Lydia Reviews: Schooled by Jeff Adams

Title: Schooled

Author: Jeff Adams

Publisher: Harmony Ink Press

Genre: Young Adult, Mystery, Series

Pages: 186

Kisses: 4

Blurb:

Secret agent and teenage computer genius Theo Reese lives in two separate worlds—and they’re about to collide.

Theo’s high school computer science club is gearing up for a competition, and Theo agrees to lend his knowledge of cybersecurity to help them win. The covert agency he works for also needs his talents. An encrypted key that allows access to the nation’s electrical grid has been stolen. Theo’s skills are crucial in its recovery before disaster strikes.

When the file shows up at the competition as one of those to be decoded, Theo must find a way to be both an average high school student and Winger, his secret identity. The file must be secured—all while protecting his teammates from those who will use any means necessary to get the file for themselves.

Review:

Schooled is the second book in the Code Name: Winger series by author Jeff Adams. This is a young adult series centered around a high school computer genius who also happens to be a secret agent. Yes, I know, a teenage secret agent but if you can get into vampires and werewolves, then you can believe in this too. I was a little skeptical myself when I picked up the first book, Hacker, but soon found myself drawn in by Theo. You also need to know that this is a series that needs to be read in order, because of that this review may have some spoilers.

Theo is still pulled thin as he is a full-time high school student, a part-time college student, and a part-time secret agent. As far as school goes, things seem to be going well. He and Eddie are still going strong, his grades continue to be high and he’s busy on all sides. The last thing he has time for is helping the school’s computer club. Once he sees how good they are, however, he wants to see them succeed, so sets out to make sure they can do just that in the next competition.

On the spy side, he’s fresh off his first field mission and while he feels a sense of accomplishment he knows there is still a lot he needs to learn. When his next assignment comes to him due to the death of one of his co-workers, Theo wonders if he has taken on too much. What he does not count on is his current mission and the school’s computer club competition colliding.

There are a lot of twists and turns in this story. Who’s trying to open the encryption key that can cause major destruction? What does that have to do with the computer competition that the high school is involved in? Is Theo ready for a promotion or should he make more time for being a teenager? All these are things that Theo must find answers to. There is also one more question that still needs to be answered, the one surrounding the irregularities with Theo’s and Eddie’s phones. I am wondering when the next book will be out because to me it felt like there was more going on with regards to the phones. While reading Schooled I kept worrying that Eddie was going to be a bad guy.

The author does a great job handling the mystery aspects of the story as well as keeping Theo a kid. The relationship between Theo and Eddie is handled nicely as well. Due to the boys’ ages, the sexual aspect is on the light side or occurs off page. This is a series that I will be reading again in the future and I hope we don’t have to wait too long before another book comes out.

Reviewed By: Lydia

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Lydia Reviews: Not Today by MC Lee

Title: Not Today

Author: MC Lee

Publisher: Harmony Ink Press

Pages: 220

Genre:  Young Adult

Kisses: 3

Blurb:

After the death of his older brother in Iraq, Emmett Callaghan’s mother cracked under the stress and abandoned the family—saddling sixteen-year-old Emmett with the care of a father suffering from worsening dementia. Poor in a town where the lines between the privileged and the struggling are sharp and unmovable, Emmett has nowhere to turn, and he cannot let the authorities know his mother is no longer in the picture.

Then a light shines into his bleak life with the arrival of Noah Davis. Mixed race, liberal, worldly, and openly gay, Noah is like no one else in conservative Whitmore—and like no one Emmett’s ever met. Emmett is helpless to keep Noah and the happiness and support he offers out of Emmett’s dark and hidden world. But when secrets start to surface, will the obstacles the two young men face be more than love and good intentions can overcome?

Review:

At one time Emmett’s life was almost happy.  Then his brother died in Iraq, and his mother cannot stand to fake it one more minute, leaving Emmett and his father.  The life Emmett once knew is over and now he finds himself caring for his father who suffers from dementia. Emmett’s life is a struggle, and from the beginning, I could not help wanting him to find some happiness.  What he goes through leads to anything but. When his father does not remember that his oldest son is dead or that his wife has run off, he is being abusive towards Emmett.

