TOP REC & REVIEW: Autoboyography by Christina Lauren

Young Adult LGBT Romance

Purchase: Kindle | Hardcover | Audio

Add to Goodreads

♦BLURB♦

Fangirl meets Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda in this funny and poignant coming-of-age novel from New York Times bestselling author Christina Lauren about two boys who fall in love in a writing class—one from a progressive family and the other from a conservative religious community.

Three years ago, Tanner Scott’s family relocated from California to Utah, a move that nudged the bisexual teen temporarily back into the closet. Now, with one semester of high school to go, and no obstacles between him and out-of-state college freedom, Tanner plans to coast through his remaining classes and clear out of Utah.

But when his best friend Autumn dares him to take Provo High’s prestigious Seminar—where honor roll students diligently toil to draft a book in a semester—Tanner can’t resist going against his better judgment and having a go, if only to prove to Autumn how silly the whole thing is. Writing a book in four months sounds simple. Four months is an eternity.

It turns out, Tanner is only partly right: four months is a long time. After all, it takes only one second for him to notice Sebastian Brother, the Mormon prodigy who sold his own Seminar novel the year before and who now mentors the class. And it takes less than a month for Tanner to fall completely in love with him.

 

♦6-STAR REVIEW♦

With an honest and unafraid portrayal of the obstacles a relationship can face when homosexuality and religion are the main components, Autoboyography excelled at capturing an inspiring coming-of-age love story. Top-notch writing and storytelling from this duo further allowed for this story and its characters to feel completely relatable, to open that door to show that anyone from any spectrum can find a piece of themselves in Tanner or Sebastian.

Its lack of bias or agenda and instead its true focus on these characters as real teens, real young men struggling with the pressures of sexuality, beliefs, societal pressures, and familial belonging, was a truly powerful element. In reading this story, it’s incredibly obvious that Christina Lauren took the time to accurately research and portray both a faith and sexual orientation that many readers will have no understanding of. With Tanner’s non-LDS status, his lack of knowledge and stereotypical beliefs of the Mormon faith will connect with many readers, but his journey to researching and understanding it on his own and through Sebastian was both very educational and key in understanding the main conflict of a relationship between the two.

Autoboyography read like a biopic of first-love with teenage awkwardness, exploration of self, and the pressures of society or religion to be like everyone else. Tanner felt far older than his age, confirming that hiding oneself in a crucial time of growth in ones’ life can force a maturity that wouldn’t possibly be there otherwise. But oh the big heart he had to opening himself up to the very real chance his feelings wouldn’t be returned was starkly vivid on the page. The supporting players were truly figures to emulate, all fully accepting and caring and the kind of cast that each teen in this world truly need surrounding them.

Christina Lauren tackled two sensitive subjects with grace and heart and, in their unique way of telling the story, made it very easy to instantly fall into it. Autoboyography told the tale of a messy, but brutally beautiful love story, and the ride as a reader in experiencing it was wonderfully exhilarating. This is storytelling at its best, at its most unputdownable, top-of-its-game best. Every parent, every teen, every adult needs to experience the sheer beauty behind the power of love and how strength comes from opening your heart rather than closing it off.

 

♦ABOUT THE AUTHOR♦

Christina Lauren is the combined pen name of long-time writing partners/besties/soulmates Christina Hobbs and Lauren Billings. The #1 international bestselling coauthor duo writes both Young Adult and Adult Fiction, and together has produced fourteen New York Times bestselling novels. They are published in over 30 languages, have received multiple starred reviews from Kirkus Reviews and Library Journal, won both the Seal of Excellence and Book of the Year from RT Magazine, and have been featured in publications such as ForbesThe Washington PostTimeEntertainment WeeklyO Magazine and more. Their third YA novel, Autoboyography will be released in September, followed by a contemporary romance, Roomies in December.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Continue Reading

REVIEW: The Last Magician by Lisa Maxwell

The Last Magician Book One; Young Adult

Purchase: Kindle | Hardcover | Audio

Add to Goodreads

♦BLURB♦

Stop the Magician. Steal the book. Save the future.

In modern-day New York, magic is all but extinct. The remaining few who have an affinity for magic—the Mageus—live in the shadows, hiding who they are. Any Mageus who enters Manhattan becomes trapped by the Brink, a dark energy barrier that confines them to the island. Crossing it means losing their power—and often their lives.

Esta is a talented thief, and she’s been raised to steal magical artifacts from the sinister Order that created the Brink. With her innate ability to manipulate time, Esta can pilfer from the past, collecting these artifacts before the Order even realizes she’s there. And all of Esta’s training has been for one final job: traveling back to 1902 to steal an ancient book containing the secrets of the Order—and the Brink—before the Magician can destroy it and doom the Mageus to a hopeless future.

