Monday, March 25, 2019

Release Blitz: New Boy at the Academy (Tales from the Academy #1) by Sam Hawk (Review+Excerpt+Giveaway)

Title: New Boy at the Academy
Series: Tales from the Academy, Book One
Author: Sam Hawk
Publisher: NineStar Press
Release Date: March 25, 2019
Heat Level: 2 - Fade to Black Sex
Pairing: Male/Male
Length: 79800
Genre: Contemporary YA, LGBT, YA, /1980s, Southern US, high school/academy, bullying, coming-of-age, coming out, homophobia, family drama

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Timmy had no clue that the first day of 10th grade at the Academy would rock his world. He thought it would be just like last year, with its endless bullying and recesses spent reshelving books in the library with his best and only friend Carleen. The sissy boy and the fat girl had bonded over their shared outcast status. But Carleen shows up filled with sassy confidence and declares they’re going to rule the school. By Christmas, the freaks and nerds would be the cool kids, and the mean girls and jocks would be the outcasts. Something had happened to her over the summer, but what?

And then, the two of them lay eyes on the new boy at the Academy. Doug has auburn feathered hair, veiny biceps, and green eyes the color of Sprite bottles. Plus, he’s come all the way from exotic Los Angeles, California. He rocks out to Patti Smith while Timmy loves ABBA. How does someone so cool end up in tiny, conservative Edgewood, South Carolina?

When Carleen immediately declares Doug a fox and her new prospective boyfriend, Timmy is shocked at his jealous reaction. He’s not supposed to like boys in that way, is he? Doug stirs up weird new emotions deep inside him as Timmy embarks on the adventure of his life. He and his hometown will never be the same.


New Boy at the Academy
Sam Hawk © 2019
All Rights Reserved

Edgewood, South Carolina


God didn’t answer my prayers and bring the Rapture on Labor Day, so I had to start tenth grade after all. I stepped in front of the mirror to assess my new back-to-school outfit. I hated it. I’d begged Momma to buy me the alligator shirt from Belk’s, which really cost her a lot, but did it have to hug my body so much? I tried stretching it out, but it would only stretch so far. I thought I’d look like Tom Selleck with his big veiny arms. Instead, I looked like the Pillsbury Doughboy. I was trying to flex my chest when Momma walked in.

“Honey, get a move on. We have to be out the door in fifteen minutes, and you haven’t even touched your Pop-Tarts.”

“Momma, I think I need to change clothes.”

“What are you talking about?” she asked as she pulled and tugged on my shirt. “This is what you wanted. You look very handsome.”

“But it fits so close.”

“Timmy, I have told you time and again you’re not fat. It’s all in your head. You are absolutely average on the height and weight scale and exactly where you need to be at fifteen.” She patted my tummy, causing me to suck in. “You’ll lose that little bit of pudge in no time in gym class.”

My heart sank at the thought of gym class, and I almost lost my appetite for Pop-Tarts. Almost. Momma smoothed down my cowlick at the kitchen table as I bit into the brown sugar cinnamon pastry.

“Thank goodness you inherited the Ashburn hair,” she said. “Such a beautiful chestnut brown and such a noble hairline. It’s a sign of your aristocratic heritage, you know, on my side of the family. All the Ashburn men had beautiful hairlines. Thank goodness you take after me and don’t have your daddy’s stringy mess.”

I guessed my hairline was okay, but my new haircut was way too short. Daddy had taken me to get it cut only after Momma called him ten times to remind him. He and Momma got divorced when I was two, and it was always weird when he came by, which wasn’t often. Naturally, he took me to the awful old barbershop next to the pool hall instead of the new unisex salon in the Augusta Mall I was secretly hoping for. He told the barber to “buzz it” and then went next door for a beer. I managed to talk the barber into keeping a little length, but not much.

“Now go brush your teeth quick as a bunny rabbit,” said Momma. “Carleen’s mother called this morning and said her car’s not running and could I run by and pick her up for school. So, we have no time.”

