Desmond and Garrick (Book One) by Hayden Thorne


Title: Desmond and Garrick (Book One)
Author: Hayden Thorne
Publisher: Prizm Books
Length: Novel
Buy the book: Publisher

Blurb:
It’s 1815, just after Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo and Garrick Mortimer is a scholar extraordinaire, an underemployed and starving genius. Desperate, he agrees to sign on as tutor to Desmond Hathaway, the youngest son of a vampire family living in Yorkshire. [...]

http://threedollarbillreviews.com/2011/01/18/desmond-and-garrick-book-one-by-hayden-thorne/
http://threedollarbillreviews.com/?p=2050

The Glass Minstrel by Hayden Thorne

The Glass MinstrelThe Glass Minstrel by Hayden Thorne

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Title: The Glass Minstrel
Author: Hayden Thorne
Publisher: Bristlecone Pine Press
Length: Novel / 200 pges

Blurb:
The Christmas season in mid-19th century Bavaria is brought to life in the THE GLASS MINSTREL, a new, original historical novel from acclaimed author Hayden Thorne. Two fathers, Abelard Bauer and Andreas Schifffer, are brought together through the tragic deaths of their eldest sons. Bauer, a brilliant toymaker, fashions glass Christmas ornaments and his latest creation is a minstrel with a secret molded into its features. [contd..]

http://threedollarbillreviews.com/2010/10/19/the-glass-minstrel-by-hayden-thorne/
http://threedollarbillreviews.com/?p=1636

Top Ten List Part One

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday!

It’s almost impossible to pick a “Top Ten” list. Given that I’ve read over 500 GLBT fiction books and short stories in the past year, I ran into a wall trying to choose just ten. There are the comfort reads that I’ve already read numerous times, regardless of numerical star. Then there are the fabulous, gut wrenching books that are truly wonderful but I’m not likely to read again. There are the thought provoking literature reads, the mind bending spec fiction, fun romps, and the pure porn books.

In the sea of books, I did the best I could to come up with 10 books you should read if you haven’t. Then I threw in 5 series, and 5 favorites. Yea, I couldn’t stay with just 10. Sorry!

So today will be the 5 series you should read if you haven’t.
Best of the best of the c*ck on c*ck…

The Twilight Gods by Hayden Thorne

The Twilight Gods by Hayden Thorne

Blurb:

London during the Great Exhibition of 1851 is a new world of technological advances, eye-popping inventions, and glimpses of exotic treasures from the East. For fifteen-year-old Norris Woodhead it’s a time of spectral figures mingling with London’s daily crowds, and an old rectory in a far corner of the English countryside, a great house literally caught in time, where answers to curious little mysteries await him. Confined by his family’s financial woes, Norris suffers a lonely and unsatisfying time till the day he (and only he) notices “shadow-folks” in the streets. Then a strange widow appears, rents a vacant room in the house, and takes him under her wing. She becomes his guardian, slowly revealing those shadows’ secrets, Norris’ connection with them, and the life-altering choices he has to face in the end.

The Twilight Gods is a retelling of Native American folktale called “The Girl Who Married a Ghost.” Set in Victorian England, it’s an alternative perspective on a gay teen’s coming-out process, with Norris’ journey of self-discovery couched in magical and supernatural terms and imagery.

 

Review:

 

Since this is the same author that wrote the truly fabulous Masks series, I jumped at the chance to read another young adult novel by her. Unfortunately I ended up declining to review this book for the official site due to the obvious, insulting, and demeaning message that is played out with a very heavy hand. Ultimately this book tells young men that to accept your homosexuality you will be ostracized and forced into a martyr like existence where for anyone to even “see” you, you must hide what you truly are. Fabulous message for young gay adults and I only hope none actually read this book.

 

Fifteen year old Norris Woodhead is part of a poor family. With an emotionally absent father and a financially stressed mother, the family has focused on providing good prospects for their three older children. This has left Norris as an often forgotten member of the family and too poor to afford the education he so desperately wants. Instead Norris tends to make useless objects for fun and stare out the window. During one of his mindless staring sessions that Norris starts to realize he can see “shadow people” in the streets. These are specters that no one else can see or interact with but over time become more obvious and clear to Norris. With the help of an unexpected and sudden guardian angel in the form of a widow, Norris seeks to find the answers to the “shadow people” and what it means for his own choices.

 

The plot is somewhat convoluted, especially since the story leaves hints and unanswered questions up until page 200 (out of 233). It is only then that the answers are finally exposed in a very heavy handed metaphorical manner. Subtly is completely lost in this telling and unfortunately not for the betterment of the book. Norris comes to realize that the “shadow people” are actually homosexuals that have all accepted their sexuality and thus must live in isolation in the “twilight.” The reasoning behind this is because “normal” people can’t and won’t accept homosexuals or see them for who and what they are. When a homosexual wants to interact with the normal world, they must put on a “mask” to hide their true self and become visible.

