Tag Archives: Young Adult

New Release: Go Ask Alice by Anne Key #FF #UrbanFantasy

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Title: Go Ask Alice
Author Name & Publisher: Anne Key (Torquere Books)
Publication Date & Length: December 2, 2015 – 35, 000 words

Synopsis

Alice is in trouble.

Big trouble. Her girlfriend, Cat, is dead, Alice just got out of the hospital, and everything is falling apart. The girls bought a bag of pills from a dealer and took them to Cat’s house to LARP their game, Underneath. The plan is to take one pill after another until the vampires come for them.

Problem is, the vampires didn’t come, the ambulance did.

As soon as she gets home, Alice runs away to attend Cat’s funeral and meets Leveret, Cat’s cousin, and that’s when she falls down the rabbit hole.

From shrinking and growing, from a monster in a hospital to a haunted toy store, from a nightclub filled with vampires to a Ren Faire with the most unnerving Mad Hatter and a game where ninja ballerinas beat people to death with sticks – Alice’s trip follows the heart of the Alice in Wonderland story, if not the letter.

On the way Alice has to make a number of decisions – is she sane? Is she dead? Is she willing to sacrifice everything for someone else or does she exercise self-preservation even if that means losing the girl she loves?

Excerpt

I can’t believe this is happening to me. I mean seriously, what the hell? I’ve fallen all the way down the rabbit hole, crashed down and smashed the fucking mushroom, killed the caterpillar and broken all the china.

This is still my bedroom, you know? Nothing’s changed in it over the last five days. I still have posters of The Cure—yes, I’m aware that they’re all old—hanging on my walls, which are still painted black with snail trails of glitter nail polish on them. I still have my little bed, my desk that used to be my grandma’s. I keep looking around the room, waiting for the floor to open up.

It doesn’t.

I had never thought that we would be in this position, me and Cat. She said that she wanted to become a vampire, see what it was like to commit suicide, but I didn’t believe she meant it. I mean, I heard what she said and I knew that it could be dangerous, maybe, but I didn’t think it was going to be like this.

I never thought it was going to be like this.

We said we were going to try to become vampires, to push at the veil, to see what would happen. To see if the stories about the Elders coming to fetch the ones brave enough to knock at death’s door were true at all. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. We said we were going to do it together, that we were going to take pills, and I… I swear, I swear by all I hold holy, that I didn’t think she was actually going to die. I didn’t know that was even an option. I thought this was like another role-playing game, one that was just the two of us. Maybe some sort of weird illusion or something. I don’t know. I mean, fuck.

We dressed up as Isolde and Morrigan, the characters we play when we game The Elders, because those are the best costumes, you know? Black and lace and long, with corsets—not cheap ones, real ones. We both asked for them for Christmas last year. We got a bunch of pills off this dude that all the kids go to in school, this big guy from the football team, and then we sat down in Cat’s attic room, slipped into character, and we started taking the pills, one at a time. I took a blue one first. I remember taking it because it seemed so light, like the sky. Maybe if I’d started with the green one, or red one, or a pink one—but I didn’t. I didn’t start that way. I just took the blue pill.

God, it sounds so old school Matrix somehow. Do you want to take the red pill or the blue pill? I have to admit I liked the way the blue pill tasted so I took another one, but that was it.

That was the whole thing. Cat took a couple of things and started ranting about eternity and God and how we were going to be together forever and, me? I fell asleep.

When I woke up Cat was gone. And by gone I don’t mean disappeared or turned into a vampire or left me there alone or anything good.

I mean she was dead.

Like swollen up and gross and… I don’t know. I freaked out a little. She smelled bad and there was puke everywhere and then her mom was there and screaming and the cops came. I didn’t do anything but sleep for twelve hours, and no one believes me, not even now.

I mean come on. We were playing around. We were being Gothy; we were being drama llamas for Christ’s sake. I never once thought it would be real.

I thought we’d get high and fucked up and see things. I thought it would be like when we decided to slit our wrists together and ended up with Cat throwing up at the sight of blood and both of us stealing a couple of beers from the fridge in Mom’s basement. I didn’t even need a bandage, for god‘s sake.

But no, here I am. I’ve still got a hospital bracelet around my wrist that I cannot bring myself to cut off. I’ve lost my best friend. And I can hear Mom on the phone to Dad.