Emmett is not even able to use school as an escape since he is barely hanging on.  If it wasn’t for his neighbor forcing him to complete high school, he would have dropped out a long time ago.  However, things look like they may be changing for Emmett when Noah and his family move to town.

While Emmett comes from the wrong side of the tracks, Noah comes from the rich side.  Growing up in different areas of the world due to his father’s job, Noah is used to a different way of seeing things, so the conservative, and sometimes bigoted reactions, he finds in Whitmore throw him at times.  He is pleasantly surprised by Emmett but can tell there is more going on than what the other boy shows.

I wanted to like this story.  As I said earlier I fell for Emmett from the get-go and wanted him to have his happily ever after.  I was not expecting Not Today to be as full of angst as it was.  More than once I almost put Not Today down but continued reading with hopes that things would work out.  I was totally thrown by the way the story ended and had a bit of a hissy fit when it was finished.

While this turned out not to be the book for me,  I know there are many that love angst-filled books.  If that is what you are looking for then this is the story for you.

Reviewed by: Lydia

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Lydia Reviews: Elpida by C. Kennedy

Title: Elpida

Author: C Kennedy

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages: 350

Genre: Coming of Age, Series

Kisses: 5

Blurb:

Michael and Christy attended prom, graduated high school, and Michael leads the USATF tryouts. With Oxford University on the horizon, his future looks bright, and he believes life has returned to normal after Christy’s rescue. He couldn’t be more wrong.

Christy has been free from a life of slavery for more than a year and has made remarkable progress due in no small part to the love he found with Michael. But the recent prosecution of a past abuser has shattered the life he so painstakingly built out of nothing but a mountain of horror. He now faces the daunting task of building a new life—yet again.

Twelve-year-old Thimi has been missing since Christy left Greece and, unbeknownst to everyone, has hidden out in a vacant mansion in Glyfada. Learning of Christy’s survival is the only thing that brings him out of hiding. People, open spaces, even the most common of sounds frighten him beyond reason. A mere ghost of a boy, Thimi arrives in the US with no knowledge of the outside world—the only constant in his life a purple marble.

Lost, shattered, and afraid, only hope gives them the strength and courage they need to begin anew.

Review:

Elpida is the third book in the Elpida series by author C Kennedy.  Readers should know that this is a series that MUST be read in order, so if you have not read the first two books you may want to pass by this review.  This story also touches on topics that can be considered triggers for some readers. Readers may also want to know that Elpida took second place in the 2017 Rainbow Awards Young Adult category.  Congratulations Ms. Kennedy.

This book picks up right where the second story, Tharros, ends so you are immediately pulled back into a world full of angst, fear, and love.  I fell in love with the two young MC’s, Christy and Michael, in the first book and could not wait for them to finally find a HEA without fear.  I loved that that was the final goal in this story but the way there is not an easy one.

As Michael and Christy are coping with the trial and its effects on Christy, they get word that Thimi has heard of Christy’s death, misinformation put out by the Greece news agencies.  This has put Thimi into a tailspin with almost drastic results. It is up to Christy to pull him back from the brink and arranges to bring him to the states as soon as possible.

Michael, and those around him, are leery of what having Thimi with them will do to Christy, but he can’t tell the love of his life no.  While there are some good moments the difficult ones seem to overshadow everything else. There are attacks on Michael and those he loves,  new family dynamics to come to terms with, and a massive misunderstanding to straighten out. There were times I wanted to cry and worried that Christy and Michael are never going to find their happily ever after.  Yet, through it all, the story held my attention and I had a hard time putting the book down.

I loved the way the author wraps up this series, but I also felt as if  there was still more story to be told. I hope the author plans to bring these two young men back for at least one more story some time in the future.   For those who have not yet tried this series I strongly suggest that you do. It is one you will have a hard time forgetting.

