Sapphique and All Male Review Giveaway Winners!


Check out this FTW Epicness?!
Announcing The All Male Review Challenge WINNERS!!
Thanks to everyone who entered my All Male Review Challenge mini-giveaway of Sapphique by Catherine Fisher. The results have been tabulated, and with a little help from Random.org, the winner is…

PATRICIA’S PARTICULARITY!
Congratulations Patricia! Your book is on the way. Happy reading!

Prize Pack Winners:

Paranormal Prize Pack Winner: Ash from Smash Attack!

Contemporary Prize Pack Winner: Melissa from Books and Things

International Prize Pack Winner: Mel from Mel’s Random Reviews

Challenge Accepted t-shirt Winner: Andra from Unabridged Andra

Congratulations winners! Your books are on the way!

Challenge Survey:
We’d love to get your honest feedback. What worked? What sucked? Tell us about it. Please take a moment to fill out our anonymous survey:

The All Male Review Challenge Survey

Huge, ginormous thanks to my awesome co-host, Missie from The Unread Reader (who really put this whole thing in motion), and Special Thanks to the following authors and publishers who made this event such a wonderful success: Candlewick Press, Omnific Publishing, Charles Benoit, Jon Skovron, Antony John, Joshua C. Cohen, Scott Nicholson and Rusty Fischer!

And thanks to YOU – all the readers and reviewers who participated in the challenge.

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Friday Five (6) and Weekly Recap

Welcome to Friday Five! This meme is run by the writers at Paper Hangover. Each week they give us a blogging prompt where we make a list about five things related to books and/or writing.

This week’s topic is “FIVE excuses you’re ready to give up to be a better writer.”

1. “I don’t have time.” With school ending in just under a week, I no longer give myself this excuse.

2. “I have too much to read.” Reading is good, but shouldn’t be at the expense of getting in some quality writing time.

3. “I have to finish this blog post first.” Blogging is fun and I love it, but I’m not willing to let it become an obstacle to offline writing. There’s no reason I can’t do both.

4. “I don’t know what I’m doing.” Okay, first? Yes I do. Second? There are tons of materials in my house and online that are there to help me, if I’d just sit down and start.

5. “My revisions are too overwhelming.” Break it down, and take it piece-by-piece. Enough already. Just start hacking.

What are your bad habits that keep you from your dreams?


My weekly recap is inspired by the phenomenally talented, kind and generous Small Review. If you are not already following her, you are really missing out. Also, have I mentioned how much I love Cool Text? They’re the folks that allow me to make these cool (and simple) text buttons – for FREE!

If you’re a first time visitor, or just didn’t get the chance to stop by this week, here’s what you missed:

Features
All Male Review Challenge Wrap Up
A quick summary about the end of May’s All Male Review Challenge. Thank you to everyone who participated!

Reviews
SAPPHIQUE by Catherine Fisher
3/5 stars
All Male Review Challenge

CASCADE by Lisa T. Bergren
5/5 stars
YA Series Challenge

Giveaways
SAPPHIQUE by Catherine Fisher
Today is the last day to enter to win SAPPHIQUE!

June Giveaway and Guest Post Announcements
I’m giving away a signed copy of DIVERGENT and a copy of CASCADE this month. I also did a guest post and am giving away a copy of WATCHERS by Dean Koontz as part of the My Favorite Things event at My Bookish Ways.

Enjoy your weekend everybody!

All Male Review Challenge Wrap-Up


The end is here! I know Missie and I have had a lot of fun hosting this event and hope you had fun participating. We are already looking for ways to improve the All Male Review Challenge in the future, so please leave us comments if you have suggestions or just want to let us know what you thought of the event!

Today is the last day to link up those reviews, so get them in before the end of the day for the maximum number of entries in our Mega AWESOME Prize Packs of books! We have three Mega Awesome Prize Packs: a paranormal prize pack, a contemporary prize pack, and an international prize pack.