“Rick, you have to come get Alice,” she says, and she’s crying—not little tears either, but hitching, gulping sounds that prove to me that I’ve really hurt her, like genuinely. “No. No, I don’t understand why she did it. She swears it was a stupid joke, one of her games, but it doesn’t matter. That other little girl ended up dead, and her parents are going to kill our baby!”

Her parents.

Like Mom had never even met Penny and Marshall. Like she didn’t know Cat’s fucking name. Like Mom and Jeff hadn’t gone over to their house and had a bottle of wine, fondue—did people even eat fondue anymore? For god‘s sake, I thought fondue was something hippies did—and now it’s been four days and it’s like they never even knew each other. Like they believed that I would hurt Catherine.

I never wanted to hurt anyone. I wanted to get high and be edgy.

When did suicide pacts actually fucking work? They didn’t. Even Romeo and Juliet fucked them up. And we… we weren’t supposed to die. Live forever, sure. Not die.

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5 and 3 Stars for New Release: Seven Tears at High Tide by C.B. Lee (AUTHOR INTERVIEW) #MM #YA #shifter @author_cblee

Seven Tears 1600px COVER-Front

Title: Seven Tears at High Tide
Author Name & Publisher: C.B. Lee (Duet/Interlude)
Publication Date & Length: October 15, 2015 – 234 pgs

Synopsis

Kevin Luong walks to the ocean’s edge with a broken heart. Remembering a legend his mother told him, he lets seven tears fall into the sea. “I just want one summer—one summer to be happy and in love.” Instead, he finds himself saving a mysterious boy from the Pacific—a boy who later shows up on his doorstep professing his love. What he doesn’t know is that Morgan is a selkie, drawn to answer Kevin’s wish. As they grow close, Morgan is caught between the dangers of the human world and his legacy in the selkie community to which he must return at summer’s end.

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Review

FiveStars

Kevin Luong ia a heartbroken, sixteen-year-old boy facing a summer of loneliness. Morgan is, well, a seal. A selkie, really. He hears Kevin’s wish cast to the sea, and answers it. Summer ensues.
I loved their story, and cried in parts, and was glad to see a young adult story with interesting conflicts, rather than the same old stuff. This story is really just two kids facing their last days of innocence, and about loving families.
C.B. excels at world-building. She creates a layered and deep mythos without ever explaining things in detail and cluttering up the story. A hint here, a mention there, and the entire Sea comes alive. Fantasy writers should read this, instead of trying to get me to memorize a bunch of names I’ve never heard before…anyway, past, present, and future are all represented elegantly.
My one small issue is that Kevin Luong never faces any internal struggle of his own. He gets to be perfect and be loved without offering Morgan a true partnership in return. He’s not perfect, though. But I quibble. He’s just a kid, and he’s easy to like.
Like shifter YA? Come read the best.
~ C. E. Case
ThreeStar

So, this is a young adult book about Kevin, a 16 year old suffering from a broken heart cause some guy he fell for wasn’t the prince charming he thought him to be, and made a wish that was granted.
What first drew me to the story was the description about the sea granting wishes. Cry seven tears at the right moment and make a wish…I’m tempted to go to the beach lol This was a sweet romance between Kevin and Morgan, the selkie sent by the sea to make Kevin happy.
The author did a good job with writing teen angst without being over the top with it, and being lonely, wanting to be accepted. I liked how Kevin was Asian. I don’t see a lot of mm books with Asian main characters. However, this is totally pure fantasy. Morgan wasn’t very convincing as human. Idk, the writing was odd in some places and i had to put the book down a couple of times. I’d recommend this to those just starting to read MM.
~Cookie

Excerpt

They wander into the house, wipe their wet feet on the welcome mat, climb up the stairs and giggle as they pass Ann’s bedroom. She’s dancing with her headphones on, oblivious to the open door, swaying to the beat.

In Kevin’s bedroom, he quickly scrounges up some clean shirts and shorts. “Here, you can wear this,” he says, handing an outfit to Morgan and then ducking into his bathroom to change.

He peels off the wetsuit and hangs it up in his shower, then leans his surfboard carefully against the wall, eyeing the crack. He’ll have to fix it tomorrow.

When he returns, Morgan is holding onto the wet board shorts, wearing the outfit Kevin gave him. He looks curiously at the rock collection prominently displayed on Kevin’s bookshelf.

