings and shortcomings by projecting them on to another person. It's also a means of avoiding blame by hoisting it upon the shoulders of an innocent stranger. But Lance doesn't fall victim to self pity. Instead of giving in to his despair while in prison, he rediscovers his self-worth and is able to redefine himself.

Being separated from the ones he loves really brings into stark relief just how much he cares about them. Unable to sort out his feelings for Ricky while on the outside, Lance comes to realize just how important his adopted brother is to him. He's not only his other half, he's the person he loves the most. Even if at first he's too afraid to say it to Ricky directly during their weekly phone calls, he gradually works it out in his heart.

Lance is still confused about Michael, but Bowler refers to Lance as a "soul whisperer," the kind of person who's able to uncover the good in everyone he meets. He never gives up that there's a boy worth knowing inside the jumbled brain of Michael's tortured psyche. Lance, a fellow child rape victim himself, is mature enough to piece together that life shapes someone into the person they become. No one starts out as a monster, and Michael never wanted to be Frankenstein. He just needs someone to love him.

Lance isn't one to be fooled by bluster and appearances. He knows when people are copping an attitude, even if he doesn't have a handle on his own emotions a lot of the time. Lance is a work in progress, moving step by painful step toward self acceptance. He thinks he might be a mistake. He believes based on the trauma inflicted by his foster father that he harbors the tendency to turn into a child molester, too. He tells himself that in order to be a real boy, he has to have sex with a girl, even if he's not ready, even if he's not sure that's what he wants.

Lance is conflicted, yet that's what makes him such a deep and influential character. He's growing up on the page before readers' eyes. He's figuring things out as he goes along. He's not fully formed because he's not supposed to be. He's a teenager in the flux of transition from boy to man. His heart is pure, it's only when he allows outside forces to penetrate his inner peace that he's thrown off course. Whenever he remains true to himself, he flourishes. Whenever he doesn't, trouble is usually right around the corner.

Gay or straight. Child or adult. Good or bad. Drunk or sober. Innocent or guilty. Lance passes through all of these categories, trying to hone in on who he really is. Some fit a little easier than others, some don't mesh at all, but it's in passing through all of these different stages of development that he's reborn, even more so than when he came back from the dead in book two, RUNNING THROUGH A DARK PLACE. His stint in prison crystallizes things for him that were once unclear. Sometimes going through a difficult period only strengthens a person's spirit, and helps them get to where they need to be. Lance Pendragon, son of King Arthur, is living proof of that.


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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