But Old New York is a dangerous world ruled by ruthless gangs and secret societies, a world where the very air crackles with magic. Nothing is as it seems, including the Magician himself. And for Esta to save her future, she may have to betray everyone in the past.

 

♦4-STAR REVIEW♦

A time-traveling historical with romance and the paranormal, The Last Magician is an intricately woven tale of adventure and danger. Set mostly in the early 1900s, Maxwell really set the scene of Old New York, a time of gangs and power seekers, but with the added flare of magic. One could almost see the costumes, feel the cigarette smoke clogging the air, and ache with the impossible struggle for survival in a divided city (a bit reminiscent of Gangs of New York).

With the twist of magic, Maxwell’s story takes readers deep into the struggle of the magic-having and the magic-less; the Mageus versus The Order, those without magic but feeling owed it or in eradicating it (or them) completely. Being tasked with travelling back in time to stop the Magician from stealing the book that could be the answer to saving magic and those with it for the future, her own time, Esta is wholly unprepared for the time she arrives in and all of its landmines. She’s alone, thrust in a time where nothing is remotely the same, and with characters that she has no idea how to read; her fear and lack of knowing how to complete her task without changing anything else in the future was palpable. And even with her affinity, Maxwell allowed her to feel unsure of herself and to struggle with finding who she was among a whole cast of characters (that were equally as diverse and palpable), qualities that likened her to the reader and made her visceral.

The parallel between the dividing of the people in this story mirrors greatly the division of race in the real world. With the Mageus being immigrants to New York, possessing of a quality that frightens those without it, I couldn’t help but see the direct references to our world. I have no idea if this was something the author meant to tie it to, and even if not, there are many interpretations that a reader could make with it. There was such strength, though, in risking that connection or powering into it with full intent, most especially in the easy way she wrote it. The passion Maxwell put into her characters, the issues, and the worldbuilding was beautifully done from start to finish, and it was unlike anything I had read before.

With a big story such as this, both in length and in worldbuilding, I wasn’t surprised to find it slow for some of the first half as it set the scene. Maxwell really rolled up her sleeves and dug in when making this an accurate and well-thought-out book that featured heavily in alchemy and magic. And, to me, it felt like much more than a Young Adult story in that the characters felt well beyond their years, expectant of those down-trodden times, and that it was so very detailed. The twists and turns were vast and quite frequent once the story got going, and I flew through the last half of the book in no time at all. The Last Magician was a unique and grand adventure, one that is just getting started. And I am desperate for the second half of this story.

 

♦ABOUT THE AUTHOR♦

Lisa Maxwell

Lisa Maxwell is the author of Sweet Unrest (2014), Gathering Deep (2015), and Unhooked (Simon Pulse, Feb. 2016). She’s worked as a bookseller, editor, and teacher. She has a PhD in English, and when she’s not writing books, she’s a professor at a local college. She lives near DC, where she spends her weekends taking all sorts of adventures with her family.

Website | Facebook | Twitter

Continue Reading

BOOK REVIEW w/ EXCERPT: Trust by Kylie Scott

Mature YA Romance

Purchase: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon AU | Paperback | B&NiBooks US | iBooks AU | Kobo

Add to Goodreads

 

♦BLURB♦

Being young is all about the experiences: the first time you skip school, the first time you fall in love…the first time someone holds a gun to your head.

After being held hostage during a robbery at the local convenience store, seventeen year old Edie finds her attitude about life shattered. Unwilling to put up with the snobbery and bullying at her private school, she enrolls at the local public high school, crossing paths with John. The boy who risked his life to save hers.

While Edie’s beginning to run wild, however, John’s just starting to settle down. After years of partying and dealing drugs with his older brother, he’s going straight—getting to class on time, and thinking about the future.

An unlikely bond grows between the two as John keeps Edie out of trouble and helps her broaden her horizons. But when he helps her out with another first—losing her virginity—their friendship gets complicated.

Meanwhile, Edie and John are pulled back into the dangerous world they narrowly escaped. They were lucky to survive the first time, but this time they have more to lose—each other.

 

♦4.5-STAR REVIEW♦

Sweetly romantic and poignantly captivating, Trust was a timely portrayal of the external and internal struggles for a young woman in modern society. With a tough-as-nails heroine who easily captured inner-strength with a side of vulnerability, Scott penned a beautiful story of growth, love, and self acceptance.

Body issues and the viewpoint of the public aside, what was most enjoyable was that these labels didn’t define the story or the heroine, but were mere stepping stones to cross over in order to meet the next hurdle. Edie became like any other main character, regardless of her struggles, in that she was real and suffered normal setbacks with the uncertainty most would have. Scott beautifully portrayed the effects of the traumatic event Edie suffered, allowing her to find her own way in the aftermath, showing us the deep repercussions of how the mind fights back. Most inspiring of all, though, was the kind of beauty that can come from a horrible situation as she and John suffered.