 

This heavy handed and completely obvious correlation to the reaction to homosexuality doesn’t benefit the story or the characters. Instead Norris is offered the choice between his poor family, no friends, lack of education, no real prospects, and watching the petty, miserable antics of his sisters or live in happiness with other gay/shadow people where he can read all he wants, get his much desired education, experience no hardship, no problems, and no misery. To live in this gay wonderland, Norris must simply accept that he is gay and thus become invisible to his family and the real world. A bit of an obvious choice even if the boy wasn’t gay. Furthermore Norris’ acceptance of his homosexuality is tainted by these aspects, which are too one sided, and it’s almost as if his desire for an education is more a deciding factor than the sudden realization he likes boys.

 

The catalyst for Norris’ revelation is a shadow boy named Tom. Norris supposedly is enamored of Tom and wants a friendship/relationship with him, but at 15 years old Norris doesn’t quite know what that entails. Instead he focuses on the happiness and joy he feels when he’s not alone and among those who accept him unconditionally. There is very little to Tom and almost no characterization afforded him. Tom seems to pop up in scenes to help Norris discover it’s better to be gay but there is very little connection and depth between the two boys. Once Norris accepts he is gay, Tom ceases to be an important figure. Similarly the guardian angel of Mrs. Cavendish is weak and ineffectual. She guides Norris to discovering his sexuality yet refuses to answer any questions and acts more like a shadow person travel guide than an actual emotional and intellectual support for the confused Norris.

 

I was disturbed by the hints that the shadow people were actually all the homosexuals in historical London and thus deeply disappointed this came out to be true. The obvious parallels are overdone and actually accept that to be gay you will never fit in and never be accepted. Why is this a positive message to send to young gay adults? And that the price you pay – losing all your family, friends, and life in a normal world – for the acceptance of who and what you are, is worth it. I’m not even sure the characters in the book agree with such a sentiment let alone anyone reading this. But in the book no one really missed Norris once he was gone and barely looked for him, just accepting his magical disappearance.

 

Other than the problematic message, the story has an engaging voice and interesting prose. The story is mostly handled in a light hearted, fluffy manner where the antics of a poor family are slightly mocked for their petty fights, desire for fashion and reaching above their station and overall present a sad and aloof depiction of a poor family’s life in that era. The story is told from Norris’ third person point of view and he is often detached from the family and daily activities so thus the reader is detached and develops no real connection to this group of people. Their antics are light and mocking without any real bite. The telling is neither humorous nor dour, but more so easy until the end. The book is slightly unfocused as it follows Norris’ day to day life, showing a marked lack of interest and action. It is only through the heavy hand of Mrs. Cavendish and Tom that Norris even considers his sexual orientation and slowly realizes what that means for his future.

 

Overall I’d suggest staying away from this book. Perhaps the sentiment is one that appeals and is relatable to many – feeling isolated and ignored for their sexuality – but it’s also insulting to both heterosexual and homosexual people. But that’s just my opinion. Instead I’ll leave you with the final sentiment the story ends on:

 

Norris’ gaze drifted from one person to the next. “Will they ever see me again?”

 

“Only if they look closely enough,” Tom replied, glancing down at him with a rueful yet fond smile. “Of course, you’ll have a mask to use once you’re done at the great house and are ready to head forth into university. Everyone will see you then.”

 

“But not as I really am.”

 

Tom nodded. “Not as you really are.”

 

Norris fell silent as he mulled things over. “Do you think that it will happen someday? That my family will see me without my mask on?”

 

“It all depends on them, I think.”

 

 

Masks: Evolution by Hayden Thorne

Masks: Evolution by Hayden Thorne


Blurb:

While his friends continue to develop their newfound powers, Eric begins to feel the effects of being the odd man out. Around him, things go from bad to worse for Vintage City as the Shadow Puppet, a new super-villain, steps into the Devil’s Trill’s shoes and wreaks havoc with his army of killer mannequins. Magnifiman, Calais, and Spirit Wire have their hands full, with the Puppet proving to be much more slippery than the Trill and leaving the good guys scrambling for clues. Work-related stress begins to creep into Eric’s relationship with Peter, which reaches the breaking point when Peter takes a new superhero under his wing, a fire-wielding teenage girl, whose awesome powers could make her a better match for Peter.