Paranormal Prize Pack
Thirst No. 1: The Last Vampire, Black Blood, Red Dice by Christopher Pike
Thirst No. 2: Phantom, Evil Thirst, Creatures of Forever by Christopher Pike
The Fallen: Volume 1 by Thomas E. Sniegoski
The Fallen: Volume 2 by Thomas E. Sniegoski
Peeps (Peeps #1) by Scott Westerfeld
Foundling (Monster Blood Tattoo, Book 1) by D.M. Cornish
Lamplighter (Monster Blood Tattoo, Book 2) by D.M. Cornish
If I Stay by Gayle Forman

Contemporary Prize Pack
Swim the Fly (Swim the Fly, #1) by Don Calame (Thanks to Candlewick Press)
Beat the Band (Swim the Fly, #2) by Don Calame (Thanks to Candlewick Press)
Jerk, California by Jonathan Friesen
An Abundance of Katherines by John Green
Runner by Carl Deuker
Friend Is Not a Verb by Daniel Ehrenhaft
Trouble by Gary D. Schmidt
The Boxer and the Spy by Robert B. Parker

International Prize Pack
Life, Liberty & Pursuit by Susan Quinn (e-book. Thanks to Omnific Publishing)
Shades of Atlantis by Carol Oates (e-book. Thanks to Omnific Publishing)
Breaking Point by Jess Bowen (e-book. Thanks to Omnific Publishing)
Ethereal Messenger by Scott Nicholson (e-book. Thanks to Scott Nicholson)
plus $15 Gift Certificate from The Book Depository

Winners will be selected after the contest closes and announced within the week, so keep your eyes peeled!

How I Met Your Mother “Challenge Accepted” t-shirt will go to the person who linked up the most reviews for the challenge!

Good luck!

Review and Giveaway: Sapphique by Catherine Fisher

Click the cover to purchase at Amazon
Book: Sapphique
Author: Catherine Fisher
Publisher: Dial
Release date: December 28, 2010
Source: ARC received from Tabitha at Writer Musings
Series: Sequel to Incarceron

**NOTE – Spoilers are hidden**

Summary: (from Goodreads) The only one who escaped . . . And the one who could destroy them all.

Incarceron, the living prison, has lost one of its inmates to the outside world: Finnâ??s escaped, only to find that Outside is not at all what he expected. Used to the technologically advanced, if violently harsh, conditions of the prison, Finn is now forced to obey the rules of Protocol, which require all people to live without technology. To Finn, Outside is just a prison of another kind, especially when Claudia, the daughter of the prisonâ??s warden, declares Finn the lost heir to the throne. When another claimant emerges, both Finnâ??s and Claudiaâ??s very lives hang on Finn convincing the Court of something that even he doesnâ??t fully believe.

Meanwhile, Finnâ??s oathbrother Keiro and his friend Attia are still trapped inside Incarceron. They are searching for a magical glove, which legend says Sapphique used to escape. To find it, they must battle the prison itself, because Incarceron wants the glove too.

First impressions: I just adore how well Catherine Fisher creates the worlds of Incarceron and Outside. She definitely pulls you in, and the opening chapter here does not disappoint. We follow one of our main characters from inside the prison, attending a magic show that quickly evolves into something more. The dark, oily world of Incarceron is absolutely compelling.

Lasting impressions: This book lost me at a couple of points, where the action slowed and I wasn’t sure where the story was going so I almost gave up. It’s sad because the characters and world here are so incredible that it’s truly a shame that the plot wasn’t equally as brilliant.

Conflicting impressions: Like the first book, this one left a few too many gaps for my taste. I felt like Fisher didn’t explain things as fully as she could have in order to ease our understanding of what was going on.

Overall impressions: It’s hard to say much about this book without giving away the ending of the previous book, Incarceron. The important thing to know is that Incarceron is a living prison, and some of the prisoners inside are still trying to get out. They have to battle the prison for control of a glove believed to reveal the way out. Meanwhile, Outside, the Warden of Incarceron’s daughter, Claudia, is trying to lead a revolt against the Queen and free the prisoners of Incarceron.

Catherine Fisher writes dark, complex, complicated novels, so I had a very hard time deciding what kind of rating to give this book, or even processing how I really felt about it. The world Outside the prison, and the prison Incarceron itself, are not good places to be. As such, there are no easy answers about where one would prefer to exist, or whose life is truly better. Because of this, I had a hard time deciding who to root for.

Do I root for the death of Incarceron, and with it the millions of prisoners still trapped inside? Or do I root for the prison to open, freeing the prisoners but unleashing them on a dying society?

I couldn’t really answer those questions, which I think explained my confusion and uncertainty with the book. This was equally balanced, however, with beautiful prose and colorful characters. I loved the people, and while all the main characters are back from the first book, we got some interesting new ones as well.