Sexier than expected, classifying this one as more upper YA/lower NA, the love story in this novel was perfect in every aspect. John and Edie’s connection grew organically with the speed of travelling ivy, allowing the most natural, feral attraction to form. Friendship and comfort and trust fell into so much more.

Learning how to trust one’s own self, those around them, the sense of safety, the fragility of the mind, and the love of another became the powerful messages to take home once the book ended. Scott did an amazing job tackling so many issues without one overpowering the other or feeling as if Edie was lost inside of it. Trust packed an emotional punch that continued to weigh on me long after the last page was turned, and I applaud the unabashed way in which Scott told this story. Don’t let the YA genre of the story fool you; it still had everything this author’s known for plus so much more that I hope to continue to see this author use in her future works.

 

♦EXCERPT♦

“You were going to give it up to Duncan Dickerson?” he sneered. “Are you serious?”

I halted, staring at him. This was not good. “How do you know about that?”

“Anders overheard you and Hang talking.”

“Bastard.”

“Well?” he demanded, acting all authoritarian. Idiot.

“To be fair, I didn’t know his last name was Dickerson,” I said. “That’s unfortunate. Though, I wasn’t actually planning on marrying him, so . . .”

“Not funny.”

I shrugged.

“You barely know the guy.”

“Um, yeah. None of your concern. We’re not talking about this.” How mortifying! My face burned bright. People should just gather around and cook s’mores. “I appreciate that we’re friends. You mean a lot to me. But this is going to have to fall under definitely none of your damn business, so go away please.”

“We’re talking about it.” He advanced a step.

“No we are not.” And I retreated.

“You were going to let a complete stranger touch you.” Advance.

Retreat. “People do it all the time. You do it all the time.”

“But you don’t,” he said, taking the final step, backing me up against the side of his car and getting all in my face. “Edie, this is your first time we’re talking about. Isn’t it?”

“Yes, and it’s going to be messy and painful and probably horribly embarrassing and I just want it over and done with.” I tried to meet his eyes but failed, settling for a spot on his right shoulder. “You’re not a girl; you wouldn’t understand. Also, last time I checked, you’re not the gatekeeper of my hymen, John Cole. So back the fuck off.”

He said nothing.

Deep, calming breaths. “Look, someday I’ll meet someone I really like and we’ll have a deep and meaningful relationship and go at it like bunnies. But I don’t want to be the dumb virgin in that scenario.”

He slowly shook his head.

“Also, I do not want to die a virgin.”

“What? What the hell are you talking about?”

“Hey, you and I both know death can occur at any time.”

“This is crazy.”

“I’m seeing a therapist!” I told his shoulder. “I don’t know if you noticed, but I’m a little bit messed up these days. It’s hard for me to trust people. That’s not going to change anytime soon.”

He screwed up his face at me. “Wha—”

“I’m just trying to be practical.”

“Well, you’re being ridiculous. None of this makes sense.”

“It does to me.”

Again, he said nothing.

In fact, he said nothing for so long that I finally looked him in the eye. The anger had left him, replaced by an emotion I didn’t recognize. Worst of all, he still smelled like summer. A little sweat and the open night air, everything I loved. Liked. I meant liked.

“What?” I said, finally.

He let loose a breath. “I’ll do it.”

 

♦TRAILER♦

 

TRUST by Kylie Scott (Official Book Trailer) from FILM 14 on Vimeo.

 

♦ABOUT THE AUTHOR♦

kylie scott

Kylie is a New York Times and USA Today best-selling author. She was voted Australian Romance Writer of the year, 2013 & 2014, by the Australian Romance Writer’s Association and her books have been translated into eleven different languages. She is a long time fan of romance, rock music, and B-grade horror films. Based in Queensland, Australia with her two children and husband, she reads, writes and never dithers around on the internet.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Continue Reading

BOOK REVIEW & AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Lost Boy by Christina Henry

Young Adult

Purchase: Kindle | Paperback | B&N | BAM | IndieBound

Add to Goodreads

 

♦BLURB♦

From the national bestselling author of Alice comes a familiar story with a dark hook—a tale about Peter Pan and the friend who became his nemesis, a nemesis who may not be the blackhearted villain Peter says he is…

There is one version of my story that everyone knows. And then there is the truth. This is how it happened. How I went from being Peter Pan’s first—and favorite—lost boy to his greatest enemy.

Peter brought me to his island because there were no rules and no grownups to make us mind. He brought boys from the Other Place to join in the fun, but Peter’s idea of fun is sharper than a pirate’s sword. Because it’s never been all fun and games on the island. Our neighbors are pirates and monsters. Our toys are knife and stick and rock—the kinds of playthings that bite.