To make matters worse, there are the strange headaches, sleepwalking, and nightmares that haunt Eric, as well as the Devil’s Trill’s call for him to take his place as a super-villain sidekick. There’s also Brenda Whitaker, her mysterious past, and her sudden desire to help Eric as he struggles to figure himself out and make the right choice before his parents ask him again about his awful Geometry and Chemistry grades. Can Eric handle the stress? Find out in this second book of the Masks trilogy.

Review:

In the second installment of the Masks series, Eric’s stress level is reaching new heights. He’s worried about his perpetually broke financial state, his problematic relationship with Peter, the new villain taking his friends’ time and the fact that no matter what he can’t seem to raise his grades in certain subjects. Convinced his headaches are the physical manifestation of all his stress, Eric struggles with inferiority and emotional outbursts as the normal one out. Although Peter tells Eric he loves him, the busy life of a superhero keeps Peter away and often edgy. When a new hero emerges and seems to have a deep connection with Peter, Eric’s insecurities and fears reach new heights.

The first book in the series is very light and pokes fun at the characters and situations in a youthful and often disaffected way. This story is darker and more emotional as the teenage angst and emo Eric experiences plays out for the majority of the book. Now Eric’s internal struggles and dramas are more evident and present as the main focus versus the action and excitement of crime fighting. Here Eric’s deepest fears and issues are examined. Imagine being back in high school and if that angst isn’t enough on its own, add an openly gay sexuality to the mix and then as the cherry – your boyfriend and fag hag both are super heroes while you’re stuck taking the garbage out and watching the latest news for updates. Eric struggles with his feelings and problems even as the growing chasm between he and his friends echoes wider. The often tumultuous youth is highlighted wonderfully as Eric jumps between despair over Peter and true love at the first sign of reconciliation. Eric’s narrative voice is intimate and engaging, allowing the reader to really connect with him, his emotions, and choices. This extends to allow the reader to sympathize and even agree with his choices, however difficult they may be.

The wonderful pacing and story is designed in such a way as to isolate Eric. Although some of the writing is inconsistent with the previous book, it’s difficult to focus on such an error when the entertaining and wonderfully engaging voice of the narrator pulls the reader into the story whenever slight errors may occur.  In this particular story, Eric is more alone and often by himself. He has more internal musings and conversations, lending more emotion and drama to the teenager, but at the same time creating a setting that will be the climax to the series in part three. Therefore this book is very important as the bridge between books one and three and doesn’t stand-alone. It allows the reader to delve more deeply into Eric’s personality and the reasons for his choices and thought process. There’s a bit of a twist at the end that segways into the next book but I won’t spoil it for readers. However, this twist is important and Eric’s internal arguments and feelings of isolation become important in a larger scheme.

It’s hard to say if this book is better than the previous offering as this story is less about non-stop action and more character driven from Eric’s standpoint. Although the atmosphere deepens and the good versus evil battle still rages on between new villains and the heroes, Eric’s place in the battle starts to become clear. The wonderful voice of Eric shows his desire to be more than he is, whatever that means, and his desire to be closer and understand his place and future. Feelings and desires readers can easily and infinitely relate to at any age. The wonderful writing is rich and realistic, never talking down but instead giving life to the positive and negative drawbacks of teenagers. The self acknowledged emo angst and desire to stand out while desperately hoping that it’s not too far out. The humorous elements are expertly woven into the story once again with Eric’s none too subtle hormones, sexuality, and the running joke about a superhero handbook.

It’s difficult to talk too much due to the inherent spoilers, but this story is well worth reading and only enhances the already great series. The development of Eric and the various other characters as well as the city itself lends such a rich texture to the story that immediately sets this apart from other books. The comic book themes and fresh, evocative narrator vault this young adult story well above a particular genre or narrow definition. The often hilarious dialogue and descriptions lighten the more somber mood of the tale and fitting it perfectly in the continuation of the series. It’s not able to be read on its own, but don’t skip this offering in the series.

Get it HERE!
 

Masks: Rise of Heroes by Hayden Thorne

Masks: Rise of Heroes by Hayden Thorne

Blurb:
Strange things are happening in Vintage City, and high school goth boy Eric seems to be right in the middle of them. There’s a new villain in town, one with super powers, and he’s wreaking havoc on the town and on Eric’s life. The new superhero who springs up to defend Vintage City is almost as bad, making Eric all hot and bothered, enough so that he almost misses the love that’s right under his nose.

Peter is Eric’s best friend, and even if he does seem to be hiding something most of the time, he finds a way to show Eric how he feels in between attacks. The two boys decide to start dating, much to the chagrin of their other best buddy, Althea, who has a terrible crush on Peter, and a secret or two of her own to keep.