One of the best things about these books is the simple fact that Fisher writes so beautifully. It took me longer than usual to read this book because I wanted to savor every word and phrase. Even though I got a little frustrated at times that I didn’t quite know what the overarching goal of the story was, I really enjoyed the journey because of Fisher’s gift with words.

Despite the lack of details that I like, and the seeming lack of a fully realized direction for the story, I did enjoy this book a lot. The fantasy steampunk world of Outside coupled with the dystopian prison is fascinating and unlike anything else I’ve read. Fisher wins major bonus points for originality and writing style. I recommend both books if you’re looking for something different, challenging, and thought-provoking to read.

Rating: 3/5 stars

Click the stars for a description of my rating system
Want to read my take on the first book? Click to read my review of Incarceron. Fun fact: it was also my very first review!



As part of the All Male Review Challenge, I am giving away my ARC of this book to one lucky winner!

This contest is open to ages 13 and up with a U.S. mailing address. To enter, leave a comment on this post, along with an email address where I can contact you. The contest will close on June 3, 2011 and the winner will be announced on the 4th. Good luck!

Leverage Giveaway Winner!

Thanks to everyone who entered my All Male Review Challenge giveaway of Leverage by Joshua C. Cohen. The results have been tabulated, and with a little help from Random.org, the winner is…

Congratulations Library Lady! Be sure to check your email so I can get your book out to you as soon as possible. Happy reading!

The Man Behind the (Blog) Mask – Bryan Sabol

As part of The All Male Review Challenge, I’m featuring some of our male book blogger friends in this new interview feature: The Man Behind the (Blog) Mask. Each blogger answered the same 7 questions so that we can all get to know them a bit better. The men of the book blogging community are interesting, charming, funny, witty, and some of the best all around bloggers! If you like what you read here, be sure to check out their blogs – you won’t be disappointed.

My guest today is Bryan Sabol from Time Guardian Blog. This interview is a bit different from previous installments, as Bryan runs a blog devoted to encouraging reading among boys and young men, and I asked him to delve into this topic as well as share about his own writing.

1) Tell us a little about your blog – when you started, what your focus is, why you do it, etc.

I started my blog about 2 years ago, shortly after completing a draft of the first novel in my Time Guardian Saga series. At that point, my drive to start blogging was mostly about getting my feet wet in the creative writing world. Like so many aspiring authors out there, I had a completed manuscript but no clue what the next step was. Creating a blog was my way to engage in the online writing community.


Of course, the biggest challenge with launching any blog is to produce meaningful content, to write articles that benefit others by sparking new ideas or directing people to good information. Most of my early posts were essentially in the style of an online journal, discussing my efforts as I developed my writing skills, joining blogfests, and so on. I wanted my blog to go beyond “I wrote x pages today,” which frankly doesnâ??t really grab a reader. I knew I ultimately wanted to morph my blog into a place where other aspiring writers could come to read and share their knowledge of the craft and the business of writing. Problem was, how? To make my blog more relevant, it needed to go beyond my personal efforts, but I wasnâ??t sure what the next stage would be.

As I became more involved in learning what was “out there,” I realized that the MG/YA male voice was rare – both for writers and for protagonists. As a guy who was writing MG works with male main characters, it was a natural extension to use my blog to help spread the word about books for boys. I now blog about up-and-coming releases, and I also add each new entry to my permanent “New Books for Boys” page.

Part of the challenge for me is hearing about all the good books that are coming out. Iâ??m always grateful for folks who point me to something new, so if anyone out there knows of new books for boys that are just about to be released, Iâ??d love to hear about them and Iâ??ll add it to the list.

2) Book blogging seems pretty heavy on the females. Do you think being a male blogger and writer has any advantages or disadvantages?

Hmm, I think I have to approach this from a couple of angles:

  • From the writerâ??s perspective, yes, clearly there is a significant majority of women writers in the YA/MG genres (and most other genres, to boot). Same goes for blogs: I see many more women than men actively blogging about YA/MG. But I donâ??t think whether youâ??re a man or woman author/blogger is important. Itâ??s all about what you produce, how your writing captures your audience. In other words, you attract readers because you have something interesting to say, not because youâ??re a “Mr.” or a “Ms.”
  • I do think thereâ??s one area where male versus female can make an important difference, especially in YA books, and thatâ??s the sex of the protagonist. Iâ??ve read that the market for YA books with a male protagonist is very small. Mary Kole, KidLit.com blogger and agent with Andrea Brown Literary Agency wrote an article about this issue a while ago. Many publishing houses only publish one or two boy-centric YA books per season, so if thatâ??s your manuscript, youâ??re swimming against a very strong current. I should emphasize that this male protagonist issue is much more pronounced in YA than in MG (which is good news for me indeed), but it does bear some thought for those who are trying to maximize their chances at publication.