Peter promised we would all be young and happy forever.

Peter lies.

 

♦5-STAR REVIEW♦

Wildly imaginative and wonderfully inventive, Lost Boy twisted the long-standing characters of Pan and Hook from the classic tale to give a new origin story, one of how two friends became the life-long enemies they’re famously known as. With skill and finesse, Henry’s storytelling easily transported me to a wild island where boys never aged, one where they could never leave, and where the true side of the boy that led them all shone through.

Henry brilliantly wove a tale with an underlying of darkness, expertly showing the slow progression of insanity that was Peter Pan and the depravities of the island. With rich detail and vivid characters, there was no fear in showing the unbridled side to boys when left to their own devices and how susceptible they were to attention. It was poignantly bloodied, but incredibly moving and emotional. Every moment of the story carried with it a deeper meaning, crossing reality with make believe and jealousy with love. And Jamie, before he took to his famous moniker, was at the center of it all as Pan’s favorite token from the Other Land, the longest on the island. His character was deeply rooted and clearly written, flickering between his devotion to the Lost Boys and his love for the boy who brought him there. It became impossible to not be wrapped up in him.

Lost Boy was darkly clever, intricate in every way, and so different from any version before it, but brilliant nonetheless. Words cannot express how much I adored this version, how easily it fit into the character we’ve always  known, and how its effect alludes explanation. If you’re looking to be thrilled and charmed and twisted, I can not recommend this tale enough.

“Was this, I wondered, what it felt like to be a grown-up? Did you always feel the weight of things on you, your cares pressing you down like a burden you could never shake? No wonder Peter could fly. He had no worries to weight him to the earth.”

 

♦INTERVIEW♦

I had the pleasure of asking Christina Henry a few questions, check them out below!

Book Reader Chronicles: What inspired you to write this particular re-telling of Captain Hook and Peter Pan?

Christina Henry: I wanted to know why Captain Hook hated Peter Pan so much. It always seemed strange to me that this adult, this pirate, hung around Neverland plotting against a kid when he ought to be off doing pirate-y things. So I wrote this book to answer the question for myself.

BRC: Was there any particular scene or part of the book that gave you trouble when writing it?

CH: I write chronologically and by hand, so I don’t really think of the book in terms of individual scenes but rather as a long spool unfurling.  I don’t have difficulty writing individual scenes but I will admit that editing is not my favorite thing.

BRC: What endeared you to Hook, enough to make you turn the story to put him in a better light?

CH: I have a deep, highly romanticized affection for pirates born of too many readings of TREASURE ISLAND.  I also had a feeling that such intense hatred of Peter Pan could only have come about if they were friends once – only love can become so corrosive when it dies.

BRC: What’s your favorite part about fairytales?

CH: That they can be endlessly interpreted and re-interpreted through a variety of lenses. There’s always another way to tell a story.

BRC: What’s your favorite fairytale of all time and why?

CH: I’ve always been very fond of “The Twelve Dancing Princesses” and in particular Robin McKinley’s retelling of this story. Her retelling gives layers and lushness to the original.

BRC: Favorite Lost Boy aside from Hook?

CH: In my own book I love Nod and Fog, the wild twins. I’ve always thought it would be wonderful to have a twin.

BRC: What are you tackling next?

CH: My next book, which will be out in the summer of 2018, is THE MERMAID. It’s the story of P.T. Barnum and the Feejee Mermaid, except in my book the mermaid is real instead of a hoax. It’s also a story of loss and grief, and about feeling alien in a human world. It’s pretty different from anything else I’ve ever written.

 

♦ABOUT THE AUTHOR♦

CHRISTINA HENRY  is the author of the CHRONICLES OF ALICE duology, ALICE and RED QUEEN, a dark and twisted take on Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, as well as LOST BOY: THE TRUE STORY OF CAPTAIN HOOK, an origin story of Captain Hook from Peter Pan.

She is also the author of the national bestselling BLACK WINGS series (BLACK WINGS, BLACK NIGHT, BLACK HOWL, BLACK LAMENT, BLACK CITY, BLACK HEART and BLACK SPRING) featuring Agent of Death Madeline Black and her popcorn-loving gargoyle Beezle.

ALICE was chosen as one of Amazon’s Best Books of the Year in Science Fiction and Fantasy for 2015. It was also a Goodreads Choice Award nominee in Horror and one of Barnes & Noble’s Bestselling Science Fiction and Fantasy novels of 2015.

She enjoys running long distances, reading anything she can get her hands on and watching movies with samurai, zombies and/or subtitles in her spare time. She lives in Chicago with her husband and son.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Continue Reading