Friday, 29 March 2013

Clueless (Keeping Secrets #2), J. Roman


Family secrets are exposed as two teens try to make an already shaky relationship work.

- Review by Cindi

** Recommended for older teens or young adults because of strong adult language, descriptive sexual content and talk (and the emotional and physical aftermath) of off-page sexual abuse. **

In Heartless, the first book in the Keeping Secrets series, the reader is introduced to Jason Strummer and Tommy Johnson.  Former enemies, the two are are now trying to have a relationship.  Tommy is in love with Jason and Jason feels the same.  Jason has been forced night after night to endure abuse at the hands of his stepfather as his mother stands back and allows it to happen.  Tommy is mourning the recent death of his mother.  Heartless ends with Jason moving into the home of Tommy, his two uncles and other adopted children.  Clueless takes place almost immediately after the end of Heartless.

Jason is not used to discipline or rules.  He has lived in the home of his mother and stepfather and with the exception of what the stepfather does to him behind closed doors there have been no consequences for any of Jason's actions. He is allowed to come and go as he pleases as long as he is back when Jonathan, his stepfather, wants him.  Moving into Tommy's house with his family is a huge wake-up call.  There are rules that are strictly enforced and each person in the household must abide by them whether they agree or disagree.  

Things are going relatively well until Jonathan shows up one night at the store where Jason works.  He's angry and is demanding that Jason come back home.  The reader knows why Jonathan wants the boy home.  This sets Jason into a downward spiral.  Hurt and angry, Jason acts out inappropriately in order to mask what he is really feeling inside.  Tommy makes his mission, his job, to protect Jason at all costs even if it means going along along with whatever crazy idea the boy comes up with. Tommy's friend Rick goads him in regards to Jason. He calls him homophobic slurs and is constantly making nasty comments aimed at Jason.  Only his late mother's words prevent him from taking action.
"Strength means not having to show it off because someone made you angry, Tommy.  Strength means holding back when all you want to do is lose your mind."
Bad actions have consequences in Tommy's world and going along with Jason's antics causes major problems in Tommy's household.  Jason still refuses to tell anyone other than Tommy or Kevin (his best friend) what occurs in his own family home so Tommy is left picking up the pieces of what Jason does and drags Tommy (and others) into.

Clueless, unlike Heartless, is told from Tommy's point of view.  While the reader was privy to Jason's thoughts in the first book we are taken inside Tommy's head in Clueless.  It was difficult to watch.  He is convinced that it is his duty as Jason's boyfriend to be the strong one and to protect Jason at all cost.  What he doesn't realize is that by always trying to be the strong one Tommy is in fact harming himself and his relationships with those around him.  Tommy has his own issues and losses that he must personally get a handle on before he can honestly be the protector he wants to be.  He has to figure this out first.  In one angry and hurtful moment Jason is forced to walk away... from Tommy, Tommy's family and the relationship.  Tommy had finally reached his breaking point.
"I'd finally reached my limit with him.  I didn't know how strong my resolve was, but it would have to be strong enough.  I loved him, but in this instance love wasn't enough to make things all better.  This wasn't a fairy tale and I wasn't Prince Charming, or if I was, my Cinderfella sure has hell wasn't letting me slay the dragon.
He swallowed and nodded before walking out the door and out of my life.  I heard the kitchen door close and let myself mourn the second most devastating loss in my life."
In the beginning I found myself extremely angry with Jason and how he treated Tommy and his family.  He was bratty, obnoxious, selfish, disrespectful and not thankful in any way toward those who were disrupting their lives for him.  This changed later as I saw little by little why he lashed out and acted the way he did.

Secrets cannot be kept forever and Jason's come out in a very big way.  When this occurs it is highly emotional for the reader.  I admit to getting a little more than teary-eyed as I read this part of the book. It was real.  With the help of Kevin and his family and Tommy and his, Jason starts walking on that road to recovery.  When the book ended there was still a lot of recovery time ahead.  

This is a very emotional story.  From watching Tommy trying to do it all to observing Jason as he goes from one extreme to another.   I found myself rooting for both boys and hoping they would be able to make it work.  I just wanted to hug Jason and keep him safe.  I wanted to tell Tommy that it was okay to mourn his mother and not try to be the big strong one all the time.

As with the first book, I still hate Jason's mother with every fiber of my being.  More so actually.  My feelings for Jonathan are obvious but throw in an aunt as well who angered me as much as the others.  
"I hated his family, hated his parents, hated his life.  I wanted to wrap him in cotton and give him every good thing I'd ever had.  I wanted to bleed for him and make other people do the same.  I wanted them to suffer as he had suffered, as he was still suffering."
Tommy's family is perfect.  They are not traditional nor do they claim to be but they work.  The same can be said for Kevin and his family though in a more traditional sense.

There are major questions left unanswered so I am going to assume and hope there will be more to Tommy and Jason's story.   This is a very emotional read about very real issues.  The author wrote the pain of both teens well.  I am eager to see what happens next.

My Online Secret Admirer, J. Tomas

My Online Secret Admirer

A cute short story about friends with a very big secret.

- Review by Cindi

Mike Halston is sitting in his boring Computers class when he decides to surf the 'net.  Randomly typing in his own name on Google he is surprised when a blog site pops up.  Clicking the link he reads a post by someone who is obviously sitting in the same class at that very moment.  The post has random teenage comments about other students in the class but those barely get notice from Mike.  The one that makes him take notice is:  Sexiest guy ---- Mike Halston.  He looks around the classroom but no one is paying attention to him.  His best friend Talley is snoozing next to him.  His best female friend Marie is oblivious.  

Who thinks Mike is sexy?  Oh no, he groans, it has to be a female.  Only two people at school know that Mike is gay, Talley and Marie.   The entire class is required to create an anonymous blog for credit for the class but the due date is months away.  Who would do it so early?  Most importantly, who thinks Mike is the sexiest guy????

The suspense takes Mike directly to his two best friends during lunch.  He must find out who his secret admirer is even if it turns out to be a female.  Marie goes on a mission to find answers.  Talley is not the brightest bulb in the shed so he seems to not remember what Mike is talking about most of the time.  Only when there is an updated post on the blog the next day does Mike think he has it all figured out.  Thankfully he is wrong in those thoughts and when he finds out the identity of the person who created the blog he goes from shocked to seeing a certain someone in a whole new light.

This is a nice little story.  There is no sexual content at all and very little as far as adult language is concerned.  It is age appropriate and very entertaining.  It also teaches the lesson that not all people are as they appear on the outside, in both looks and actions.   A good, quick read.

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Heartless (Keeping Secrets #1), J. Roman


A teen discovers how family secrets can affect not just his life but the lives of those around him.