3) Do you read a lot of books with male protagonists? Why or why not?

Absolutely! Iâ??m a big believer in reading in your genre, so I spend a lot of time looking for male-oriented MG books to see how their story arcs are structured, how the characters develop. Of course, the really good novels make this a huge struggle, as I constantly lose myself in the story. And while thatâ??s a real pleasure, itâ??s not helping me learn specific writing techniques. I can go for pages at a time before the analytical part of my brain kicks in and I remember I need to focus on how things are being written.

That said, I have eclectic tastes, so in addition to books for boys, Iâ??ll pick up anything that peaks my interest. And why not? You never know what youâ??ll learn – or experience – in your next story, regardless of its genre.

4) Give us three books you consider “must reads.”

Three great recent MG books are:

  • Windblowne by Stephen Messer
  • Clockwork Dark trilogy by John Claude Bemis
  • Fablehaven series by Brandon Mull

5) Do you write primarily for a male audience? Tell us about your projects.

So far my focus has been on male protagonists, but I want to stress that having a boy main character shouldnâ??t preclude a story from being enjoyed by girls. My intent is to write novels that attract boys and girls alike. And adults, for that matter.

My first novel was Timekey. This is the story of a 14-year-old boy whose mother, a famous archaeologist, vanishes from her Anasazi dig site. The only clue she left behind is a recently uncovered artifact â?? an iridescent metallic orb with the power to travel through time. The protagonist crosses into the time of the Anasazi and lands smack in the middle of a clandestine struggle for control of the orb. He has to stay one step ahead of the conspirators who covet it, rescue his mother, and return the orb to its rightful owner before his civilization is erased from history. But when you’re traveling through time and between cultures, how do you tell the good guys from the bad?

Timekey is finished and Iâ??m currently shopping it around, hoping to land the right agent. Iâ??ve worked out a detailed plot arc for additional books in this series, but until I can get an agent interested in book 1, the remaining stories in the Time Guardian Saga are on hold.

My latest project is an urban fantasy/steampunk work based in the far north. It focuses on a 12-year-old boy who is a “half breed,” struggling to find his place between his fatherâ??s traditionalist hunter/gatherer clan who lives on the ice, and his motherâ??s urban world that is dependent on technology. Although I really enjoy the steampunk aspect and am traditionally a plot-driven writer, Iâ??m trying to focus more on the characterâ??s internal struggles and family conflict. I think this should result in a more immersive world when woven into the external plot.

6) Promoting books for boys is a central feature of your blog. Why is this important to you?

Promoting books for boys should be important to everyone. Until recently, I only heard anecdotal comments about how on average, boys in our society have a much lower level of interest in reading than girls. I decided to do some fact-finding, so I spent some time looking up the latest independent studies on childrenâ??s reading habits. I posted a summary of my research in an article on my blog. The results are truly alarming: world-wide, weâ??re at risk of losing an entire generation of male readers.

Some key points to consider:

  • Boys donâ??t read as much or as well as girls. The discrepancy in boys’ and girls’ respective levels of interest and skill in reading spans multiple countries and cultures. A Progress in International Reading Literacy Study assessment conducted in 2001 revealed that grade 4 girls performed better than boys in all thirty-four countries where the assessment was administered. Moreover, boys increasingly describe themselves as non-readers as they get older. Few of them have this attitude early in their schooling, but, according to some experts, nearly 50% describe themselves as non-readers by the time they enter secondary school.
  • Boys frequently view reading as a feminine activity and this can reduce their motivation to read. Seeing reading as a girlsâ?? pastime can diminish motivation for boys, who share social affiliation with one another by rejecting reading.
  • Boys tend to prefer stories with male protagonists. Stories with male protagonists can help boy reluctant readers to relate more viscerally. By reflecting themselves as the male protagonist, we might be able to change their view of reading as a feminine activity.

