Diabolic Shrimp… just go with it

What do gay young adult books and seafood have in common? I have no idea! However, a blog quirky enough to be about YA lit and sending shrimp to space resonates with me on a spiritual level. Diabolic Shrimp has tons of book reviews for indie books across all genres and the website also raises money for different charities.

Joshua Grant is a YA author and book blogger like me, so we have that in common even though I don’t eat shrimp and all I know about space is that my nephew doesn’t like it anymore, he’s all about Godzilla now. Anyway, my books and this author’s aren’t exactly in the same sphere, but I have never stayed on topic once in my life and I don’t intend to now, mostly because I couldn’t even if I tried.

I’m a pretty small-time blogger, so it was cool when he emailed me about being featured on my site because it’s like I have arrived. I don’t know where I arrived, but wherever it is, that’s where I am now. When I stop making sense, it’s time to move on to the next thing.

One thing Joshua Grant is better at than me is reviewing books, so while his is on my list to read, I haven’t yet. His works have more of a sci-fi/dystopian vibe. I really like sci-fi, but I don’t think a lot of my interests at the moment are reflective of that, so I’m just going to say the first related words that pop into my head. Doctor Who, robots, Dungeons and Dragons, oh hey, I love Stranger Things! Does that count? I’m saying that counts.

Here’s a summary for one of his books, Nexus.

nexus

When the Hollow Men came, humanity fell. Forced to scrape out an existence from the rubble with the rest of the survivors, Jonah Byerly struggles to get by. Hunted by dark murderous things, he yearns for something more—a hope from civilization long past, for love and acceptance. But Jonah isn’t like the others as much as he would like to be. He harbors a secret, a shadow in his soul that could revive humanity…or see it drown in the endless hunger of the Hollow Men.

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Book Review: Never Do a Wrong Thing

When it comes to blog posts, I often have trouble knowing how to start. I’m a stare at the blank page kinda person. I love the opening of Never Do a Wrong Thing. So, let’s start at the start (that’s a song right?) it’s a very good place to start (that’s totally a song).

When things start going awry is when the story starts, no sooner, no later. That’s what Mrs. Bartkowski told us in her Creative Writing workshop, but frankly, that doesn’t help me all that much if I can’t say for sure when things started going awry. If I were to ask you, Tom, you’d probably say things started going awry the day I was born, and you’d think your blunt force humor was very clever.

Great opening and it gave me a chance to use the quote thing.

Summary: Tim is in love with best friend, who will never, ever like him back.

I didn’t say stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but there you are, rolling your eyes and telling me yeah, yeah. I’ve heard this one before. But you haven’t! It’s not a besties to more thing. The story goes the perhaps more realistic route of what happens when that person you’ve had a crush on forever doesn’t like you back. Worse than that, when that person you love not only doesn’t love you in the right way but doesn’t love you at all, just because of who you are.

Very serious reviewer comment: Tim being interested in Tom is weird. Pretty much only because there was a Tim and Tom a few grades older than me in school and they were twin brothers. So that’s what I think of when I hear the names Tim and Tom together and then it’s like, Tim, no, that’s your brother!

But this isn’t Flowers in the Attic.

The Plot: Liking someone you can’t have. Yeah, it’s as simple as that. The story still covers a lot of ground though. At the beginning of the book, Tim can’t imagine ever telling his best friend certain truths about himself and doesn’t want to risk jeopardizing their friendship.

The full quote in the title is “never do a wrong thing to make a friend or keep one.” And as the story goes on, having to keep part of himself private, never getting to be himself to protect someone else becomes more and more difficult.  He starts realizing who he is and becoming okay with that, even if means he might have to give up the thing that once mattered the most to him.

What Makes it Unique: The story is told as if the main character is explaining everything to his best friend. So some of it is first person and other parts are him addressing his best friend. The different style really makes it interesting and fun to read and because it’s all about the friendship between Tim and Tom, this way of telling the story really works and feels natural. It’s Tim saying all the things he can’t to Tom.

There’s also a lot of stories out there where the central conflict is parental strife because they can’t accept their children and while realistic, it isn’t the only way parents react. So, I like stories where the parents are pretty supportive and this fits that bill.

What I liked: This isn’t just telling the story of a young adult discovering who he is, it really captures the mindset of someone innocent. There’s a vibe of everything being new and strange and scary but good too. The pace is just right, it’s an exploration of what someone coming to terms with their sexuality might go through, fully exploring the topic without being too much or not enough, it’s just right.

What you may not like: I was tempted to put a what I didn’t like part but then it would feel like a cop out because the answer is ‘nothing!’ I enjoyed the whole thing. Though, the focus of the book is pretty narrow. I don’t feel like that’s a bad thing but if you’re looking for a larger world and more conflict, this isn’t the right book for you. It’s coming of age and all the angst is centered around one part.

The Romance: This book isn’t centered around romance, so there’s a little bit of a love story but it’s not the main focus. The relationship in this one is sweet and cute, basically what you’d want for your first boyfriend.

Other: I just wanted to say that I didn’t make it all the way through Cupid Painted Blind, so its kinda weird that I loved this one so much and didn’t care for that one but anyway, I might have to give it another shot because I really enjoyed Jack in this one.

I actually would have liked Jack and Tim together, but I think there was an age difference, and I thought they had good chemistry and they challenged each other and both made the other think. And I just like Jack, okay. Love me a tortured bad boy and Jack and Tim had good dialogue.

Final Thoughts: A great easy read with a lot of heart. There’s simple, engaging writing that flows well and has moments of beauty and deepness and humor.

Also, I googled it, the song I was thinking of at the beginning was Do Re Mi.

