OWL by M. Raiya
Teen, Gay, Paranormal shapeshifter
Blurb: Gabriel made a decision to help a friend, and it cost him. He’s been exiled from his clan, trapped in his owl form, living in a swamp, and slowly losing his humanity. If not for Vincent, Gabriel would have no chance of regaining what he lost. Vincent is popular and successful, but no one knows the real him, who is gay and would rather become a musician than a lawyer… no one but the owl living in the hollow tree. As Vincent shares his secrets, he not only unburdens his heart, but stirs Gabriel’s. In each other they have a chance to heal… to live. Unless Gabriel’s grandfather has his way.
Review: Wow. It’s been a while since I read a book this good. One that makes me want to go back and read it again to see if I missed anything. Gabriel and Vin are amazing characters. They both have issues—ones that could lead to the extreme—but together, they work through things. One of the biggest issues is that Gabriel (Riel) is an owl. Okay, he’s a shapeshifter, but when they meet, he’s unable to shift back to human. Figuring out how to communicate is the first hurdle they have to overcome. I hope the author either continues this as a series, or writes other books in a similar vein because I know I’d buy them.
What I liked: the characters. Vin and Riel are amazing. And the way they tackle things head on is really well done. I loved the imagination it took to come up with a way to communicate. And the imagery the author uses is so beautifully done, I felt like I was really there. Both boys have problems—ones that could lead to them paying the ultimate price. But they work through them together and come out stronger in the end. I loved the twist at the end with Vin—nicely done and a good ending to the story.
What I didn’t like: Okay, if I had to name something, it would be all the barfing that goes on. Could have toned that down a little—especially since I tend to read while I’m eating—but it worked for the scenes where it occurred. J
Recommendation: This is a definite “buy me” book. The friendship/romance between the boys is sweet and beautifully done. The situations almost believable, and the imagery enhances the overall feel of the book. I know that having read this, I am going to look for other books by this author.
Thanks to the publisher for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.
LOST SOULS by K.D. Worth (3rd book in the Grim Life series)
Blurb: Teenage grim reapers Max and Kody are already dealing with being dead… and now they’re expected to save the world.
With the help of their guardian angel, Slade, and each other, Max and Kody have finally discovered the destiny God planned for them—help the lost souls languishing in purgatory back to heaven. But they’re still growing into their roles. Kody, the Healer, struggles to understand the power born of his empathy, and Max’s abilities as Protector suffer because of longing for his best friend… along with Slade’s dire prediction that Max will lose Kody. So many are depending on them, and they’ll have to summon all the love and faith inside them to face a mass school shooting and bring love and hope to those who need it most.
REVIEW: I read the other books in this series so I had to read this one in order to find out what happened with Kody and Max. As before, they are working as reapers—beings who take the souls of the dead and help them move on to Heaven. But they also have to be wary of shades (lost souls) and wraiths (bad souls). And of themselves with their doubts and feelings. One thing they are in no doubt of is their love for each other and that’s what gets them through. Well, that and their mentor, Slade. I will note that this is a heavily religious series so be forewarned. It can get a little preachy at times. And actually, I believe this one was the heaviest of them all. Oh, it fit with what was happening, but it was really strong in this book.
What I liked: Kody and Max’s strength of love for each other that went beyond the physical (and yes, there are a couple physical scenes). I love Slade and his attitude. And the world building is beyond imagining. It’s very well done.
What I didn’t like: This one got just a little over the top preachy for me. It fit the story, but I thought the first books were better.
Recommendation: Read the first two books first so you have a good grasp of what’s going on in this one and what’s at stake. You don’t have to, but I really do recommend that. The three are better as a whole.
Thanks to Harmony Ink Press (Dreamspinner Press) for providing me this ARC in exchange for an honest review.
BURIED SECRETS by John R. Petrie
When Wyatt Courtland skips school to work construction, he finds a lockbox containing a series of articles about Bobby LaFleur, a student who went missing four years ago and someone he knew. He enlists the help of sheriff’s son Timothy Mitchell to learn what happened to Bobby. Timothy wants to go into law enforcement, even if it’s against his father’s wishes. He figures solving this case will convince his dad he can handle police work, but as he digs deeper, he uncovers a string of missing boys. As Wyatt and Timothy grow closer, they realize the mystery is far more sinister than they imagined—and it’s a secret someone is willing to kill to protect.
This is a story about being yourself, family issues, coming out, murder, and more. It might be a difficult story for some to read as it does contain references to alcoholism, bullying, homophobia, brutality, and more. But… it also contains friendship, a growing love story (sweet—no sex), and family acceptance.
At first I was a little put off by the similarity of some of the names as it became confusing to keep straight who was who, but there was a reason for most of it, so a non-issue. The story itself is a bit dark as Timothy and Wyatt chase down clues in a cold case that’s not so cold. They put themselves in danger, but there’s a satisfying ending that makes it all worthwhile.
What I liked: The characters. Timothy is a small person, but with a background in Karate, he doesn’t take bullying from anyone. Wyatt is the opposite—large, strong, quiet. But also protective and he’s big enough to pull it off. Timothy’s parents are accepting and caring. Wyatt’s alcoholic, abusive mother, not so much. I also liked the mystery in the story and the ending. Nicely done.
What I didn’t like: The heavy smoking of Wyatt (and the drinking). But…that being said, it does fit the character and the setting.
Recommendation: If you’re looking for a decent murder mystery based on a cold case and don’t mind the boys being gay, this is a good one. I would recommend it.
Thank you to Dreamspinner Press for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.
CRANBERRY BOYS – Watermarsh Tales #1 by Scudder James Jr.
LGBTQ+ YA, Contemporary
Sixteen-year-old Zeph’s junior year of high school isn’t the greatest. Yes, he’s on the cross-country team with his friend Connor, and yes, they “hook up” any time they can, but those are things on the surface. Much deeper down, things aren’t quite so rosy, especially when his religious zealot parents find out he’s gay, and when his best friend Bronson returns from boarding school.
Watermarsh is a small town once renowned for its cranberry bogs, but now, it’s just a small town with not a lot going for it except secrets—a lot of secrets. Zeph’s father runs a road-repair business and his mother is heavily into her church—the kind of church where you don’t have gay sons. When Zeph comes out to his parents, they refuse to accept that. So they reach an agreement with Zeph. He doesn’t have to attend church (which he hates) as long as he doesn’t come out to anyone else and embarrass his mother. Their uncomfortable agreement lasts for a while. What they don’t know is that Zeph’s friend and teammate, Connor, and Zeph meet quite often, and not for team sports.
But Connor isn’t okay with being out. Not like Zeph. Zeph is his dirty little secret. Then Zeph’s old friend Bronson comes back from boarding school and Zeph discovers what life could be like if he wasn’t someone’s secret. Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as it sounds.
This was a story full of the usual teen angst plus the added issues of being gay or bi, religious zealots, small town gossips, and suicide (a very small part of the story but it’s talked about as in the past). The author does a decent job of showing us Zeph’s issues and how he handles things. And there’s a definite HEA that satisfies completely.
One thing I absolutely loved – and laughed over—was the author’s use of non-swearing swear words for the coach (get your aspirin over here!). It’s a shame that only lasted for a page. The humor was a nice break from all the angst.
One thing that didn’t work for me… was that it was a little slow to get into, but once I did, this was a decent story that came out right in the end. Nicely done.
Recommendations: I would recommend this book—and not just to teens. The characters are well-constructed and believable, the setting works, and the issues are definitely handled well and in a way that makes you believe it could have happened that way. It’s a realistic look into teen life and all the things that can go wrong—or right.