What this all boils down to is pretty simple. We need to get boys engaged in reading early on and keep them at it. If you have a boy whoâ??s a reluctant reader, a good starting place is to find a story that speaks to his interests: boy main character, action-oriented plot, sports, animals, and a combination of drama and humor are good bets.

Finally, when I saw the paucity of information on the Web concerning books for boys, it made me even more determined to help spread the word. We need to make it easier for kids, parents, teachers, and librarians to find the types of stories that can help bridge this reading gap. I figured, what better way to do that than to use my blog to highlight new books that are likely to be enjoyed by these reluctant readers?

7) When you’re not reading, writing or blogging, what are you most likely doing?

What, thereâ??s something else to life? 🙂

My day job takes a huge amount of time – but at least Iâ??m a technical writer, so I can keep my fingers on the keyboard and the writing part of my brain engaged. Aside from that, being daddy to my two young daughters is top priority. Anything left over after that is the rare kayak paddle on Puget Sound.

Thanks for sharing with us! You can follow Bryan at Time Guardian Blog and find out more about his books at the Time Guardian Saga website.

The Man Behind the (Blog) Mask – aobibliophileâ?¢

As part of The All Male Review Challenge, I’m featuring some of our male book blogger friends in this new interview feature: The Man Behind the (Blog) Mask. Each blogger answered the same 7 questions so that we can all get to know them a bit better. The men of the book blogging community are interesting, charming, funny, witty, and some of the best all around bloggers! If you like what you read here, be sure to check out their blogs – you won’t be disappointed.

My guest today is aobibliophileâ?¢ from aobibliosphereâ?¢!

1) Tell us a little about your blog – when you started, what your focus is, why you do it, etc.

i started last November 2010. it’s a cool coincidence to be part of the All Male Review Challenge since my blog just turned 6 on the 17th of this month.

aobibliosphereâ?¢ is about books – my life-long romance with them and my journey of discovery and learning. it is also a tribute to all authors, readers, fellow book bloggers and to all the books yet to be read and written.

2) Book blogging seems pretty heavy on the females. Do you think being a male blogger has any advantages or disadvantages?

i did notice that majority of book bloggers are females but this does not make me uncomfortable in any way. it never even crossed my mind that there are pros and cons to being a male blogger. i’m having fun and i’m just grateful to be surrounded by people who are as passionate about reading as i am.

3) Do you read a lot of books with male protagonists? Why or why not?

i read almost anything that interests me so i don’t really keep track. enjoying the book and feeling good about it is more important to me regardless of the protagonist’s gender.

4) Give us three books you consider “must reads.”

that’s a tough one to answer as we all have different tastes and wants. one man’s treasure is another man’s junk but i recommend the following:

  • The Dark Tower Series by Stephen King – a brilliant septology by a master wordsmith
  • Havah by Tosca Lee – a story about Eve, the first woman and mother of us all
  • The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas, père – a timeless classic i never get tired of reading every now and then

5) If you could be any literary character, who would you be and why?

i go for Harry Potter. having been orphaned myself, i feel for this boy-wizard and what he had to go through. i also love the series and i have the US and UK editions of all seven books. hopefully, i could add the French, German and Spanish translations to my collection soon.

6) When you’re not reading or blogging, what are you most likely doing?

writing in my journal, painting landscapes in watercolor, cooking and taking care of my 8 year-old nephew. i rarely watch TV now so one or a couple of these keep me occupied when i’m not in front of my laptop.

7) Share an interesting/weird/random/funny fact about yourself with us.

  • most of my readers/followers assume that i’m a female book blogger. lol! i assure everyone though that i’m not offended. not at all. c”,) i guess my blog’s design and button has to do with the assumption plus the fact that i blog anonymously. the blog’s layout is really a tribute to my late Mom who was born on St. Patrick’s Day. she loved to read as well and had influenced my passion for the written word. green is and has always been my favorite color. finding a St. Pattie’s theme for aobibliosphereâ?¢ was just perfect!
  • a couple of months or so after i started blogging, i had strange lucid dreams where i found myself drafting a review. the thing is, the scene kept repeating itself over and over. i always woke up feeling groggy and my fingers ached. i thought it was funny and horrible at the same time! to date, i don’t have these dreams anymore thank goodness! lol!

Thanks for sharing with us! You can follow aobibliophileâ?¢ at aobibliosphereâ?¢ and on Twitter @aobibliophile.

