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…

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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!