- Review by Cindi

** I recommend this book for older teens or young adults because of strong adult language, descriptive sexual situations, sexual violence and attempted sexual violence, not all off-page. **

Jason Strummer has an unusual life.  He is a popular seventeen-year-old gay male at Erwin High School, a school that accepts homosexual students in a way that most don't.  He is known as the playboy of the school because the art of saying no to sex is unheard of to this young man.  He doesn't do relationships... ever... and the only person he is genuinely close to is his straight best friend, Kevin.  
"I once saw it written on some guy's blog that there were three types of gay men in the world: virgins, sluts, and the rest of us.  Virgins didn't know better, sluts didn't care, and everyone else was just trying to find love and happily ever after.  I can securely say I fit into the second category.  It wasn't even impulsive on my part.  I just never turned anyone down who was up for a good time."

Jason is also known as a bully.  After being bullied when he came out at thirteen it is now his MO to strike before being stricken.  Jason is not a horrible person.  He just refuses to stand back and allow anyone to do to him what was done in years past.  His words can be cutting but there is always a legitimate reason for them... in his mind anyway.  

Jason has only loved one other person in a more-than-friendship kind of way:  Tommy Johnson.  Tommy had been a friend to Jason while he was in middle school and never would Jason have expected the reaction that he got from Tommy on the day he came out of the closet (in the middle of a class I might add).  Tommy not only got angry but he made it his mission to bully his former friend for being gay.  This devastated Jason as he had had a major crush on Tommy until that day.  Well, there is the old saying about payback.  Two years after Jason's coming out scene in the classroom and Tommy's bullying, Jason got Tommy back in a very big (and very public) way immediately after Tommy himself came out.  It was harsh. It was childish.  But it got the job done and Jason never felt an ounce of remorse for what he'd done.  Until later.  Much, much later.

On the outside, Jason has it all.  The looks.  The high grades.  The popularity.  The confident, cocky attitude.  On the inside he's dying a little each day.  He has secrets.  Secrets that have destroyed all self-confidence and strongly affects the way he not only views himself but others. He is unable to form close relationships with anyone other than Kevin.  He feels dirty, worthless.  The thought of his secrets being exposed makes him bitter and angry but he keeps those feelings inside.  He must hide behind the cocky attitude or he will be a lost boy... a boy who knows in his heart that he will never be normal.

His arch-nemesis Tommy Johnson comes back into Jason's life in a big way.  The bitterness and anger between the two starts to wane when Jason is rescued by a very angry Tommy as Jason is being assaulted.  Suddenly Jason is seeing Tommy differently and he realizes that the love he felt as a young teen has never fully dissipated.  His act of revenge years earlier now looks cruel.  The two boys begin a tentative relationship with Jason confiding his secrets to a shocked Tommy.  As the two embrace what they can have, they both sense that there is much more on the horizon ... both good and bad.  
"I want this to be real.  Not like me blowing you in a locker room.  God. You are so jaded.  Do you feel anything?"  No, I didn't.  Didn't he know my rep?

This is told strictly from Jason's point of view and it is done well.  I initially did not like his character as he came across instantly as an obnoxious bully.  It did not take long for me to see what Jason was hiding.  Like Tommy before, he is hiding his pain behind his current actions.  Tommy bullied Jason when they were in middle school because he was dealing with coming to terms with his own sexuality and it scared him.  Jason hides behind his cocky attitude to hide the pain of what happens behind closed doors at his family home.  There is a lot of pain and when Jason feels pain, he lashes out.
"That was low.  Even for you," he whispered.  I'd hurt him.  I'd hurt him deeply.  I wanted to beg his forgiveness.  I wanted to say I was sorry and that I didn't mean it.  I wanted to say that I still loved him even after everything that had happened.  But I didn't.  I couldn't.  I was a coward.

Tommy has his moments but I feel that his character is written very well.  He forgave the cruelty of what Jason did to him in the past as well as owning up to his own cruel actions.  He eagerly accepts Jason and the issues the other boy must deal with at home.  He loves him... wholly and completely and would do anything in his power to take Jason's pain away.  

"Love you, Jason.  Always have." The words filled me, sank down into my soul, and took up residence there.  It didn't matter that it was sudden and we hardly knew one another anymore.  We were young and falling in love with every touch.  Words I thought I would never say shot out of my mouth.
"I love you too."  He lifted his head and smiled at me, a smile that warmed his gray eyes until they were a polished-mercury color.
I knew deep down that I was ruined, but looking into his eyes, knowing that I'd put happiness in them, made me feel just a little bit whole.  It was then that I realized I had fallen irrevocably, unequivocally, and absolutely in love with Tommy Johnson, and there was no turning back.

There is an interesting cast of secondary characters.  Some you will love.  Some you will despise with every fiber of your being.  For me personally, the most hated character is hands down Jason's mother.  She allows things to happen to her son without any thought of stepping in to help him.  At no time does she protect her child, in effect forcing the boy to endure unimaginable horrors.  This is the first in a series and there is more story to be told but I have no doubt that my opinion of his mother will only get worse.  There are some things that one cannot come back from.  

Overall, this is a very good start to a series.  Being inside Jason's head gives the reader a good idea of what he personally feels as he is forced to do the unimaginable.  You will understand why he is the way he is outwardly.  You will find yourself eager to see the young man finally have a chance at happiness.  You will root for him to finally see that he is worthy, that he is not dirty. 
"You don't have to keep this mask up, Jason.  You're a beautiful person, and it's okay to let people see that." 

My only issue with this story is an instance where Tommy does something that is forgiven too easily. Otherwise a very good story.  I look forward to reading the next in the series.

The Indigo Spell, Richelle Mead


- Reviewed by Mr Austro-Hungarian

The Indigo Spell (Bloodlines, #3)

Before I get into my review, I realise that this has been a long time coming, and I am very sorry that this has been the case – I have had some university commitments that originally kept me from divulging my opinions on The Indigo Spell, and then I had slight trouble getting my head around reviewing a book.

 My Mother Dearest (I will only refer to my Mum as this within this review, which I am sure she will love me for – NO. MORE. HANGERS!!!!) writes such exquisite reviews, as does her blog partner, Cindi. When you have never reviewed before, it is a rather daunting task to have even by itself, but having a high standard to live up to when you are a perfectionist is positively frightening!

…and then I realised that my reviews will probably just ramble psychotically, which is exactly how I communicate in everyday life.

So here I am, trying to do what Mother Dearest does so very well. Again, thank you for waiting this long for my review of The Indigo Spell, and I hope that the psychotic ramble I produce is eloquent enough to explain my viewpoints.
Kindest Regards,


I have long been a reader of the series, and had read all of the Vampire Academy novels, so the year-long wait to see The Indigo Spell come out was agonising. Then, when I knew of its release date, it was much anticipated. (I was, literally, counting the days.)