“These are beautiful,” he says.

“Here, I’ll take that,” Kevin says, holding out his hand for the bedraggled board shorts to hang in his shower. He’s certain now that they’re the ones from the lifeguard’s lost and found.

Kevin’s starting to worry that Morgan doesn’t have any other clothes, but he doesn’t know how to bring it up. Money can be a touchy subject.

Morgan holds Kevin’s favorite specimen, a piece of green olivine on basalt. Kevin once almost convinced Ann it was an avocado roll—it certainly looks like one, bright green speckled with sesame seeds, wrapped in dark seaweed.

“That’s from Mexico. My family went on vacation to Baja last year, and I got that out of an old volcano.” He tries his best to describe the sweltering heat and the excitement of finding geodes and cracking them open with a hammer. Morgan listens in rapt silence as Kevin talks about the find and tilts the olivine so it catches the light. He sets it back in its spot behind its label, slowly so as not to disturb the other specimens, and Kevin is quietly pleased with Morgan’s careful appreciation.

“I changed my mind,” Kevin blurts out.

“About what?”

“I do want this to be a date. For us, to do that,” he says, blushing. “I like you. A lot.”

Morgan’s face breaks into a bright, happy smile.

“And what do we do differently, for this to be a date?”

Kevin can feel the heat on his cheeks. “We can hold hands, if you like. Um, or kiss, if you want to. But we don’t have to do anything you don’t want to. I’m fine just hanging out and watching a movie with you.”

Morgan tilts his head and steps closer. “I want to,” he says, not specifying what, but Kevin knows immediately.

It’s just the quickest brush of lips, but Kevin feels it all the way to his toes. A warm curl of excitement blooms throughout his body, and Morgan’s mouth is warm and wet against his. It’s not like any kiss he’s had, chaste and sweet and over in a second, and yet his heart is still pounding after Morgan leans back. He’s close enough for Kevin to be able to count the eyelashes dark against his cheek.

Morgan ducks his head and asks, “Was that okay?”

Kevin’s a little dazed, but he finds his voice. “Yeah. Yeah, that was great.”

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New Release: Lodestones by Naomi MacKenzie (AUTHOR INTERVIEW) #MM #YoungAdult @_Naomimackenzie

Lodestones 1600px COVER-Front

Title: Lodestone
Author Name & Publisher: Naomi MacKenzie (Duet Books, The YA imprint of Interlude Press)
Publication Date & Length: September 8, 2015 – 226 pgs

Synopsis

On the eve of a new school year, several groups of college students cross paths as they seek out a secret end-of-summer lake party—including Robin and Charlie, two inseparable friends who discover of the course of the twenty-four hours that their relationship is something much deeper than simple friendship.

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Excerpt

Larry holds up the flyer to study the map Florence drew. Barry is leaning to look at it, too, when it’s ripped from between Larry’s fingers.

A greasy man in a campus security uniform stands over them with a pinched expression. His faded nametag reads: Ron Anderchuk. “Another one,” he all but growls. “Where in heck did you get this, boys?”

Barry tries his best to look innocent. Which isn’t all that hard, since he knows nothing.

“Found it on the ground,” Larry lies.

“Uh-huh, uh-huh,” the security guy says. “Extra trouble for littering.” He glares hard at the paper for nearly a minute before looking back at them. “You do know parties like this are illegal, don’t ya, boys? And frowned upon by this here establishment.” He raps his knuckles on the table. “I think it best you stick around here this weekend. That would be best, don’t ya agree?” He widens his beady eyes while he waits for their assent.

Barry looks to Larry. Seeing him nodding, he mimics the gesture.

The security officer’s answering grunt sounds disbelieving. He mutters as he walks away; the flyer with their map is gripped in his fist.

“What are we—”

Larry holds up his hand, stopping Barry’s question in its tracks. “Not to worry; I have a photographic memory. I’ve got the map in here.” He taps a fingertip against his temple.

“Even after all of that? And we do have another problem, if Florence is to be believed.”

Larry hums and strokes his chin. He picks up Barry’s tray and they walk to the windows. The orientation officers are indeed spread across the entire expanse outside, handing out pamphlets and organizing games of lawn bowling and oversized croquet. The entrance to the student parking lot is completely blocked.