Reviewed by: Lydia

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Kimberly Reviews: Mick and Michelle by Nina Rossing

Title: Mick & Michelle

Author: Nina Rossing

Publisher: Harmony Ink Press

Pages: 230

Characters: Mick, Ash, Gabriel

POV: 1st

Sub-Genre: Contemporary Transgender

Kisses: 5 

Blurb:

Life is good for fifteen-year-old Mick Mullins—at least on the surface. He’s the perfect son to his supportive parents and plans to follow in their footsteps and become a police officer. He has plenty of friends in the neighborhood and even gets along with his sister. But buried beneath the golden boy is a girl named Michelle, and she desperately wants to step into the light. Mick knows revealing she is really Michelle might ruin some of the most important relationships in her life, but she must take that chance, and she can’t wait much longer. Her body is developing into a man’s, and she can’t bear to let that happen—even though she worries about the repercussions of her decision. 

But every choice comes with risks as well as rewards. Mick is Grandpa’s favorite—and the only male grandchild. Will her ailing Grandpa be able to handle learning about Michelle? Michelle is forced to make an impossible choice: her beloved Grandpa’s life or the one she knows she must live.

Review:

Mick has dreams of following in his parents’ footsteps and becoming a cop, but he fears that telling them who he really is might put that dream in jeopardy. Mick is a good student, a dependable child, and a loving sibling. Mick is also transgender and hiding this fact from her family. And the reader is allowed to take the journey with her as she comes out to her sister, her parents, and her friends in order to be who she really is – Michelle.

The Mullins family is a treat to get to know. Both Dad and Ma are cops, and Ash is the older sister who is about to leave for college. They each have rich personalities and complex histories, but in the end, their love for one another is what shines through most of all. Mick coming out as Michelle to Ash, how she approaches her friends, the fear she has telling her ailing Grandpa, and the elements that contributed to her parents finding out…everything was pitch perfect and engaging.

Little elements sprinkled throughout the story made it feel more real. Yes, Mick coming out as Michelle was the main thrust of the plot, but it wasn’t the only plot. There’s the separation anxiety Dad is feeling as his daughter is heading out to college. We’ve got the added element of how Ash and Mick came to be in the first place, through fertility treatment. There’s the ever-lasting love between Dad and Ma, but also the former love Tommy coming back into the picture to seek help dealing with his own son, Gabriel. And there’s the feeling of adoration Mick has for Gabriel as they work through the summer together. All of this is contributing to the way their lives unfold over the short months of summer, and before it’s over none of them will be the same.

Every single character in this, every bit of writing, is superb. I am hard to please when it comes to most books and I found that I could not put this one down even when my schedule demanded me to turn to other tasks. Rossing has crafted a story where you are rooting for a happy outcome, but aware that life doesn’t always work out exactly as you intend. People you think are your closest allies might not understand the real you, while others who you thought you weren’t close to becoming a supportive force throughout your toughest times. All those elements came together to provide an absolutely fantastic book, and I look forward to reading future works by this author.

Highly Recommended!

Reviewed By: Kimberly

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Gabbi Reviews: Ethan by Ryan Loveless


Title: Ethan
Author: Ryan Loveless
Publisher: Harmony Ink Press
Pages: 201
Characters: Carter, Ethan
POV: Alternating 1st Person
Sub-Genre: Contemporary, YA
Kisses: 4.5


Blurb:

Carter Stevenson is looking forward to a fresh start in a new high school on the other side of the country. It’ll give him a chance to escape his reputation for twitching and stuttering. He’ll have the summer to himself in his new home in California, and in the fall, he won’t get involved in any activity that puts his Tourette’s center stage. He won’t stand out as different.

But his new neighbor, Ethan, isn’t just going to change his plans. He’s going to change Carter’s life.

Ethan Hart is recovering from a traumatic brain injury, but it doesn’t dampen his enthusiasm or love for life. As soon as he sees Carter, who moves like the music Ethan sees between the clouds and the grass, he’s determined to become his friend, and then his boyfriend. And even if his parents say their romance can’t get physical, Ethan won’t let it stand in the way of falling in love.