Then…it came out - dun dun DUN! But even then, I had to wait a few more days for a hardcover copy to arrive, as my Mother Dearest had ordered it on her beloved Kevin – and if she has not told you her Kindle’s name by now…well, you now know.
(Aside: Every time I hear that name, I instantly think of Kevin the Mailman from Just Shoot Me!)

(Aside II: My Mother Dearest would have rather resort to cannibalism or sent me as a tribute to the 75th Annual Hunger Games than give up Kevin for me to read this book. Seriously, I would loathe if anything happened to Kevin other than old age…)

But I waited, and as soon as I saw the indigo cover with Sydney on it I pounced and started ravaging the book to pieces - the word “reading” would’ve been a euphemism. And, as soon as it came, it was finished…and then I cried.

All that is left is to review. Now, when I review, I often invent the reviewing game I play called:
A Novel:

What’s Hot, What’s Not & Who Wants to Make D Hate Them and Hit Them over the Head with a Frying Pan.
(But use the acronym WHWNWWTMDHTHTOTHFP – it just rolls off the tongue more easily, I think.)

So let us begin:

What’s Not So Hot:


      1. The Ending:

Richelle Mead has a huge tendency to give us, as readers, some nice twists at the end of her books, just to throw us off the trail of anything we might preconceive when we’re given the initial information. I like it when authors do this, as I never like to know what will happen when I am absorbed into a book.

However, what I find with some of Richelle Mead’s books is that these plot twists can lead to another predicament, which I like to call “The Predictable Twist”.

What I mean by this is that – as I have read quite a few of her books – her formula for how a book is going to end can get quite predictable. This might, however, be my viewpoint only, as others may be pleasantly surprised by what is to come.

But when I read this book, my reaction at the ending was basically summed up by this:


      2. The overall predictability:

This might sound like a slight nit-pick, as we humans can often guess what is going to happen within a Young Adult book (it is like we are wired to sniff out the best possible ending, and then naturally draw our conclusions that this is what will happen within a YA series.)

But the slight problem I had with TIS is that nothing stood out as something I couldn’t have guessed. It followed along a path like a pre-programmed electronic device, doing - by and large - exactly what it should.

Should this be a major issue with the book? Of course not. As I stated in the beginning of this sub-section, a YA book – to my way of thinking – will always have a certain predictability to it, and what TIS has lost in originality it makes up for in quality of writing and technical precision. Besides, very rarely do Young Adult books surprise me. (I have only read one that did, but I cannot think of the book for the life of me…)

However, for something to truly make its mark, I prefer it to have a splice of je ne sais quoi – something completely different to a viewpoint I went in with, if you will.

      3. Repetition of old storylines:

Again, this is nothing new when it comes to a Richelle Mead book. I went through Vampire Academy having re-learnt about spirit, which is certain type of magic a mortal vampire can wield, over. 

…and over.

…and over.

…and over. (About…1257 times? It seems like much more, trust me.)

Of course I kid about the number and the severity, but when you have read the series, and the series the spin-off came from, it gets rather tedious when things are being re-explained.

This is not entirely a bad thing, however. If you are a new reader, it actually is quite a nice thing to have, and the reason why I think I am not as annoyed as I am is because the repetition is done well.

Why is it done well? Two reasons:

1. The depth: As I talked about at the end of the paragraph before last. This is important, as you should look at it from this way. If you are going to assume your audience are so devoted to your book they have inhaled the previous book in the series for breakfast every single day from release date to next release date, they will know the content of the series like they know how to breathe. (Which they do, as they just inhaled the book when eating their regular meals).

If this is the case, then give them no dated information.

Alternatively, if you are assuming that your reader has not read a book since it came out, or that you might have a big influx of new readers, give them some old information.

 So, if you are going to do the alternative? Do it right, which brings me to:

2: Give them enough information to feel like they have read the previous books, but not too much as to bog down the whole series.

Richelle Mead does this last point well enough; I cannot complain too much. But I have put it as a slight criticism, just because I feel it can make your reading experience slightly less enjoyable when you just really want to get to the juicy end of the book.

   Who Wants To Make D Hate Them and Hit Them Over The Head with a Frying Pan?
      1. Marcus:

Truly, I think this man is the sole reason I developed this sub-section’s title; hence, I will now commemorate that honour with:

 Seriously – he is the only character in this book I could go on a rant about, or just say “ugh”, and I would get the point across in either fashion.

He is a ladies’ man (and he comes armed with winks, knee-buckling croons, guitars and his flirting-at-every-girl-who-might-have-a-pulse attitude). But hey, he’s also got mystery around him - he is that mysterious, Sydney guesses everything he is about in about five seconds.

Then, he gives her vital information and plans to smuggle her away! (This point in the book would probably contain heavy drinking and STI’s. But hey, it’s Marcus – he could smile away that STI for you!)

But if you couldn’t feel my dislike radiating through that last paragraph – which may or may not irrational – I will try to explain why I dislike him:

He has nothing going for him. From having henchmen that fight his initial battle; to his grand ideas (which suck so hard-core that when they try to act upon getting to those ideas, it would take roughly a million years to achieve what they wanted); to having no dialogue that doesn’t involve being smarmy; to being gutless and overly infuriating; to almost stopping something from happening that I would have personally killed him for, he just…


(P.S: See what I did there?)

(Disclaimer: He did what he needed to do in the book, I guess…but I still do not like his character. I feel he was the least three-dimensional character within the story.)

      2. Zoe:

It’s not like she plays any big part of the bloody book – but when she does, she just has to make me want to stab her in the eye with a fork.

She just annoys me. The end.

(Disclaimer: I am aware that I have neither evidence, nor justification for my said feelings above. I could have gone into that she has no faith in Sydney; she is the epitome of a mindless drone and has quite possibly thrown herself into my hate list for actions I cannot discuss. (It will give away a crucial point in the book.)

…but I just like my hatred to be succinct sometimes, you know? 

   Who is Actually Worthy of Not Assaulting? 

      1. Sydney:

Sydney, Sydney, Sydney – you are named after my city, and you are truly unique…in such an austere way.

She surprises me sometimes; the way Richelle Mead writes her, you would think that you’d rather watch paint dry, or even…watch a golf tournament (shudders) than read about her life. But she can be very funny, in a dry sort of way, and she is a good member of Team Sadrian (Sydney and Adrian, naturally) – they work well, which is what I want for Adrian.

Sydney is also quite strong – I think this is aided by her ability to be incredibly stubborn and strong willed. She is no Rose, but she holds her own.

Overall, Sydney keeps adding a few layers every time I read her, which I do very much like. She makes the story good, if not a little too pedestrian at times.
Now, when I said that she is not entirely boring, I was stating the truth. However, the only criticism I have with Sydney is that she can sometimes be summed up by a segment from SpongeBob:

“When your friends describe you, do they use words like “dull” and “drab”?”