Barry should throw in the towel, admit defeat and convince Larry to do the same. And he would, if not for one thing. The one detail that has roped him into the excitement over the lake festivities fully and completely is Kate Zimmermann, captain of the Dicaroon Seadogs field hockey team. Barry was looking through the school’s website while Larry was plotting behind him and he caught sight of her picture. He informed Barry that she was one of the girls who was carrying the van’s bench seat into her dorm room and invited him to the party early that morning.

Barry is in love with Kate Zimmermann. He has been since seeing her on the Dicaroon University website the previous summer. Well, he’s in love with the image of her and her red hair and blue eyes and adorable freckles that are so voluminous that they connect on her face. He has dreamed of red-haired kids calling him Daddy and hitting balls with sticks. Possibly. And she’s throwing the party, so even if Barry will never get up the nerve to speak to her should he live for a thousand years, he has to go. For his future dream-wife.

“Well, then,” Larry says. He sets Barry’s lunch tray down on the bussing station and rubs his hands together. “I guess we are in need of a foolproof plan.”

“A stratagem,” Barry says. He feels immediately foolish for being such a huge dork.

But then Larry grins at him. “Ooh, yes, I like that. A stratagem.”

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New Release: The Camp by Victoria Zagar #FF #MM @landale

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Title: The Camp
Author Name & Publisher: Victoria Zagar (Torquere Books)
Publication Date & Length: August 5, 2015 – 27, 600 Words

Synopsis

Jesse Harvan comes home from school one day to find his parents have discovered the gay pornographic magazine hidden under his bed. Disgusted, they decide to send Jesse to Camp Grady, a summer camp which prides itself on converting people’s sexuality.

Once at the camp, Jesse meets the other inmates: Charlie, a disabled African-American gay teenager, Natalie, a transgender girl, her sister Lita, Japanese lesbian Sakura, and last of all, Minister Grady’s son Jacob, who works for the camp under duress. These teens must learn to bridge their differences and get along if they’re to beat their common enemy and keep their identities–and sanity–intact.

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Excerpt

I sit in the back of an old school bus that has been converted for the camp’s use. It rankles that I didn’t even get to say goodbye to Sam. Mom and Dad wouldn’t let me near him. I tried to send him an e-mail, but it was blocked. I didn’t have time to figure out how their new family-filter software worked. The next morning, I was on a plane to Pennsylvania, Mom and Dad accompanying me like this was some kind of family vacation. They left me at the airport and went their own way, transferring me directly to camp custody so that I wouldn’t get infected with any gay on the way.

I know I’ll be going back home eventually, but it doesn’t feel like it right now. I feel like Camp Grady will go on forever. My greatest fear is that the me who goes home won’t be the same as the one sitting here right now.

What if they can change me? What if they do have the power to fix me? That thought in my head argues with its natural opposite: I’m not broken. I won’t change. There’s nothing they can do to change who I am.

Last night I scared myself. I went onto the Internet and looked up ex-gay camps, which surprisingly were not filtered out. There are people who claim that they work. That they’ve thrown away partners, friends, and husbands because they’ve been ‘cured’. I read reports of abuse and beatings that made my stomach clench. I cried myself to sleep for the first time in a long time. I’m genuinely scared. How can something like this be legal? Apparently in California it isn’t. I wish I was a San Francisco kid. Maybe then my parents would be cool, and I wouldn’t feel so alone in the world.

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5 Stars for Summer Love (An LGBTQ Collection) #MM #FF #Trans (CAROLINE HANLIN INTERVIEW)

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Title: Summer Love Anthology
Author Name: Ella J. Ash, Rachel Blackburn, H.J. Coulter, Caroline Hanlin, Suzie Ingold, Rachel Davidson Leigh, S.J. Martin, Amy Stilgenbauer
Publication Date & Length: June 23, 2015 – 276 pgs

Synopsis

SUMMARIES & AUTHOR BIOS

Beautiful Monsters

A campaign volunteer is assigned to assist his high school’s Gay Straight Alliance for the Pride Parade, forcing him to face the students he had previously avoided, and the truth about himself.

Author: Rachel Davidson Leigh is a writer, educator, and small town native who tells stories she wishes she could have read as a teen. Beautiful Monsters is her first published work of fiction. She lives in Wisconsin with her family and two dogs who are spoiled out of their tiny minds.