Stepping into the spotlight was the last thing Carter ever wanted, but Ethan, along with a group of friends who like him just the way he is—tics and all—starts to change his mind.

Adapted as a YA edition of the award-winning novel Ethan, Who Loved Carter by Ryan Loveless.

Review:

Ethan is a re-adapted novel from the book, Ethan Loves Carter by Ryan Loveless. As a huge fan of the original, I was very anxious to read how Ms. Loveless was about to rewrite the story into a young adult friendly version.

One of the big differences is this book is told in alternating first person. I admit, first person isn’t my favorite tense, but because we get both Carter and Ethan’s point of view, I ended up liking it quite a bit. In ways, because of this, we really get to see what the character is thinking and feeling and I as a reader, appreciated this very much.

The biggest difference in this and the original are the ages of the characters. Instead of being in their early to mid-twenties, Ethan is couple of years older than Carter and Carter is fifteen going on sixteen in the novel. In ways, I both liked and didn’t like this. It was strange to read about Carter’s parents, who are not in the original book and also strange to see them as young adults who are still under their parents thumb.

Now please don’t get me wrong. I loved the way these two young men connected with each other. It was very apparent that they are clearly meant for one another. I loved how they bring out the best in each other and even when things don’t always go as planned, they really work at learning from their mistakes and making their relationship thrive.

I also really liked how we are able to really see the struggles both heroes go through because of their disabilities. It’s obvious that Ms. Loveless has true skill and knowledge of the specialness of both characters. Not only did I feel like I got to know both Ethan and Carter very well, they were easy heroes to like and empathize with. In the end, I thought the everyday struggles they go through make them stronger, better men.

In some ways I wish Ethan Who Loves Carter wasn’t one of my favorite books. Because of this, I did constantly compare the two stories and that probably makes me biased toward the first book. I’m always hesitant to wonder if young people who fall in love will truly end up being together. In the original, I didn’t have that problem. I loved the ending and knew they would always be happy together. In this book, because of their ages, I admittedly wondered if they would be able to stand the test of time and be together in the long run.

Ethan is a well-written, sweet love story that will live in your heart long after you finish reading it. With lovable, realistically written characters and the bond these two boys share together, it will surely be a favorite for many young readers. Ethan is a well-written novel about two young men who are truly made for each other. Period.

Highly Recommended!

Reviewed By: Gabbi

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Lydia Reviews: Tharros by C. Kennedy


Title: Tharros
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Author: C. Kennedy
Pages: 360
Kisses: 5+

Blurb:

High school senior Michael Sattler leads a charmed life. Almost. He has great friends, parents who love him just the way he is, and he was a champion hurdler until someone took out his knee when they kidnapped his boyfriend. Yet, Michael is determined to make the USATF tryouts in spite of his injuries.

Christy Castle is Michael’s entire world. Healing from years of abuse, his abduction by a predator has left him hiding a new secret as he tries to start his life again. Together, Michael and Christy work to recover from their wounds in time to make prom and graduate high school. To complicate matters, Christy is astonished to learn a fellow victim from his native Greece has survived. Christy will stop at nothing to bring him to the US to keep him safe.
But the prosecution of Christy’s kidnapper looms large in their futures and the struggle to return to normal only worsens. Christy’s past continues to haunt them and, when the prosecution turns ugly and Christy’s new life is torn apart, only their unrelenting courage and determination can save them from the nightmare that threatens to destroy their future together.

Review:

Tharros is the second book in C. Kennedy’s Elpida series. This series centers on two young men, teenagers who attend high school together.

Michael is the all American high school jock. But he also differs from what we normally see in this form, as he cares about others, sometimes putting them ahead of himself. Christy is a Greek national who has come to the United States to overcome the horrors of his past. The two form a relationship that faces many obstacles. While the first book is very intense and can possibly trigger those who have faced abuse in the past, book two is less heavy, but no less intense. Readers should know that this is a series that must be read in order, so if you have not read the first book keep in mind that there will be spoilers.