“Don’t forget platitudinous!

I am sorry Sydney, I do quite like you, with your regimented ways and beige ensembles, but you do have a tendency to have boring viewpoints.

But, in a way, this is not an entirely negative criticism. I personally think it has to do with the way Sydney views life; this makes her character more believable – boring is very much who she is and what she was moulded to be, and as much as I think it detracts slightly from one aspect of the book, I will relent and say that it makes up or it within the character development side of the book.

I also think this is why I made the statement that she is not boring – by being boring, she is a unique character and is, therefore, not boring?

(Disclaimer: I know, that last statement was positively brain-frying:

(I hope you get what I meant.)

      2. Adrian:

Oh Adrian, I could spend all night (actually, it is 5 past 4 in the morning, so that is probably a lie) prattling on about how incredible you are and how you make the story much, much better.

But I won’t, as I think this review is getting very long.

I like Adrian for his humour, his sarcasm, his incredibly liberal style, his ability to make anyone feel wonderful or creeped out, his artistic flair and his good-hearted nature.

But most importantly – I like him because he has made Sydney a much better person. And even though I didn’t say it within the “Sydney” domain, I like that she has given him personal growth as well. This aspect of the character interactions is what I enjoy most – they feed off of each other, as a good pairing should, and it makes the undercurrent of the story have a tangible aspect that everyone can relate to.

To keep these sub-sections less verbose – the long story short answer is: I like Adrian for pretty much everything.

      3. Mrs. Terwilliger:

Oh  yes, the resident crazy cat lady that The Simpsons could be proud of, Mrs. Terwilliger becomes very much a central character within TIS, and even though I very much did not have an opinion of her in the first two books, she has grown on me.

She is whimsical, but very aware of everything around her and what is needed to make Sydney do her job properly. She has a great ability to make me cringe whenever she comes up with a vague explanation, or an unusual order that catches Sydney off guard. But I also know that there is a logical explanation for her actions, no matter how much I cringe at the time.

(P.S: Does anyone else picture her as Joan Cusack in a house full of boxes that explode cats and herbs?)

      4. Angeline:

“Oh, Angeline…”

This basically sums up everything Angeline Dawes ever does.


She infuriates me to no end; then she makes up for it by giving us the best entertainment within the series – from knocking out men with stereo equipment to perplexingly hilarious piñatas, she is not content on being the wallflower of the book.

I like that – it is why she is one of my favourite characters.


      1. Eddie:

Oh Eddie, you’re a good guy, from Vampire Academy to Indigo Spell, that never changes. You have some rough patches in this book, and you handled them with dignity and class. You always are on the job, and you are very good at it. You are pleasant to pretty much everyone you see. And you never, ever complain.

But that has always been you – and, whilst I like you, you never change. I guess that is a good thing, but…I think this sub-section suits him, as it also does for:

      2. Jill:

Jill – the girl that, ultimately, keeps this series running; without her, there would have been no happy ending for Vampire Academy, and there be no Bloodlines.

So how is it that she is a non-entity?

She seemed to be downgraded to secondary character status completely in this book, in my opinion. She was always on the precipice, but always had something going on that warranted our attention to her in the first two books.

But, in The Indigo Spell, she didn’t have much of a role to play – her storyline was set-up from the previous book, and almost touched in with Sydney just to make sure she hadn’t, you know, died an unknown death.

(Disclaimer: If ever Eddie and Jill were to eventually happen as a couple, it would be fitting – nice, but uninteresting people that adore each other and eventually go to live in a cottage, where they have many Dhampir children. Jill sits there knitting, while Eddie sits on a rocking chair and watches Jill endlessly, making sure she is never harmed.

 Let us hope that is never a plot twist that Richelle Mead throws in, and we get stuck with that scenario for a long time, because I just might yawn myself into oblivion.)

   What’s Hot:
      1. Pies n’ Stuff:

This was my favourite, if not random, plot in the book. Yes, I am being perfectly earnest – when Adrian announced that Sydney, Mrs. Terwilliger and him were going to an pie shop, and Sydney basically said:

“It’s called Pies N’ Stuff? I’m more worried about the ‘Stuff’ part”

I lost it. I don’t know why, but that was a golden name for a pie shop, in my opinion.

      2. The Piñata:

I am purposely not giving away what this scenario is, why it came about, nor the reasoning behind it, but it made me laugh up a storm.

I had also heard Mother Dearest laugh incessantly at part of the book, and I wondered what it was. Because she read it ahead of me, I also thought to myself that, when I got to that part, would I agree with her and laugh a lot?

It was The Piñata.

(Disclaimer: Mother Dearest and I are very alike – we are both quite insane, so it was only natural that we both laugh a lot at this juncture of the book. You may not find it as funny, as you may be saner than us. Shhhh – don’t tell the voices in my head that I said that!)

      3. Overall direction of book and content:

The last book within the series (The Golden Lily) left me feeling slightly blasé about where the series was being directed – I knew, by and large, that it would focus on Sydney and her growing ability to perform magic, but I also had a strong feeling that it was, yet again, going to largely focus on her incredibly stubborn nature and her internal struggle to do what is right by her people.

(Which I will never get – it’s not like The Borg The Alchemist’s have given her anything in return, except for a regimented lifestyle and a life of beige, because we know how exciting beige can be!)

But the book surprised me in the sense that, whilst it had that train of thought, it wasn’t as exaggerated as I initially thought it would be. Instead, it focused upon bringing the series into new, exciting – if not a little infuriating at times – territories.

The content also largely follows my viewpoint of the direction. I thought that it would get too heavily bogged down by Sydney’s inability to be able to actually think for herself and not be a snark whenever something new is thrown her way be able to let go and do what is best for herself, not for ‘the collective’.

But, again, whilst is it very much evident that Sydney has this viewpoint, she also has the ability to look past this, which makes for a slightly faster reading experience and a better paced series.

      4. Character development (by and large):

Mostly the characters within The Indigo Spell do Richelle Mead’s bidding – they serve a purpose (or sometimes, non-purpose) very well, and they fit within the story. (Trust me, nothing irks me more than – what I feel – are misplaced characters within a story.)

The characters have their quirks, their points of view, their dysfunctions, their good and bad sides, and are – above all – human. (Well – metaphorically speaking, of course – some actually aren’t human, but we still put some of the human archetype onto them. I mean, what is worse than a vampiric Mary Sue/Gary Stu?)


The funny thing is that, when I look back upon this review, it sounds like I have a lot of gripes with the story. I actually don’t – I think it is the best book in the series by quite a way; it serves as nice vessel to see the metamorphosis that will take place from the first word of the series until the very last word. It has some very funny moments, has a lot of charms and is quite well written.