Weekly Recap 5/13-5/20

I’m in a reading slump. I don’t know if it’s school stress or the pressure of the self-pub requests flooding in, but somewhere in the last week I decided that every book I’m reading is not very satisfying. I keep trying new ones, and each one is as disappointing as the last. Blerg.

I need recommendations. What are you reading right now? What have you read recently that knocked your socks off?


My weekly recap is inspired by the phenomenally talented, kind and generous Small Review. If you are not already following her, you are really missing out. Also, have I mentioned how much I love Cool Text? They’re the folks that allow me to make these cool (and simple) text buttons – for FREE!

If you’re a first time visitor, or just didn’t get the chance to stop by this week, here’s what you missed:

Features
Author Interview with James Kennedy
Author James Kennedy came by to discuss his wacky exploits, and I giveaway a copy of his book.

The Man Behind the (Blog) Mask
I interviewed Jamie from writers write, right?.

Reviews
LOVER ETERNAL by J. R. Ward
4/5 stars
Black Dagger Brotherhood Challenge
All Male Review Challenge
+ Book Club +

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME by Brian Rowe
2/5 stars
All Male Review Challenge

LEVERAGE by Joshua C. Cohen
4/5 stars
All Male Review Challenge
+ Giveaway +

REMEMBER!

It’s All Male Review Challenge month! If you haven’t signed up yet, you can do so here. Then be sure to link up your reviews to increase your chances of winning our prize packs!

I have TWO giveaways still up for grabs, so be sure to enter if you’d like a signed copy of James Kennedy’s The Order of Odd-Fish or Joshua C. Cohen’s Leverage.

Enjoy your weekend everybody!

Review and Giveaway: Leverage by Joshua C. Cohen

Click the cover to purchase at Amazon
Book: Leverage
Author: Joshua C. Cohen
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
Release date: February 17, 2011
Source: ARC received from The Unread Reader

Summary: (from Goodreads) Thereâ??s an extraordinary price for victory at Oregrove High. It is paid onâ??and offâ??the football field. And it claims its victims without mercyâ??including the most innocent bystanders.

When a violent, steroid-infused, ever-escalating prank war has devastating consequences, an unlikely friendship between a talented but emotionally damaged fullback and a promising gymnast might hold the key to a schoolâ??s salvation.

Told in alternating voices and with unapologetic truth, Leverage illuminates the fierce loyalty, flawed justice, and hard-won optimism of two young athletes.

First impressions: Danny and Kurt are terrific narrators. Danny is sure of himself without being overly cocky. He’s small and a gymnast, and his bravado seems to cover a bit of insecurity about his stature. Kurt is lumbering and quiet, caught behind a painful stutter. He’s had a hard life, but is quick to see the good in others and is at heart a sweet kid with a terrible past. I just loved these two.

Lasting impressions: A powerful book that will challenge the way you think about bullying.

Conflicting impressions: I felt like the antagonists in this book were one-note villains juiced up on steroids and terrorizing the school with no consequences. This seemed a bit unrealistic to me, and thought the story would have been even more powerful if their brutality was a bit more subtle.

Overall impressions: Every once in a while, a book will come along and punch you in the gut. When I first read Missie’s review I knew I had to read this book. I was bracing for the inevitable throughout the entire thing, which meant a lot of clenched jaws and fists as I battled through the pages.

Joshua Cohen does not hold back here. From the first few scenes, we know that the football jocks are playing for keeps. They are mean, terrifying, and disgusting. They rule the school as well as the gym. Their coach does nothing to keep them in check. In fact, the adults in this book are pretty much nonexistent. The boys in this story know they have to fend for themselves, and sometimes at the expense of their fellow classmates. It’s a dog-eat-dog world, for sure.

Too often I think adults turn a blind eye to the concerns of kids. What can seem overdramatic or inconsequential to us can often seem truly frightening and devastating to kids. Granted, in this scenario I think anyone would have been fearful, but Cohen captures that fear in a very honest way. I understood why Danny was so on edge. My heart pounded every time he had to report for practice and step a foot into that locker room. Cohen brilliantly nailed that adolescent mix of isolation and disappointment that threatens to swallow you whole when the adults in your life ignore your fears, or worse, don’t even realize the threat to your safety exists. It just broke my heart.