The Willow Weeps for Us

Jack, the young son of a grocer, falls for a charming piano teacher at the dawn of World War II.

Author: Suzey Ingold is a writer, linguist and coffee addict, currently based in Edinburgh, Scotland. Brought up in a household where children’s books are quoted over the dinner table, literature has always had a strong influence on her life. She enjoys travelling, scented candles and brunch.

The Fire Eater’s Daughter

When a traveling carnival comes back to town, Ruth must choose between caring for her mother and a life with the beautiful and mysterious Constance, the fire eater’s daughter.

Author: Amy Stilgenbauer is a writer and aspiring archivist currently based in southeast Michigan. She is the author of the novelette series, Season of the Witch, as well as the Young Adult novel, The Legend of League Park. When she isn’t writing, Amy enjoys all things bergamot and tries to keep her cats away from her knitting.

Surface Tension

Logan just wants a summer where he can be anonymous and fit in without labels, but that all changes when he meets out-and-proud Dave at summer camp.

Author: Ella J. Ash is a lawyer by day and an author by night. She has been a writer in online fan communities since 2006. She also enjoys dance parties with her family and cooking experimental vegetarian cuisine. She lives in Toronto with her partner, three daughters and four tropical fish.

My Best Friend

In a letter to his best friend, a young gay man reminisces about their relationship.

Author: H.J. Coulter lives in Winnepeg, Canada, where she works as a respite worker and studies music, in hopes of one day becoming a musical therapist. My Best Friend is her professional writing debut.

What the Heart Wants

A young student discovers attraction and desire through her experience drawing figures in her summer art class.

Author: Naomi Tajedler was born and raised in Paris, where art has always been a part of her life—including painting, restoring books, and working in auctions. She started writing in online fan communities in 2009.

The Most Handsome

Carter, a Cape Cod boy who recently came out as transgender, meets and falls in love with a college student visiting for the summer.

Author: S.J. Martin lives with his partner and their cranky, rotund cat in Washington D.C. He’s a barista by day and a writer by night. He makes a mean cappuccino and lives for good coffee, good books, and good company. The Most Handsome is his first published story.

Something Like Freedom

A boy finds a safe space from which to imagine a new future after leaving his conservative parents’ home, thanks in part to a new friend.

Author: Caroline Hanlin is a full time statistician, a part time stage manager, and an avid sports fan. She currently resides in Boston, where she enjoys writing during her commute. Something Like Freedom is her first published short story.

On the Shore

A young woman retreats to her parents’ beach house to nurse a broken heart, but instead meets a vivacious girl who helps her find joy again.

Author: Rachel Blackburn is a writer, musician and librarian based in central Ohio. When free from work, she enjoys cuddling with her cats, drinking tea, and baking more cupcakes than necessary. On the Shore is her professional writing debut.

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Review

FiveStars

This is a wonderful collection of stories about first summertime romances.  The stories are about young adult characters, but they will resonate with anyone who has ever enjoyed or dreamed of a summer romance.  Bonfires, beaches and summer jobs form the backdrop to stories about first glances, first kisses and first touches.

Unlike many anthologies, the content here is cohesive and the writing is consistently excellent.  I was surprised by the stories I was most drawn to.   I loved Ella J. Ash’s story, Surface Tension,  about a summer camp romance.  Naomi Tajedler’s story, What the Heart Wants, about a young girl’s sexual awakening in art class, is a beautiful, emotionally honest piece.  I also loved Rachel Blackburn’s On the Shore, a sweetly exuberant story of a beach romance. I found The Most Handsome by SJ Martin, the story of a transexual boy’s first romance, to be compelling and beguiling.

This is such a great collection.  I think it will make young LGBTQ readers feel hopeful while it makes the rest of us nostalgic.  A wonderful summer read.

Sarah

Excerpt

Beautiful Monsters

By Rachel Davidson Leigh

“Glad to see you could join the party,” Terrence deadpans, pressing a rainbow bandana into André’s hand. André grabs a second bandana out of the bag, stuffs one in each of his back pockets, and then goes in for a third.

“Cody was checking out the parade route,” André replies, in a smooth lie. “It turns out we’re still walking six blocks through absolutely nothing and then calling it a day.” Terrence laughs, and, as he turns away, André presses a handkerchief into Cody’s hand. “Use it wisely,” he whispers into Cody’s ear. “You’re one of us now.”