I would highly recommend Vampire Academy to anyone that I think would remotely enjoy the genre – and whilst I do not have as high an opinion of the Bloodlines series, the books are slowly but surely making their mark in the Young Adult genre.

So, for this, I would rate it four stars.

(Or, as I would put it, one hit over the head with a frying pan.)

Friday, 22 March 2013

Where You Are, J H Trumble

"Four months. Glaze on a donut." This is a wonderful, thought provoking LGBT YA book.

-Review By Kazza K 

** Contains Slight spoilers**

Where You AreRobert Westfall is a young man who is quite an achiever at school. He has a number of adornments  on his letterman jacket, he does community work with special needs children, he's in the band, he's popular, good looking, and even has this cutesy yet stalkerish groupie Facebook page dedicated to him by three students. He's also gay. So it's immediately interesting that this is not some harsh everyone-hates-the-gay-student book. Robert even has a good friend who is gay, Luke. Luke is in a committed relationship of his own, with an older college student. Robert also has a boyfriend, Nic, who is a really painful person. Nic doesn't 'do sickness' or 'death'. He loves 'his girls,' the cheerleaders. He's an air-headed-himbo, and while he is annoying, you have to laugh at his thought processes and self-centred actions. Robert isn't into Nic, so it's not like there is any great hurt coming his way from him, mostly irritation. These things all sound so typical, pretty nice, like an average to better teenage life, except Luke's father has brain cancer, has had it for ten years. Only now, over the last three months, it's become terminal.

In reality? Robert's home life is a disaster, his mother tries so hard but is, understandably, just holding it together, having to work, change catheters, clean up bodily fluids, clean fish tanks meticulously, because her husband demands it, and generally deal with an angry, resentful, self-centred man. Robert's father has never worked and has been ridiculously doted on by his older sisters and his mother, as the male of the great doctor-breedingWestfall family. They blame Robert and his mother because 'she fell pregnant with him' and 'robbed' their brother of his chances of greatness. Robert and his mother can never do enough, be enough, care enough for the dominating aunts and their brattish children, who, ironically, can do no wrong. Robert does nothing but step up to the plate alongside his mother but that is never seen. The only time they acknowledge him is in reference to how much he looks like his father. The extended family has so much toxicity it is painful to watch, painful to see two people who don't deserve it get berated and dismissed by these nasty family members. Robert loathes his father and can't bring himself to say this to anyone for fear of being thought of as mentally unhinged. We're supposed to love our parents, told to honour and obey. But what if they aren't worth those feelings? Once again, I liked that this book did not go into the whole someone-is-dying- therefore-he-must-be-good place. No, Robert's father is a a selfish, uncaring man who does not love his only child, his son. Wrote emails to his sisters about how Robert still wet the bed at twelve and how that "disgusted" him.

Andrew McNelis is a twenty-four year old high school maths teacher. He loves his senior class, they take math - calculus, algebra - seriously, they work hard and there's some really good kids in the class; including Robert Westfall. His freshmen year class, on the other hand, has it's share of juvenile, churlish behaviour, especially from one student, which does come to a head. Andrew is divorced, seems to have a good relationship with his wife, Maya, her partner, Doug, and loves his two year old daughter, Kiki, to bits. He's a good dad, he's a caring teacher - he's one of the good ones. He is not overtly gay and feels it is hidden well enough at school for privacy. He has applied to a program that will allow him to further his career, eventually becoming a Vice Principal or higher if he is accepted. He's a nice looking young man and more than a few girls take an interest in him. They discover he follows AfterElton on Twitter and fill in some dots. Rumours fly in schools both amongst the students and the teaching staff. Although his friend at school, fellow teacher Jenny, doesn't seem to have received the 'memo,' and flirts without mercy with Andrew. The students feel they have a handle on his sexual orientation and when he discovers this he is horrified. It is instilled in teachers to be above board on their Twitter, and Facebook pages. I find this offensive. Unless you invite students onto your social networking sites, which a teacher shouldn't, Andrew McNelis didn't, then it should be no-ones business but theirs.

Andrew knows that Robert's father is dying, he has received emails form the Principal's office about it. He notices that the normally attentive and quick-off- the-mark Robert is floundering and helps him out on a test he is basically doodling on in obvious despair. Andrew has always thought Mr Mac, a nice guy, perhaps a bit more, and now he wants a friendship with someone that seems to care in a sea of non-caring adults. He tries to give Mr McNelis his mobile number but he refuses to take it saying it would be improper. When Robert is totally rejected and seemingly at his wits end Mr McNelis gives him his number instead, and says he can call if he needs to talk. It's a kind gesture by a caring man. Robert and Mr McNelis develop a closer bond, and Robert manages to have Andrew invited to a band dance by a fellow teacher who is looking for chaperones. The school Principal catches word of this, because a parent has mentioned that Mr McNelis has been seen with Robert at the band dance in the car park. It was basically innocent, Robert was showing his teacher how to throw a rifle. However, he has been told to stay away from Robet Westfall from here on in, they're both gay but, hey, it's not about that, it's just inappropriate. So much so, it seems, that on the night of Robert's father's death, Andrew won't allow Robert any attention or closeness. When the faculty are officially made aware of his death, and the funeral, Andrew is denied permission to attend. He states that other teachers are going, but his requests are denied. He decides to attend the wake, as it's after school hours, he cannot let Robert do this on his own anymore; make him think he doesn't care. Because of his job, Andrew is scared to the point of shutting someone out that needs him. He's overwhelmed at the thought of being deemed inappropriate with a student, one he cares very deeply for, especially now he has been warned-off by the Principal. When he arrives at the wake it is well attended but no-one seems to know where Robert is, no-one seems to care. He eventually finds him outside on the ground against a wall -

I notice that he is holding a small notebook. "What's in the notebook?" I ask. He looks down at it for a moment like he's just seeing it for the first time, then turns it over twice in his hands. "One of my aunts gave this to my dad before he got so bad he couldn't write anymore. It was so he could record his memories, words of wisdom, his hopes for my future....his love." he bites his lower lip, then looks away. I take the notebook from him and open it. I flip through the blank pages and silently curse the man who dared to call himself a father.

He's folding his arms tightly across his chest, and he's twitching more violently, almost like he's cold. And I know he's hurting, for the father he's lost....or maybe the one he never had.

......I unlock the door and show him in, he turns and falls into me. "It's okay, baby." The words are out of my mouth before I can check them. I close the door behind me and hold on to him as he sobs into my shoulder, his fingers gripping at the back of my shirt. When his anguish dissolves into something like hiccups, he turns his face into my neck.

A few days ago this would have been out of the question. A few days ago all I could think about was my career, my reputation, how a scandal might affect my daughter. But then he'd showed me that notebook, something about those blank pages had written something on my heart, and there was no unwriting it.