Tharros picks up where the Omorphi has ended. The young men have already faced a lot of negativity and hatred and now just want to have fun at the prom and graduate from high school. Unfortunately, Christie’s past is still very much a focus of his life, as he still has to testify against those who abused him. The first steps to putting those guilty of the crimes committed against Christy away means Christy has to testify in court. What comes out in court devastates Christy and I found myself close to tears more than once. I want to say I was shocked by what happens next and that I could not believe the author would put Christy through that, but I cannot. Christy’s reactions, no matter how harmful, are true to form and to not have followed that path would have been a disservice to the story. Through all of Christy’s struggles Michael is right beside him.

Michael had thought his only worries would be getting to the USATF tryouts. Yet this young man stands by his man with the strength of someone three times his age. I am always surprised by Michael’s ability to handle what is thrown at him. That does not mean that Michael never worries about what he’s doing or falls apart when things become too heavy for him to deal with. I like that the author has given this young man a support system that stands behind him. The relationship that Michael has with Jake is tighter than that of brothers. It is easy to see that if things had been different Michael and Jake could have made a strong couple.

This story is over 300 pages long so of course more goes on than what little I have mentioned here. It is easy to go on and on about Tharros but with every point brought up, the possibility of giving too much away gets stronger. While I have read this series several times, it is not one that is for everyone. If you decide to read these books, be prepared to be pulled into a world that is well created and to fall in love with the Christy and Michael. I can’t wait to see when the third book will be out. And hope it will be sometime soon.

Reviewed by: Lydia

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The History of Us by Nyrae Dawn


Title: The History of Us
Author: Nyrae Dawn
Publisher: Harmony Ink Press
Pages: 184
POV: 1st
Kisses: 5








Blurb:

Sometimes it’s not about coming out, it’s about settling in.

Eighteen-year-old Bradley Collins came out a year ago and hasn’t looked back since. Who cares if he doesn’t know any other gay people? Bradley has friends and basketball—that’s all he needs. Even if that means always sitting on the sidelines when the guys go out looking for girls.

When cute film-boy TJ tries to flirt with Bradley while his friends are doing their thing, he freaks. Yeah, he’s gay, but he’s never had the opportunity to go out with a boy before. He’s never had to worry about how his friends will react to seeing him with a guy.

Bradley accompanies TJ on a road trip to film TJ’s senior project documentary. In each city they visit, they meet with people from different walks of life, and Bradley learns there’s a whole lot more to being honest about himself than just coming out. He still has to figure out who he really is and learn to be okay with what he discovers.

Review:

The History of Us is a well done coming of age story that is sure to bring this author many new fans. It tells the story of Bradley and TJ, two young men in their last year of high school. Bradley is a high school senior and a member of the school’s basketball team. Although he came out when he was a junior, he hasn’t really taken it any further than that. While he’s lonely, he’s afraid to start any type of relationship since that would make him gay, instead of being gay just in theory. TJ is also a senior and out. Unlike Bradley however, TJ accepts himself and does not care what others think of him.

The two young men are brought together by chance and have a strong chemistry. Any type of relationship is thrown by the wayside when Bradley, who is out with his friends, ignores TJ rather than acknowledging him. It is easy to understand Bradley and his fears of standing up for who he is, although I hated to see TJ hurt. The author solves the boys’ problems in a very easy way. She sends them on a road trip.

TJ is making a documentary for a class project. Driving across country, TJ plans on interviewing a variety of characters, getting their stories of being gay in today’s society. Not all of these stories are light hearted; in fact a few of them had me close to tears. Along the way Bradley and TJ learn not only learn about each other, but learn a lot about themselves as well. But Bradley is not prepared for the secret that TJ has been hiding.

One of the best parts of this book is Bradley’s mom. I love how supportive she is and her understanding and acceptance of Bradley is one of the things that helps him eventually accept himself

This is my first book by this author but it will not be my last. I found this story extremely well done and plan on reading it again in the future.

Reviewed by: Lydia

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