Wrap up – The Teen Romance Series by Mark Zubro

Middle of the road, but addressed realistic issues.

The Teen Romance wrap up 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpg

When I first saw these covers I dismissed this franchise – it looked like a cheap and badly written self-published affair. But I’m glad a small voice in the back of my head convinced me to take a second look. My main reason was hoping to expand the GLBT titles on my shelf. I really enjoy the aspects of identity, angst and the challenges usually faced in this genre – it makes for some compelling reading.

Unfortunately this genre is also glutted with steamy M/M erotica (or fortunately if that’s your thing), but I like a more contemporary title. ‘Safe’ and ‘Hope’ purported to be a YA mystery with a gay protagonist. Both these books are solid reads, entertaining and definitely tugged at my heart strings. My issues came from the a feeling that the story was too mature for the characters; and that many of the adult cast involved in the storylines had a bad case of verbal diarrhoea, blurting out facts and confiding in our protagonist. That left the plot feeling a little contrived and unrealistic.

That aside, the writing is pretty good and deals with many issues facing the gay community. It carried a message but managed it weave it into a pretty good detective style narrative.

This has been my first journey into this subgenre, and while I had some major issues with context, this series was thoroughly entertaining. I’d like to see it continued in a University setting, because I feel many of the problems I had with voice would be fixed in a more mature setting and lend the protagonist and his boyfriend (Roger and Steve) to really shine.

The heart of these books beats strong, (more soul, less angst) but not sure if I would give them a strong recommendation.

The Teen Romance wrap up 02 by Casey Carlisle

For individual reviews click on the links below:

Safe’ – https://strokingfire.wordpress.com/2016/01/29/book-review-safe-by-mark-richard-zubro/

Hope’ – https://strokingfire.wordpress.com/2016/05/10/book-review-hope-by-mark-richard-zubro/

Critique Casey by Casey Carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Advertisements

Book Review – ‘Hope’ by Mark Richard Zubro

Religious vilification with a twist on a young couple coming out.

Hope Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, GLBT

No. of pages: 200

From Goodreads:

Coming out and family-not supposed to be a lethal combination.

Roger Cook and Steve Koemer have been dating. Their world is turned upside down when Steve’s father and mother find out he’s gay and throw him out of the house. Then the ugliness and fear begin to build. Steve’s father is murdered. The Church he was pastor of was in financial trouble, but the man was also involved in a plot against the two boys. A plot which was designed to destroy their relationship and which continues even after his death. The boys must race to find out who the killer is and who is plotting against them. When the whole world seems against them, they have the hope of their love to sustain them.

Page border by Casey Carlisle

This was a hit and miss kind of book for me – and the trouble is, the hits were amazing, but the misses were biggies as well. I think if I had fully immersed into the fantasy I would have rated this much higher, but the issues I had with ‘Hope’ were too hard to ignore.

Mark Zubro really knows how to write mystery and conspiracy, and paces his reveals expertly. The way he has plotted out the story in ‘Hope’ is true genius. Yes it was mostly predictable, but this is a romance series, so any wild plot twists just wouldn’t have worked in this genre.

Characters are fully realised and feel real, with personalities that reflect both motivation and hidden desires. I really enjoyed continuing on the story of our protagonist Roger and his love interest Steve.

The religious element introduced in ‘Hope’ has been overdone, but Zubro managed to give it a fresh spin. Thankfully, because I wouldn’t have gotten past the first few chapters otherwise.

Hope Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle.jpg

Things that dragged my rating down included the same issues I had with the debut in this series (‘Safe’): the fact that the narration and situation our high school couple found themselves in was farfetched and a little mature for the setting. I stand by my opinion that this would have been better suited to a University campus with older characters.

Also the adults involved in the plot around Roger kept bringing him in the loop and launching into great exposition. That just felt like a convenient storytelling tool. A little lazy. And frankly unrealistic to have such seasoned professionals dragging this youngster around explaining every thought and motive. I’d have liked to have seen Roger get his information more like he did in ‘Safe’ – Veronica Mars style.