Riding With Brighton Review


It’s hard to imagine anyone could find fault with Riding with Brighton. It’s a great character piece and a lovely romance too.

Summary: Jay Hall sees his life from a fresh perspective and finds himself wanting. He wants to change everything and knows just the person to help him: Brighton Bello-Adler, who is just about the coolest person in the world. They spend a few days together and go on an adventure of self-discovery and romance.

About Jay: Jay is unhappy with his life because he’s unhappy with himself. He’s good looking, popular, and an athlete, but he’s not impressed by his friends or any of his accomplishments. Because he’s been living with a part of himself he was too scared to acknowledge. But things are changing.

Jay’s been getting to know someone in one of his classes, Brighton. He likes talking to Brighton but feels really inadequate compared to him. Brighton is a shameless flirt with everyone, charming, an artist, and openly gay. He’s seems very confident and sure of who he is. And Jay wants to be like that. So he thinks.

It becomes pretty clear that it’s not hero worship Jay feels but a crush. It’s really sweet watching Jay gushing about Brighton in the safe context of a role model. He thinks he wants to be like Brighton, but he really wants to be worthy of catching Brighton’s attention.

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It was a sharp right turn, backward a good mile and a half, around corners, down hills, through a forest, and across the universe from where I really wanted to go.

About Brighton: In addition to Jay, there’s Brighton. Brighton is kind of a perfect angel who does no wrong but he’s still a strong character with his own voice. Jay’s the star of the show while Brighton is a supporting player, but again remember that this happens over the course of a few days and Jay has enough drama going on that it would have been too much to add more conflicts for Brighton.

What’s really great about Brighton is that he’s just a normal guy. He’s not boring but his life is going pretty well. And while that might not be great from a story perspective, it’s refreshing and a much needed portrayal of a gay teen in today’s culture. There’s no angst or depression. He has loving friends and a supportive family and being gay is just one part of him. He’s a good counterpoint to Jay and a realistic ,sometimes seldom seen, type of gay teenager.

The romance department is the only area lacking in Brighton’s life. He wants to be a normal kids who goes and dates and takes someone to prom. But there’s not a lot of dating options in his town. And he’s very attracted to Jay. He’s torn between the strong pull he feels for him and keeping his distance while Jay figures stuff out. He doesn’t want to get his heart broken but he can’t help the more attracted he becomes the more Jay shows of himself of Brighton.

What makes it unique: This is an interesting story because all the action takes place in the space of a weekend. It’s like a crash course in Jay’s psyche and emotional development as he dives head first into issues he’s never been able to confront before. The book provides a really in-depth character analysis and there’s lots of upheaval and revelations as Jay fits the coming out process into the span of a few days.

The Romance: The action is both the story of Jay finally being honest with himself and those around him and getting to know Brighton better. They can’t really help falling for each other the more time they spend together. They develop a real connection and a very supportive partnership.

There’s a lot of fun and flirty banter and swoon worthy moments. The book has the feel of a whirlwind romance, something intense and all consuming. But it’s not an artificial, insta-love kinda thing because the main characters get to know each other very deeply in a short amount of time and there’s both big romantic moments and more tender elements where the characters discovering each other and falling hard.

Favorite Part: The prose. The prose is just, really, really good.

My thoughts: Haven Francis wrote a beautiful book that should probably be read more than once in order to fully take in and appreciate everything. It’s life affirming and lovely but also doesn’t solve everything.

Outshine the Stars review

 Outshine the Stars – Nash Summers

Plot: Witty and self-absorbed Justin catches feelings and has to admit the world is bigger than himself.

My thoughts: I don’t know the right way to describe the writing in this short story. I think of it as ‘poetic as hell.’ It’s gorgeous and lyrical. The format wasn’t my favorite but I’m glad I stuck it out because it’s a good quick read with witty dialogue and a sweet love story.

Fave Part: I really enjoyed the prose, but the dialogue was good too. The conversations were a mix of how I actually talked in high school and how clever I wish I was in high school.

Sam Dorsey and his Sixteen Candles

Sam Dorsey and his Sixteen Candles is right up my alley. It’s a definite rom-com where’s there’s a bunch of zany antics that could realistically happen in real life but probably wouldn’t, especially at the same time, but if you’re someone like me who can suspend disbelief and just read about the crazy week Sam turns 16, it’s a funny, enjoyable story.

Sam Dorsey And His Sixteen Candles (Sam Dorsey And Gay Popcorn) (Volume 1)

The Plot: Misfortune always befalls Sam Dorsey or his family on his birthday, so he’s dreading the consequences of putting off the celebration he doesn’t even want and having a whole birthday week. On the bright side, his crush Jake finally seems to know he exists. But his new friend Mitch doesn’t seem to like that.

My thoughts: The narrator in this story, Sam, has a good voice that adds a lot of character and humor. The tone stands out and lets you know what you’re reading, it’s not just another book that blends in with the rest.

I feel like I should say something about the references to the Sixteen Candles movie, but as I’ve never seen the movie, I can’t. As far as I know, some characters have similar  names, but it seems like it’s more the tone of the story that’s similar than actual details.

There’s a lot of guys in this story that seem to be at the very least bicurious. Just a whole lot of queer dudes, which is something you don’t see a lot anywhere, especially in YA. I think it’s great, especially as I tend to have multiple gay characters in my stories too.

Best Part: Many stories deal with the negative fallout of coming out and while that’s realistic, I don’t think disapproving parents are a universal experience anymore, so I enjoyed the approach this story took a lot.

I don’t know what classifies as full length or a short story and what this technically ranks as. Since the action takes place over a few days and it’s around 150 pages, it feels like a short story. It’s a cute, quick read. There’s other books in the series and they all seem to be available on Kindle Unlimited.