One of us. He’s never been part of an “us.” Cody stares down at the lines on the handkerchief and then at the two patches of color on the back of André’s jeans as he walks toward the arriving cars.

Cody expects panic, but it doesn’t come. Maybe he isn’t ready to be Gay with a capital G, but if “us” can mean being one of these idiots, then maybe he’s ready to have people of his own. As he watches the sharp sway of André’s hips, the heat rising up his neck doesn’t feel like fear. It feels like… clarity, as though the run put everything in perspective and now he can’t stop seeing André in crisp, dazzling color.

Someone presses a sign into his hand and guides him toward the parade staging area with the rest of the crew. Once again, he can’t hear himself think over the din, but it’s different now. At the meeting, and for years before that in the hallways, he felt like an invader locked out by a wall of sound, and now he’s somehow wandered inside.

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5 Stars for The Rules of Ever After by Killian B. Brewer (AUTHOR INTERVIEW) #YoungAdult #Romance @killianbbrewer

Rules cover

Title: The Rules of Ever After
Author Name: Killian B. Brewer
Publication Date & Length: June 9, 2015 – 256 pgs

Synopsis

The rules of royal life have governed the kingdoms of Clarameer for thousands of years, but Prince Phillip and Prince Daniel know that these rules don’t provide for the happily ever after they seek. A fateful, sleepless night on top of a pea set under twenty mattresses brings the two young men together and sends them on a quest out into the kingdoms.

On their travels, they encounter meddlesome fairies, an ambitious stepmother, disgruntled princesses and vengeful kings as they learn about life, love, friendship, and family. Most of all, the two young men must learn to know themselves and how to write their own rules of ever after.

The Rules of Ever After is the debut novel from Duet Books, an imprint for Young Adult LGBTQ fiction from Interlude Press.

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Review

FiveStars

I don’t know how to describe this book in a way that captures its grandeur. Every adjective I come up with is diminishing. Fairy tale. Humor. Adventure. Trope-bending. Epic. It’s more than the sum of its parts. Though, per “epic” it is quite long. Too long to be a light romp. This, my friends, is a novel.
It has multiple plot lines that all come together at the end! Different perspectives that are so fluid they aren’t jolting. Puns that evoke happiness, not despair.
Anyway, Prince Phillip is living a Hamlet-esque existence with his evil aunt-turned-stepmother, who’s trying to marry him off to various princesses for Reasons, and he keeps thwarting her for Other Reasons, and then halfway through the book everything’s New Reasons, which, spoiler. When Phillip finds a man-prince in his bed instead of another woman-princess, he gets an idea.
Which, right there, isn’t that our secret fantasy? Marrying a royal of our appropriate gender and living happier ever after? I mean, it’s mine.
Anyway, Prince Daniel, meanwhile, is living a Prince Harry-like existence. He decides to go wandering about with his bros all over the kingdom. Also, he has Insomnia. THIS IS IMPORTANT.
Everyone but the villain is nice, affable, funny, and heroic. This is a “light” novel, but it is not a “shallow” novel. It is escapist in the best sense.
Killian states in his bio that it took 20 years to produce this novel. Which 1) shows in its glorious tight details and his GRRM world-building, and 2) is an international tragedy, because he should be writing one a year.
C.E. Case

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New Release: Coming Out Catholic by Alex Dunkin #YoungAdult #MM @AlexDunkin

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Title: Coming Out Catholic
Author Name & Publisher: Alex Dunkin (Torquere Press/Prizm Books)
Publication Date: May 27, 2015

Synopsis

Like all good Catholic boys I care what Jesus thinks. Jesus the man, and the faith. Following him make me happy. There’s just one issue… I think I’m gay. Well, it’s hard to be sure going to an all-boys school. It could be simply liking what I know and really, oh so very, liking what I see all day, guys. Being gay and Catholic can’t possible work together. Can it?

Coming Out Catholic follows a year in the life of a private Catholic school student as he comes to terms with his sexuality. Armed with sarcasm and his best friend Mark, he prepares to take on the school thug and the awkward social encounters plaguing his late teenage years.

Confronting himself and his family are just the beginning of his trials. He learns he must find solace with his sexual desires without surrendering any of his faith. He loves both too much but when the time comes he will have to know which one he has to give up or prepare to succumb to a life of denial.