As the fight between the villain, known as the Devil’s Trill, and superhero Magnifiman picks up, Eric’s relationship with Peter almost ends before it begins. When the Trill takes an interest in Eric, can he and his friends figure out the villain’s plan in time?

  

Review:

This is easily a brilliant beginning to a great new series. The first in a planned trilogy, the non-stop action and fabulous characters immediately immerse the reader into a comic book world filled with wit, charm, and adventure. The theme of superheroes and super villains is not necessarily new, but Thorne delivers a fresh and thoroughly entertaining voice in Eric as an average, almost boring outsider to the action. Although technically a young adult book as Eric is only sixteen, the themes presented and wonderful writing will engage readers of all ages. The quintessential teenage voice of the narrator will have readers sympathizing and empathizing with his trials and tribulations. This is definitely an incredibly strong start to a wonderful series.

Eric is an everyday sixteen-year-old teenager. He has trouble in Chemistry and Geometry, forgets to take out the trash every night and has a deep fascination with the color blue. He is openly gay but has yet to have a boyfriend. His two best friends consist of a shy, insecure, be speckled Peter and the outspoken fag-hag Althea. What starts as being in the wrong place at the wrong time sends all three into a new world as superheroes and villains emerge in the tiny, sleepy town of Vintage City. Unfortunately Eric seems to be the sole outsider in the small trio without any interesting powers even as his friendship with Peter takes a decidedly romantic turn. With a new threat on the horizon and his determination to use Eric as a pawn, the average, boring life of a typical teenager is about to change.

The story is narrated in first person from Eric’s perspective and is a totally delightful voice. The humor and wit of an acerbic teenager comes through brilliantly. Eric is sometimes sarcastic, defiant, pouting, moping, upbeat, energized, bored, and sick. He has a common every day life with parents and a bratty older sister, who keep the young man grounded when his thoughts run off to angst ridden haikus and blue food dye. He is hormonal and often lusty, coming of age in a time where his imagination gets more action than anything. Although there is nothing graphic, Eric is still a teenage male with all the associated dreams, wants, and desires. The fun humor and lighthearted manner this is handled add another layer of texture and flavor to the highly enriched tale.

The various other characters from Magnifiman, Peter, Althea, to the Devil’s Trill and even Eric’s parents are all less developed but no less essential to the story. Each has an important part to play, even Bambi Bailey and the RPG community. Although the driving motivations for each of these characters are deeply seated in a comic book atmosphere, Eric’s fresh voice and reactions give a unique and delightful spin on the classic tale. Eric is often in the wrong time and place, but struggles with being the outsider with no purpose and no special attributes. His family’s reactions and Eric’s own internal musings are often hilarious as he views the world with a slightly sarcastic and irreverent eye.

The writing itself is tight and solid with fast paced action and truly stunning dialogue. There are numerous laugh out loud comments mixed with a lyrical quality to the descriptions that come alive in the prose. The plot itself has some holes but these are placed on purpose to no doubt meld in with future books (having read the entire series back to back I can say this works incredibly well if you also read it similarly). This book sets up the characters, their relationships, and the setting perfectly while entertaining and leaving you wanting more. The humanity of the narrator and the heroes and villains comes through poignantly at times, showing the allure and awe of those able to do the impossible. However, the story also hints at the possible downside of such power and responsibility, especially for those that are still growing and maturing themselves.

Some great examples of the humor woven throughout the story:
 

Okay, that’s it,” Mom blurted out, throwing her hands up. “No more trains for you and anyone else in this household. Take the bus. I don’t care if slugs on Valium outpace those things, just take them!”

“Mom, buses could be the next ones to be sabotaged.”

“Well, what do you want? We can’t be held hostage by terrorists!” She glowered at me from where she sat, digging her fork into the skinny and rather dry-looking sausages on her plate. “Take the bus, Eric, and don’t argue.”

 [...]

I slunk back into my room, my heart aching for my idol. I scribbled a couple of verses before I went to bed—sonnets, that time—yearning, outrage, and an empathic connection in iambic pentameter. Then I dreamed of him “arresting” me and taking me into custody. Not once did I demand to see my lawyer, and, yes, I came willingly. It was also during my Golden Age of Haiku when I grew to loathe the dawn hours and their murderous effects on dreams, and I think I messed with Mom’s mind when I insisted on washing my own clothes and sheets.

 

I couldn’t put down this page turning, exciting, and entertaining romp in a comic book. The tone is clearly meant to gently mock that very setting and through the eyes of a humorous and often sarcastic teenager – the book certainly delivers that well.  The real test is that the next two are equally enjoyable and only deepen the creative and unique voice of Eric. Be sure to start the series with this first book, you won’t regret it.

Get it HERE!