I think the narrative and pacing suffered a little because of these long expository conversations as well. Though ‘Hope’ is a quick and easy read, I felt like it needed another run past an editor. A lot of the dialogue from different characters used the same phrases.

There were some sexy moments I thought a bit risqué, but not offensive. I really liked how Zubro built up Roger and Steve’s relationship based on trust and love. Though the physical side of things did feel a little rushed. But it could also be realistic of how some teen guys to rush into the tactile side of relationships as well, I guess it comes down to the readers personal taste.

I really enjoyed ‘Hope,’ ignoring issues I had with the characters being out of context with the setting, it is an intelligent read that offers many layers to grab your interest. Certainly an engaging GLBT read.

Overall feeling: Cute and fun, but I wanted to rearrange it a little bit.

 

Hope Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle.gif

Hope Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle.jpg

Critique Casey by Casey Carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

Book Review – Safe by Mark Richard Zubro

A cross between Veronica Mars and Donald Strachey.

 Safe Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, GLBT

No. of pages: 208

From Goodreads:

In an unsafe world, death and danger stalk gay teens, Roger Cook and Steve Koemer.

Roger Cook is in the middle of his senior year when Kyle Davis, the most picked on kid in his high school commits suicide. Roger agrees to write an article on Kyle for the school newspaper. As he gathers information, Roger realizes the dead boy was gay and may have been murdered. Gay himself, Roger wants to find out the truth, but this leads him to danger and the possibility of love. Roger opens himself to even greater risk while trying to make those around him safe.  

Page border by Casey Carlisle

A real case of don’t judge the book by its cover – I nearly dismissed this title because of the crappy PhotoShopped dust jacket, but I’m glad the blurb intrigued me enough to overlook that failing and settle in for a cozy afternoon reading.

The main thing that attracted me to ‘Safe’ was that the protagonist, Roger, is on the school newspaper. YA – check; a blogger, reviewer or school newspaper – check; and a GLBT theme – check!

An issue I had with the narrative was that there was something clinical about this novel. For a high school student struggling with his sexual identity, Roger seemed very together. At one moment he was purporting to never tell anyone about being gay, and then he blurts it out to someone with little emotion or anxiety… it felt very unrealistic to me. (I began to wonder if Roger wasn’t a little bipolar)

Additionally, I had major problems stemming from the background and emotional motivations of Roger, pertaining his sexual orientation and coming out. It’s obviously connected to the point above about the inconsistent tone of the narrative. But these were the worst aspects I had with ‘Safe’ and even these are more nit picking than irreconcilable flaws.

The relationships and character development is second to none, even though it felt all wrong for a High School setting – they all seemed so much more mature, like this should have taken place on a University Campus. Especially with Roger being so cool calm and collected in some of his keystone events in the coming out process and places we find him in. Though I can see why Mark Zubro included them, in trying to shed a light on the shadier aspects of homosexual culture.

I really appreciated the statement this novel made, I just wish Zubro had either moved the landscape to an older demographic, or omitted the more difficult parts of Rogers culture to something more common and appropriate to teens. Ignoring that, ‘Safe’ is very enjoyable – think Veronica Mars.

The mystery and sleuthing was paced so well, I really felt like I was there with Roger tracking down clues, following leads. Even though I had nothing much in common with Roger, Zubro had me caring about him and eager find out the truth about Kyle, not an easy task.

On issues of bullying and making new personal relationships in the throes of being outed in an educational setting, this novel really bangs it on the head. And I’m not ashamed to admit, it gave me strength to know that all types of people are bullied in some form or another and it’s how we rise above it that defines us.

I read the entire book in a day, average-ish rating, but leaves you with a warm hug…

Overall feeling: I barely put the book down.

Safe Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle.gif

Safe Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Critique Casey by Casey Carlisle

 

© Casey Carlisle 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.