Excerpt

Here I am, on my knees in front of this man. Anyone would think that by sixteen this act would come naturally to me now, but it doesn’t. I’m a bit bothered by the submission implied by my position, but I’m told this is what makes the experience so powerful. My knees ache, my back grows stiff from the monotonously repetitious back-and-forth movement, and all for this one half-naked man in front of me. I look up at him, try to make eye-contact, but his face is averted. Everyone says that I’m supposed to get something amazing out of this too, but I never feel it. All I feel is the wood I kneel upon. Seriously, who uses so much wood when building a place like this? There’s not even a cushion. God, it hurts more now. When I have my own place one day, every room will be carpeted, no question about it. Lots of carpet and fine rugs to soften the place. No wood.

I’m over it now; I just want it to be over. I can’t pull out now though, because people will talk. I know my reputation isn’t a good one, but I can’t afford for it to get worse. I keep rocking back and forth, hoping it will be done soon. I can tell it won’t be long now from the rising vocals – not a word I can decipher but still so full of meaning. I can feel the tension growing, feel something rising up within. Wait for it. Almost there. I forget the pain that infuses my knees with the thought that it is close to over. Almost there… at last. I ready my tongue in preparation; taste the life essence from the flesh of my savior in my mouth. I swallow it quickly, feeling dirty.

The last echo dies from the room, and then: “Amen.”

And then it’s my turn. “Amen.”

Thank God that’s over. I hate communion at the best of times, and it’s even worse at school. Sure, it’s fun to mock and fool around with Father Donovan in religious education classes, but his sermons leave a bad taste in my mouth. It doesn’t make me want to purge my sins, just my breakfast. But I’m glad now that I can dust off my pants and wander back into class to daydream of a world outside of my own, and usually about my classmates. Our school is all boys, so understandably most of my close friends are guys and I’m more comfortable with the thought of interacting with members of my sex, but in the dreaming something else lingers in the back of my mind. Something strange and enticing tickles the back of my mind and hijacks my dream onto awkward yet exhilarating sexual encounters with guys from my class. I’m not sure if that’s normal. I haven’t spent much time around girls to see if they would venture into the daydreams just as naturally as the guys do.

The proper teachers quickly usher us onto our next class. By ‘proper’ I mean they actually went to university and studied education to learn how to teach from someone other than God. Not that I’ve turned apostate – I keep faith in his wisdom and his grace – but I can’t bring myself to believe that a loving God intended his Word to be exactly like how the priests preach it. Until they iron out the crinkles in the fine print in the Bible I think I might listen to the actual biology teacher who knows about evolution, even though I’m not sure I understand it myself, but look how Mark’s short blonde spikes always seem to be in the same place every day. And I’m happy to believe my physics teacher when he tells me about the Big Bang, although Mark’s hair is always perfect, never a hair out of place. Then there are his striking blue eyes, bright to the point of glowing. And he always smells so good. He’s like one of the those plants I am sure the teacher is talking about now, that looks beautiful from a distance, luring in unsuspecting prey, and then capturing them as soon as they get too close, digesting them slowly. What was I talking about again before I got side-tracked… oh yeah. I’m going to hell. At least that’s the deal according to the priestly teachings. And so maybe that’s the best way to describe Mark, a beautiful trap and a hell of a best friend. The more time I spend with him the more my feelings towards boys are confirmed, but I couldn’t allow myself to fall into a trap that meant losing my friends, my family, my beliefs… my entire life.

I’m in the tenth grade now and these feelings have been growing (I like to think of it as blossoming) for quite some time. My feelings towards other guys, I mean. I think I like guys, and in a special kind of way. These feelings excite me, but they scare me more, and I don’t think I can follow through with them. The faith I was raised in prevents me from even considering the possibility that I might like guys. How can I live a good Catholic life, and have a family and children, and be accepted into heaven if I like guys?

Most boys my age constantly think and talk just about sex, and in an all-boys college there’s plenty of opportunity to share stories. I have heard some wonderfully graphic tales about their conquests, who pandered to the every sexual desire of a few of the guys in my class. And while I was vaguely aware most of it was boasting to cover that their first, three-second sexual encounter still blew their pubescent minds but still left them feeling inadequate, I’m honestly in no position to judge. I’ve never had sex, let alone good sex.

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