It is from this point that things progress into an area that Andrew has little to no control over anymore, he can't pretend he doesn't care. He is falling for Robert, he loves his soul, they have been sending song lyrics to one another. Robert loves the goofy maths t-shirts that Andrew wears and he loves that he listens and does not judge, something he has rarely experienced before. He can open up to this man and feels like a person. As close as he and his mum can be, given the cancer, sadness, struggle to get through, judgement they have had to live with, that has been between them, they have little time for everyday communication.

As a Young Adult book Where You Are has plenty to keep a fifteen year old, and over, riveted if they enjoy a contemporary style of book. It is quite full of American school-isms, also pop culture, current song references, popular teen shops, social networking sites, and other youthful terminology that should be more than enough for teenagers to relate to. There's humour, snark, a romance, and carefully written sexual tension between Andrew and Robert. There are also moments of reflection and sadness, and more than a few young readers will relate to the way other kids behave, the way they can feel at school, or at home; when things are tougher than usual, dealing with annoying boyfriends or girlfriends, hurtful relationships. It's all very real and it's all very relevant. It is also written in an easy to read, interesting way. It's engaging, irrespective of age. I'm way past my teenage years but I found it a joy to read. I will buy a copy for my son, who is a teenager, and I guarantee he will love it.

The dual POV's were essential to drive Where You Are - due to the story being told, the subject matter, the absolute need to hear two distinct voices - and they were distinct and wonderfully written by J H Trumble. You needed to hear, to feel what is going on from both sides about their friendship, their burgeoning relationship, their individual lives, their side of the story. If either POV had been left out it would not have worked. The youthful uncertainty of Robert, his need for school, aka escape, his pain at his home life, his father's neglect, his mother's stoicism and despair, his aunt's patronising, condescending, and insufferable attitudes needed his voice. Andrew's love of teaching, attempts to help a young man who needed it, offering compassionate friendship, his deepening feelings for Robert, his fear and genuine attempts at drawing a line, holding onto ethics, but having love overrule, his love for his daughter, and naivety and affection regarding his ex wife, Maya, were all very poignant and necessary.

There are times in this book where I could have thrown the Kindle. It upset me, made me shout out, ticked me off, made me laugh out loud, made me sigh, had me sitting on the edge of my seat  - everything a good book should do. There is adversity to overcome for both of the protagonists. There are some nice times, and there are consequences. Two young men learn some lessons, who their friends are, what they mean to each other in reality, and the meaning of real family.The book has a nice ending and I think most will like how it turns out.

Where You Are presents an ethical issue. The teacher cares for, falls in love with the student, the student feels safe/ cared for/falls in love with the teacher. The student is turning 18 - when they can vote, already drive a car, often work. and, in my country, drink alcohol, not in America. However, many adult expectations occur with this age not only from within but from society as well. "Grow up," "you're not a child anymore"...ring loud and clear at this age. Many are sexually active well before seventeen/eighteen. However, if the teacher is caught doing anything deemed to be  inappropriate with a student they can/will lose their good name, lose their ability to teach, despite student loans and years of study, and could (depending on age and state) spend up to twenty-five years in jail; despite consent. It's a tricky issue, there are those that are older and predatory - a forty year old man/woman with a fifteen year old student is a different situation than a soon to be an eighteen year old, graduating student, and a twenty-four year old. Aah, but there are rules. aren't there.

While I understand the need to protect children from potential predators, everything is not always as it seems. I totally understand this point made by Andrew -

Maybe I want to be told that the heart trumps the law.

Do not be put off this book by the subject matter. I thought about this book from a professional perspective. I thought about it from a parent's perspective, and I thought about if from a reader's, perspective... and every which way I looked at it I loved it. It is thought provoking, it is memorable and the characters went to bed stuck inside my head last night. The story is sensitively handled. It is told with much compassion, I never felt as though the author was ramming an opinion down my throat. Others can make up their own mind, see things their way. However, the subject is not as simple as one may believe it is. I fully understand the pros and cons. I could write forever on this book and topic. I work with children, I work with families, I teach parenting, I work with adolescents. I work with dysfunction. I can categorically say that this book should be picked up by study groups, youth organisations, teachers, and parents, as a talking point. To make people think a bit more about teenagers, people, situations, and perhaps how to look at a story without seeing the sensationalised headlines clouding judgement. A sublime piece of writing. Highly recommended reading for  teenagers up.

I'll leave with some words from Andrew McNelis, who ordered his thoughts about his growing relationship with Robert. This is point number four -

4. I'm crazy about him. I can't help that he came into my life four months too soon; he stole my heart when I wasn't looking. That I don't want it back even if he's willing to hand it over.

This book was supplied to me by Kensington Publishing in return for an honest review. All reviews on Greedy Bug Book Reviews are reviewed in an honest and open manner.

Dolphins in the Mud. Jo Ramsay

A Young Adult LGBTQ read with heart and meaning.

-- Review by Kazza K

Dolphins in the MudI bought Dolphins in the Mud after someone posted it in the M/M Romance section at Goodreads. I didn't realise it was a Young Adults book when I bought it. This book is neither M/M or romantic. Yes, there is a gay 16 year old as the primary voice of the book, but it isn't romantic as much as it's about family, life, and a difficult, hard-life-lessons period in a teenage boys life. I must say the premise is good, the book well executed, and while the few secondary teenagers that come across the page are tame, they are all pretty age typical. A lot of heart went into writing about Cece and her Autism, and Noah, I won't talk about Noah as his part of the story is best read. The book also takes a long, hard look at the fracturing effect special needs children, of any age, with any problems, can have on a family.There are two 'issues' that are covered in this book that are important and I found the writing to be pretty accurate, sympathetic, and realistic about both.

Dolphins in the Mud is primarily about Chris Talberman, and his family, who move to Wellfleet so his 9 year old sister, Cecelia, or Cece, as Chris calls her, can go to a special needs school. In the beginning we find Cece banging her toy dolphin on a window calling out "Dolph," as she has noticed Dolphins in the local cove. They have literally become stuck in the mud and need rescuing. Cece is besotted with dolphins and escapes through an unlocked door with Chris chasing, only to have Cece stopped before she gets to the mud and water by another young man, Noah.

Noah Silver is from a very wealthy family that spends time living in various towns and cities, including a few months of the year spent at Wellfleet. He is shunned or thought weird by the other local children, and he has an overbearing/overprotective father and mother that only allow him to be  home schooled with limited to no access to other children. One of the threads through the story is Chris does find Noah attractive and vice versa which develops into a friendship that could lead to more.

