Friday, September 19, 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

Young adult author Mia Kerick frames her same-sex love story THE RED SHEET around the popular 2001 song "Superman" by Five for Fighting. Familiar lyrics like "Even heroes have the right to dream," and "It's not easy to be me," become fitting chapter titles when her protagonist Bryan Dennison wakes up one morning and wants to save the world. He doesn't know what brought on this radical transformation and why he suddenly feels like the ambassador of GreenPeace, the Salvation Army and Feeding America all rolled into one. As the first person narrator, Bryan is telling the story to the audience in order to understand what is happening to him.

All Bryan knows is that he's attracted to chorus tenor Scott Beckett with his wire-rimmed glasses and porcelain skin—and he shouldn't be—not if he wants to maintain his street cred with the superjock crowd. Bryan excels at two things: bullying and basketball. Having Scott as his boyfriend just doesn't fit into that formula. He's a star athlete whose sole motivation is to win, at all costs. He cares too much about what people think of him to throw his reputation away on a boy he can't have. There's no way he's going to come out, even if he's able to admit, at least to himself, "Scott…well, he just did it for me."

However, practice makes perfect and little by little Bryan gains confidence in his feelings by standing up for his newfound convictions. He prays. He tells the truth. He puts the needs of others ahead of his own. He doesn't want to sit on the sidelines anymore. He's ready to champion the cause of right over wrong. But Scott doesn't want to have anything to do with him. Somewhere along the line, Bryan broke Scott's spirit, and it's killing him that he can't remember how.

The novel is part mystery as Bryan tries to remember the kind of self-absorbed jerk he used to be. His memory is riddled with gaps and as he sorts through the clues of his recent past he comes to learn that he was complicit in something terrible that happened to Scott. He works through the remainder of the book trying to make amends for what he did to him before the full weight of his betrayal slams onto his shoulders. The tension is heightened with every page as Bryan's interior journey comes full circle.

Yet through his love for Scott, Bryan is finally able to stand up for what he believes in. He chooses the hard road because it's worth it, not because it's easy. He knows that he can't escape himself. Strength only comes from suffering. He's not lost anymore. He knows that he won't slip back and become the person he once was because Scott was able to forgive him. He's aware now how closely hurt and love go hand in hand, and how love is its own form of kryptonite if it's not handled with care. With love comes responsibility, and Bryan is finally man enough to protect and guard Scott's heart with everything he has, letting the world know that he belongs to him. Now he's able to don his red cape in public, because being openly in love is what really makes him fly.


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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Friday, September 5, 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

"I'm not ready to be a grownup yet."

With that simple admission, author Michael J. Bowler sums up the essence of young adult literature. So often, writers try to make their teenage characters seem more put together than they really are. It could be a ploy, telling young readers what they want to hear, that authority figures suck. It could be a marketing strategy that love equals sex because sex sells. It could be the belief that teenagers are looking to escape their problems, not solve them, so let's keep them disconnected because they want to be. But that kind of mentality is shortchanging a smart and capable teenage audience.

Yet again and again, publishers choose to spit out the same old story that teenagers don't need adults, feeding them the line that they can overcome any obstacle on their own. All they need is a hot love interest and they're all set, able to conquer anything that gets in their way.

But Bowler knows teens better than most. In 2000, he was invited to visit the White House when he was named the National Big Brother of the Year. For thirty years, he has volunteered within the juvenile justice system of Los Angeles, and he's been a high school teacher for a quarter of a century. He's not writing about some abstract, fantasy concept of what teenagers are supposed to be. He knows them firsthand because he's at the epicenter of youth culture, both good and bad.

That's why the adult characters in THERE IS NO FEAR are just as important as their younger counterparts. King Arthur is a father figure, the stabilizing influence for a group of troubled teens who aren't sure where they fit in or where they belong. He's a source of unconditional love because he expects them to mess up and make mistakes. He knows they're not going to be perfect. He's ready and willing to welcome them home time and again, never shutting his door to the prodigal sons in his midst. Arthur says so poignantly, "I've learned that it's ever and always my job to set a right and proper example for them. I've learned to trust them, and never, ever give up on them."

There are many touching scenes between King Arthur and his adopted son/protege, Lance. When fifteen-year-old Lance is sent to prison, Arthur waits in line outside the gate, desperate to see him. He never misses a visit. The minute he arrives, he's anxiously watching for Lance's face behind the barred window to his cell.

Another key moment is when Arthur has a heart-to-heart with Lance about the abuse he suffered at the hands of his foster father. There is a lot of pain that gets dredged up in that conversation, but Arthur is astute enough to realize that Lance has been carrying around a lot of heavy misconceptions about himself that need to be addressed and set right. It's a talk that's not easy to have, but it's one that Arthur doesn't shy away from.

A second adult worthy of mention is Merlin. Although he only makes one appearance of merit in THERE IS NO FEAR, it's an important one. Lance is foundering under a false sense of identity. He thinks he has to be perfect to be truly worthy anyone's love. But Merlin sets him right, saying, "In this era there seems to be an obsession with the perfect male and the perfect female, and if you cannot live up to those ideals you are somehow a failure. These idealized notions of perfection are like your Hollywood movies, Lance–pure fantasy. Do not destroy yourself because you cannot measure up to the fantasy image of the perfect boy. Would that you could see yourself through my eyes, you would see a true hero, an amazing young man who is more real than most." And that's a certainly a message all media-obsessed teens need to hear—it's okay to be yourself.

If Bowler could be there for every teen out there, you get the sense that he would. However, even if he can't personally visit each and every teen, he's able to reach a lot more through his books. Bowler is an author deserving of a wide spread audience, especially among inner city youth who are at risk of becoming just another statistic in the criminal justice system, like many of the boys Lance meets in prison. They need to hear that they're not mistakes, and that they're loved and someone cares about them. And if Bowler's unable to get to them personally, I think he hopes that his readers will take up the cause, because he can't do it alone, he needs help. Social change may start with one person, but it culminates with the active participation of the many.

The Round Table-inspired works of Bowler's are certainly meant to entertain, but they do so much more than that. They're the trumpet call in the night. They're the summoning sword held aloft. They're a call to action to right the many injustices facing the world today. It's up to readers whether or not they want to remain passive bystanders, who read simply as a means of escape, or if they're willing to take Bowler up on his offer and join the New Camelot because it's real and it's there, waiting right outside the pages of this book.


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

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