Sunday, March 29, 2009

REVIEW: Masks Rise of Heroes

Masks: Rise of Heroes
Hayden Thorne
Prizm Books
available through Prizm and Amazon

Eric is an ordinary gay goth teenager riding the train to downtown Vintage City to hang out with his friends when his life veers into the world of weird. The tracks of the elevated train explode, sending the last car - and Eric with it- teetering, and then falling. Rather than slamming to earth though, he's plucked out of the sky by a flying superhero and brought safely down to earth. Suddenly, Vintage City is a battleground between the forces of good and evil, and Eric seems to always end up in the middle of the fight. After a while, he gets tired of the constant danger, but arch villain The Trill knows that Eric's new boyfriend is one of the superheroes and plans to use Eric as bait. How's a boy supposed to muddle through his first relationship when an arch villain ruins date night?

I enjoyed this enough to buy the next one in the series. The first romance storyline is well done, with problems anyone would have even if his boyfriend wasn't a superhero. The superhero part of it was a bit rougher, but that wasn't really the main plot and it was building a base for further books in the series. The book would have been better if the next villain hadn't been introduced as it diluted the focus of the current story, but that's a minor quibble. I'm looking forward to the next one. Recommended.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

REVIEW: Changing Jamie by Dakota Chase

Changing Jamie
by Dakota Chase
Prizm Books
published June 2008

Jamie wishes he could be as open about his sexuality as his friend Billy is, but he's cautious, so he only comes out to Billy. Because he's in awe of Billy, he overlooks the fact that Billy really isn't a very good friend.

For years, Jamie has had a secret crush on Dylan. Jamie is too cautious to ever let Dylan know how he feels. Dylan's English grade is slipping, and he needs tutoring so that he can stay on the track team. That's both a dream come true and a nightmare for Jamie. It turns out though that Dylan doesn't really need help in English. He let his grades slide on purpose as an excuse to spend time with Jamie. Unfortunately for Jamie, the one person he could talk to about all this - Billy - has disappeared.

While Billy isn't a good friend, Jamie is the best friend, ever. He alone seems worried about where Billy has disappeared to. With Dylan's help, they track down the older man Billy was seeing and get him to tell them where he last saw Billy. What they find is confusing and heartbreaking for them. Billy is a bug chaser, intentionally trying to get infected with HIV. Jamie tries to talk sense into Billy and tries to help, but he's too late, and Billy still won't listen.

As all this is going on, Jamie's unemployed, homophobic, drunk step-dad grows more abusive, but his mother is too worn out from her long hours at work to do anything about the jerk. Things get ugly, but she finally stands up to him.

While Changing Jamie is an unflinching look at the uglier side of life, it has enough hope that it isn't depressing. Jamie is affected by the bad choices other people around him make. While he doesn't emerge from it unscathed, he has those everyman hero qualities that promise he'll make better choices and mature into an admirable man. Highly recommended.

Monday, March 9, 2009

REVIEW: Does Snogging Count as Exercise by Helen Salter

Does Snogging Count as Exercise? by Helen Salter
ISBN 13: 978-1-4169-3801-9
Simon Pulse (Simon and Schuster, NY)

Holly Stockwell is the misfit of her family. Everyone else is sports-obsessed. She'd rather read a book. Her older, perfect sister has gone off the university, but is still clearly the family favorite, as well as obviously being the favorite student of many of Holly's teachers.

Holly is a student at an all-girl's school in England, which makes it awfully difficult to meet boys. Lucky for her, her best friend Poppy has a dreamy older brother, Luke. Unlucky for her, Holly can't put two words together when Luke is around. Even worse, when Poppy shows a picture of Luke to the girls at school, popular, pretty Claudia sets her sights on dating him. Part of that plan is pretending to be Poppy's friend, so Holly gets cut out.

One of the things I liked about this story was that even though Claudia does some questionable things, she's not one of those all-powerful high school movie villain girls. These are the kinds of things a real person could do to really make your life miserable, not because she's evil, but because she never stops to consider other people's feelings.

I think everyone has been through one of those terrible times when a good friend suddenly changes. It's no fun suddenly feeling alone. While Holly is hurt and thinks about saying mean things to Poppy, she doesn't stoop to it. That's a pretty admirable trait in a character. Plus, it makes is easier for them to go back to being friends after Claudia moves on to fresh victims.

This is a fun, breezy read, more comedic than dramatic, and well-paced. There's nothing I hate more than a spoiler, so I won't tell you if Holly ever works up the courage to talk to Luke. Read it and find out for yourself. I'm sure you'll enjoy it.

PS. The cover art by Karin Paprocki is wonderful.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

I'm Excited!

I met with my publishers a week ago Sunday and pitched a series to them. They said "write it and send it." Now, that does NOT mean they'll buy it, but at least they're interested.

This one will be very lighthearted. That's a nice change. I already have three of the five titles in mind, although one might not work because I'm not sure how to fit it in with the rest of the series as I currently envision it, but things change. I also just figured out how to get around one of the stickier moral issues in the story. After all, you don't want your main character to do something you'd never forgive a real human for doing, even to make the plot work, even if it seems okay because she's a nice person. So now that the same consequences occur, they come about for purely innocent, and forgivable, reasons.

Yay! Writing again!