The primary story, though, is how Chris is made responsible for a very long time with Cece's care. Their mother is always ducking out of the house to run 'errands' and leaves Cece with Chris way too much for a sibling. He helps his mum pick Cece up from the van after school, brings her home, helps with her daily schedule - snacks, exercise and TV - without fail. You know that there is a growing resentment from the mother towards Cecelia and she takes her frustration out on Chris. If anything goes wrong Chris gets chewed out. When Cece runs down to Drummers Cove, to the "Dolphs," it was because her mother didn't lock the door after their father went to work. Yet she's angry with Chris for not running faster to catch Cece; and allowing someone else to stop her. Their mother is embarrassed by Cece and her Autism, she harbours the guilt of feeling somehow, some way she did something to make her daughter the way she is.

I felt sorry for Chris's mother. She's tired, she's frazzled, but she won't go about getting help through her own stubbornness and embarrassment. I also felt very angry at Chris's mother. And his father. However, I understand the difficulties of raising a special needs child. It can be very hard, particularly if you don't avail yourself of help, or don't get into the right mindset. Chris had more maturity than both his parents. He constantly has to help his mother, puts up with her emotions and frustrations. Chris is caught up in the 'special needs child trap' where the family is tied up with worry and frustrations about the the child with special needs, forgetting about the needs of the other sibling. Chris is forgotten, at times, and roped into doing more than he should ever have to the rest of the time.

Eventually Cece and Chris's mother cracks under the pressure, leaving her family one day with no warning. Cece is stranded on the bus and Chris has to go through hell and high water to get her released into his care. He takes Cece home only to find no-one there. He rings his father who is at a loss as to why his wife wouldn't be at home. Leaving 16 year old Chris to, once again, look after Cece. Their father is utterly clueless as to what his autistic daughter's needs are, how to care for Cece. Chris's father has had no idea the extent to which Chris has had to care for Cece, as he drives over two hours to work and back everyday in Boston, and is busy earning money to support the family.

Chris runs the emotional gauntlet - guilt about telling people how much responsibility his mother has passed off to him, that she has been leaving every day to run 'errands', being a protective older brother, needing to be able to just be a kid himself, scared of missing out on a social life. On top of this he is gay and has had to leave his boyfriend when they move to the new town. He doesn't know many people in the area, let alone who may be sympathetic or interested in his orientation. On more than one occasion Chris has to cancel movie nights to care for his sister.

Meanwhile Chris and Noah are developing more of a friendship. Noah is a strange boy, there is a sadness and an innate loneliness in him. Sometimes he asks a lot of questions, but just as easily as he asks, he also deflects questions about him, he is socially awkward or inept actually - he's home schooled, travels all year, and is never able to form friendships that teenagers need so much to develop into socially aware adults. There is also more to Noah which you see gradually but which really comes out in the latter stages of the book. Once again Ms Ramsey handles the topic pretty well.

Eventually things come to a crisis point for Chris. His mother has admitted to an affair while running 'errands'  that he unknowingly covered for, and he lets all his emotions out. After he witnesses something upsetting his father steps up to the plate, realises his son and his daughter need him to parent them, and get the balance of work and family right. They also realise that mum is not coming back to the family, she has left them, which causes much hurt and thus anger for Chris.

Dolphins in the Mud is a bittersweet YA book that has nothing exciting or action packed going on. It's not like reading Vampire Academy or Mortal Instruments - it's a quiet, introspective, personal look at more than one family going through a difficult time, and parallels between them. Although it may not suit everyone, there are more than a few adults and teenagers who would be able to relate to this book. It's about family, the various friendships you can form in your life, teenage years, and how they aren't always easy. It's also about mental health and special needs issues, which are more prevalent that people may realise. I'm glad I bought it, and I'm glad I read it. It left me feeling like there was hope for all the people in the book. Nothing unrealistic, just a feeling that they would overcome obstacles and be better people for having encountered them. That Chris' altered family would be better for the changes, that Noah would now find a better place in his life as well. I found the characters stayed with me after finishing the book.

If you like YA and are not put off by an LGBTQ slant, it is not about sex rather people, then this is a well intentioned, well written book, with both heart and real meaning.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

See, Jackie Nacht

There was nowhere to go. No escaping. This hate was everywhere, even in my bedroom. I choked out a sob and wondered why everyone thought I was so horrible just for being born this way. There was no way to change myself.

- Review by Kazza K 

A beautiful and apt cover.
I picked out the above quote because it is so true of the hopeless thoughts that engulf young ones being bullied. It certainly makes someone feel there is nowhere to be safe, particularly given the (ab)use of social networking. Jackie Nacht has done a nice job here with this ebook. It's around eighty five pages and it is very easy to read and so relevant.

See is about a fourteen year old boy, Drew, who has had the courage to come out, both at home and at school. Good for him for knowing who he is and being brave. Well, the problem is his parents don't appear enthused, they haven't said anything bad, they're adjusting -

This summer I had decided I wanted to be honest with myself. First, I told my parents that I was gay and then I told my friends. My parents seemed pretty surprised and it was now awkward at home.

That's not unusual. Better if parents can be open and supportive rather than appear conflicted but everyone has their own process to go through, so long as it is helpful. His friends have proved to be downright nasty and he is relentlessly bullied at school. And now he has pictures on line with nastiness attached for the world to see. He has had enough and, after one last act of violence, he decides to take his own life. He grabs a kitchen knife and heads off into the woods out back to commit suicide.

When he's there knife to his wrist, asking for strength to go through with it, another young male the same age appears to him. He's been allowed, via guardian angels, to come to Drew in a dream to help him see what the consequences of taking his own life would mean. What life will be like in the not too distant future.The young man is Mason and says he will be his husband when they are older. Drew finds it all hard to believe so in a somewhat Dickensian way Drew is shown his future by Mason.

This is a very nice book, the meaning clear - it does get better - and Ms. Nacht makes several invaluable points in this ebook 1) There are people to reach out to, even when it seems so hopeless. If you talk to someone they can help - your family, a counsellor, an adult you trust, a friend  2) Parents need to make sure they enquire more about their children. Don't just accept monosyllabic answers to your questions about your child's school, their friends, about your child's life and 3) Love your child and support them. Let them know you care, even if you aren't sure. Good communication and positive actions make a difference.

See is right. Life does get better. We lose too many precious children to suicide every year who lose sight of that. They can only see the hurt in the here and now. It seems so overwhelming. We need to be aware and vigilant. We need to raise compassionate children ourselves who don't bully others. Males are much more likely to take their own lives, and teenage boys even more so.

This book should be picked up by libraries and parents. It is an excellent resource to help open dialogue between teenagers and their families, and possibly some friends. It is fiction and a lovely way to get through to someone feeling low and fragile. I'd like to make a well intended suggestion, some typos need editing first. Even Ms Nacht's surname is spelt incorrectly in the author bio at the end (Knacht) which is a shame.

Jackie Nacht is to be applauded for such a compassionate book. It is entertaining, as a book should be, but above all else it has meaning and is sensitively written. There is nothing inappropriate here for a teenager to read, or for a parent to read with their teenager. Highly recommended reading for everybody.