Although this book has a dark stain on it from the jocks’ bullying, the true heart of the novel comes from how Kurt and Danny deal with it. Kurt, a new and gifted member of the football team, struggles with how to fit in, keep a low profile, but stand up for what is right. He was a victim of horrible child abuse growing up, and can’t stand the thought of others being hurt. He forms a friendship with Danny after seeing a spectacular performance by Danny at a gymnastics meet, and Danny welcomes Kurt as a potential shield from the rest of the football team’s bullying. Together they are able to find redemption after an intensely brutal attack by the football jocks on one of Danny’s teammates.

That attack is the defining moment for our protagonists. They are completely changed by what they witness, and they realize that how they choose to proceed after the attack will stay with them the rest of their lives. In the face of even more tragedy, and the deep shame that beckons for them to cover up their emotional wounds and just move on, our heroes must make a decision. It’s a decision none of us would ever hope to have to make, but it hangs there nonetheless. My stomach felt like a rock as I sped through the final chapters, desperate to find out whether Kurt and Danny would meet the challenge or hide from it.

This book is an important reminder that bullying exists, sometimes further under the surface than we like to admit. I highly recommend this book to everyone, and hope its poignant tale of courage and redemption speaks to your hearts as powerfully as it spoke to mine.

Rating: 4/5 stars

Click the stars for a description of my rating system

Are you looking for something to read for the All Male Review Challenge? This is a book with both a male protagonist and a male author! Score!



I think this is such an important book to read, so I am giving away a finished copy to one lucky winner!

This contest is open to ages 13 and up with a U.S. mailing address. To enter, leave a comment on this post, along with an email address where I can contact you. The contest will close on May 27, 2011 and the winner will be announced on the 28th. Good luck!

P.S.

Missie was nice enough to send me her ARC of Leverage because I was so enamored with her review. If you are a reviewer interested in posting your own review of this book, I’d be happy to spread the love and pass along the ARC I received. Email me if you want it. *Update* Sorry folks! The ARC has been claimed!

The Man Behind the (Blog) Mask – writers write, right?

As part of The All Male Review Challenge, I’m featuring some of our male book blogger friends in this new interview feature: The Man Behind the (Blog) Mask. Each blogger answered the same 7 questions so that we can all get to know them a bit better. The men of the book blogging community are interesting, charming, funny, witty, and some of the best all around bloggers! If you like what you read here, be sure to check out their blogs – you won’t be disappointed.

My guest today is Jamie from writers write, right?

1) Tell us a little about your blog – when you started, what your focus is, why you do it, etc.

I started my blog almost a year ago, probably much like the way most people began…on a whim. I was feeling bored and creatively stifled when I came across Blogger and thought, “Hmm, this looks like fun.” So it began. I know that most bloggers focus on one thing or another (writing tips, book reviews, etc), but I really am just using this forum as a way to interact with other writers/book lovers. Whatever way that happens is fine with me!

2) Book blogging seems pretty heavy on the females. Do you think being a male blogger has any advantages or disadvantages?

I don’t think it has advantages or disadvantages, really. I’ve had lengthy conversations about books/authors with both male and female bloggers and those conversations mirror each other–you can’t tell who I’m talking to in either one! I do think that since the majority of bloggers are female (especially for YA, which is what I write), most people assume I am female, too, so if there was a disadvantage that would be it. Of course having the name Jamie doesn’t help!

3) Do you read a lot of books with male protagonists? Why or why not?

I’ve only read a few books with male protagonists, and honestly I have no preference either way. I do, however, tend to gravitate more toward female YA protagonists only because that is what I write so I like to read what’s happening in that area. But a great book is a great book, protag’s gender aside!

4) Give us three books you consider “must reads.”

Ooh, tough one. I think everyone should read Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird for its sheer brilliance; Delirium by Lauren Oliver for its wonderful beauty; and Stephen King’s IT to have the crap scared out of them.

5) If you could be any literary character, who would you be and why?

Wow, another tough one! Okay, I think I would have to say Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games. She’s tough as hell, loves her family and friends completely, and proves that good triumphs evil in the end.

6) When you’re not reading or blogging, what are you most likely doing?

My two favorite things: Writing and watching TV–often times simultaneously.

7) Share an interesting/weird/random/funny fact about yourself with us.

I think I may be the most accident-prone person on the planet. I’ve been knocked unconscious by a trash dumpster, dragged across a highway by an out-of-control automobile, fallen through a roof…well, you get the idea!

Thanks for sharing with us! You can follow Jamie at writers write, right? and on Twitter @jmanni32.