One Boy's Shadow, Ross McCoubrey

A contemporary LGBTQ YA with a paranormal mystery theme. 

- Review by Kazza K


One Boy's ShadowThis is an incredibly hard book to review for a multitude of reasons. If I say too much it gives away a number of things that are best read. Some of it is so every day yet reading it makes you  see how lovely it is, how meaningful, and definitely how important. It also has a paranormal element, a ghost, yet it isn't ever anything but gentle, kind, and sweet. That is the best way for me to describe the whole book, the writing style - gentle, kind, and sweet.

One Boy's Shadow has two main threads running concurrently that meet and have a profound impact on all involved. One is about Caleb Mackenzie and his family. Caleb becoming consciously aware that he is gay, dealing with that  himself initially, marking time on coming out. A loving family unit, the best older brother in the universe, first love, a first kiss, good friends. The other is about the tragic history attached to the house Caleb's family have just purchased in their new town, Stapeton. Wakefield House. Wakefield House has much speculation attached to it. What happened to sixteen year old Toby Everett who mysteriously disappeared when out hunting in the snow with his father over sixty years ago?

Caleb's dad has just received a promotion and his family are moving from the city to a smaller town, Stapeton, in Nova Scotia where there is less hustle and bustle. The boys locate a nice sounding house on the outskirts of town whilst on line. The family go to check the property out, staying at the local motel. Caleb gets to meet the owner's son, Shane. Caleb and Shane hit if off and become firm friends right from the get-go.  Caleb's family offer on Wakefield House, apart from the tragic and haunted history the house has so much going for it - it's spacious, on a good size acreage, complete with a barn, woods, clearing, trails and a waterfall. An idyllic life for a family with two teenage boys.

Thread one - Caleb and Shane start a relationship, which is tastefully handled, everything is fade to black and sensibly age appropriate for a book featuring fifteen year old characters. Shane reveals that he once stayed at Wakefield house on a dare, as it were, and Toby saved him at a very dark point in his life. It also builds on the Mackenzie family, the relationship Caleb has with is brother, Blake, which is a very good one. it looks at how happy the family in general are in their new home.

Thread two - is looking at what happened to Toby, with Toby's help, and the persistence of Caleb, Shane, Blake and Ryley, their mutual friend. The trips to the barn, when Caleb's voice is whispered or when lights are on, are always briefly revealing. But most of all the woods hold a lot of answers and much goes on there, always seemingly focused around Caleb -

What are you trying to tell us, Toby?" Shane asked the woods. "What are we not seeing?"
The air grew cold, and the four of us could see our breath in front of our faces. There was a crunching sound of footfalls on twigs, and then silence. My ears rang. Nobody moved.

The book takes place over the period of a year and is told from Caleb's POV. Little by little information is unravelled about what happened to Toby and why. It is very well done. Closer to the end all is revealed. It is very touching and also bittersweet. I have to say I knew the way things were going, what was likely to happen, but the journey was a lovely one. I actually cried like a baby at several points in the book. Particularly to do with the rose thicket.

The book is beautifully named. Toby is a ghost, a shadow, who, even though most in sync with Caleb, significantly touches four individual boys lives - Caleb, Shane, Blake and Ryley. Caleb and Blake are brothers, Caleb is fifteen/sixteen and Blake is seventeen/eighteen. Toby is the catalyst for change and people entering each others lives that may not had he not been around otherwise. It looks closely at the how times have changed and there is more hope and positivity for LGBTQ youth.
This book definitely looks at current/timely issues in a gentle yet sure manner - being young and gay, losing a parent, family, friendships, relationships, a first kiss, a first love, teenage suicide. All real and important topics in their own right. And for any adolescent reading this review who may be feeling a little down or dark - know that life does get better. There are people to talk to who care. Toby helped people in this book, in your life there are people to help you through the dark times if they come your way. Please reach out to them.

I want to add something else. This book does come off a little shiny at times. Everyone is easily accepting of Caleb, and Caleb and Shane. I know that the author touches on the fact that not every child has such accepting parents/friends. He touches on Caleb's fear of coming out. Nobody has a cross word, which is not true of life, and relationships in general. It is a lovely sentiment, but I would have liked to have seen a bit more on the fact that it isn't always this easy. Caleb doesn't have much angst over being gay, many teenagers do. I know this from personal and professional experience. However, you can say that the parallels between two era's is a way of looking at the fact that things have been extreme without the author being harsh in the here and now. Things have improved, but there is a way to go. If you have the support of family and good friends it counts for a lot. That is a very significant point made here.. 
Overall the writing is so strong, the characters so beautiful, that I rated this book as a five star read. Caleb and Shane will forever stay with me, such was their depth of character, and the pureness of their hearts and love. Toby was gorgeous and a reminder that love has lasting power. His story was equally poignant and played well off the contemporary setting.

Caleb and Shane say the most endearing things to one another and I teared up at some of their experiences and declarations -

I don't have my mother's eyes."
"Not in colour, no, but in depth, you sure do. If anything yours are deeper. Sometimes when you look at me, it's like, I dunno, like everything else in the world has stopped, and I just...I get lost in there." Shane was trembling a little. I sat down next to him, and he put his head on my shoulder. "When I look in your eyes, I can see how much you love me, and I never thought anyone would ever be in love with me....I think of how close I came to killing myself and how I would never have known you. I love you so much, Caleb. You're better than anything I could ever have imagined, and you're here....and you're mine. And I'm just so grateful to be alive."
I held him close and whispered gently in his ear, "I'm grateful you're alive, too."

Here the writing touches on the difficulty of being same-sex attracted. It's time to recognise that  love is love -

On Monday night, Shane called me. It felt nice to be able to talk to my boyfriend again like I imagined most couples talked, but it was hard too, as I realized most couples never had to be afraid to let anyone else know they were together. At school I watched kids kissing  and holding hands all the time without so much as a singe thought. Straight couples never worried that they might be called names or get beaten up, or worse, merely for displaying affection and being themselves. For me, it was always at the back of my mind, and when I was with Shane, it was front and centre. I hated that I  couldn't be myself with him, that I had to act like we were friends. I wanted more than anything to hold his hand and let people see us together - but only if there wouldn't be any kind of negative reaction. I felt like coward. 

I believe this is the author's first book, and he should be proud of the end result. Ross McCoubrey has infused so much love into these charming characters. The writing is terrific for gay, bi, or questioning teenage males, in particular. This book should be in community libraries and school libraries for easy access. There is much need for LGBTQ youth to feel that they are not alone. The sheer numbers of male teen suicide is horrendous and when you take the stats of gay teen males who commit suicide this book has much to say that can help and is positive. I highly recommend One Boy's Shadow for lovers of well written LGBT YA.