Carleen’s house was across the tracks, and I knew Momma didn’t like going over there, but Carleen had been my best friend since kindergarten. Actually, you could say she was my only friend. She was the only one I talked to for hours on the phone at night; the only one I hung out with after school; the only one to ever invite me to a sleepover, which Momma had never allowed me to do since boy-girl sleepovers just weren’t done. I hadn’t seen her all summer because she’d been working at her grandparents’ peach farm. I was glad we’d be going to school together on the first day. I needed my friend with me.

We pulled in front of the house, and Carleen came right out.

“Good Lord, Carleen’s put on even more weight this summer,” said Momma.

Momma was right. Carleen had always been the biggest girl in class, and she wasn’t getting any smaller. I recognized her smock top from last year. A smock top was supposed to fit loose, but hers pulled in all the wrong places.

“Hey, Carleen,” said Momma as Carleen got in the car. “You sure do look pretty for your first day of school.”

“Thank you, Mrs. Thompson,” said Carleen. I waited for an eye roll, but she just smiled at Momma like she really believed it. I looked at her more closely, and there was something different about her. Was it confidence? If so, it was new. Was that lip gloss she was wearing?

“Hey, Timmy, did you hear we’re getting a new boy in our class this year?”

“No,” I said, dreading the addition of another redneck bubba to the roster.

“They say he’s from California and he’s real cute.”

“Really? California?” said Momma. “What’s he doing here?”

“I think his momma’s people are here. He’s related to all those Herlongs.”

“Does that explain the lip gloss?”

“Timmy, don’t be rude,” said Momma.

“I just wanted to look pretty for the first day of school,” replied Carleen.

“And you do,” said Momma.

When Momma pulled up in front of Patriot Christian, Carleen looked me square in the eye and gave me a big smile and a thumbs-up.

“Come on, Timmy. We’re gonna rule the school in tenth grade. Let’s do it.”


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4 Stars!

Timmy Thompson didn’t expect grade 10 to change his life but that’s exactly what happens. Between his best friend Carleen who’s determined to turn them from Zero to Hero this year, Doug, the new kid from California who seems to want to spend time with him and Mr. Maurice the man who recognizes Tim’s talented eye for fashion, Timmy finally finds his voice. But there are those people who have nothing better to do than make everyone else feel inferior and bad about themselves, specifically the Queen of Patriot Christian, Kimberly Ann. It isn’t easy but Timmy slowly shows Kimberly Ann and the rest of the students he isn’t going to silently take their crap anymore.

What I Loved: Talk about a blast from the past, this story takes place in the 80’s and it totally made me feel like I was back there. The descriptions of the clothes, food and television, the details and the speech were great, a sort of homage to 1980. It was very fun.

I did love Timmy, even though he was a bit too innocent and oblivious most of the time (more on that later). He was kind and had a good heart. He was funny even without trying and he was really in need of good people in his life.

I’m glad he had his Aunt Melanie, she was a bit more liberated and modern for his town. His mother was harder to like but over the course of the book, I started to feel warmer towards her. She definitely made me happy in the end. His dad got on my nerves and I didn’t care for him at all but luckily he too did good at the end. Tim’s best friend Carleen actually was a mixed bag for me. In some ways, I was glad Tim had her but in others, I felt like she was not as sweet as she should have been for a person who’s been his best friend since kindergarten. She was quite mean and the calling him sissy and queer-bait made me want to kick her.

I truly loved Doug. He too was hilarious and brought out some great banter with Tim. I found myself laughing out loud quite a bit when the two were together.
“There were rumors of some kind of trouble in Mobile, something vague about a college boy, but I couldn’t imagine what.”
“I can,” said Doug.
“Well, maybe I could if I listened to gossip, but I don’t. The Bible talks about that, you know.”
“Let’s pretend I do and keep moving.”

What I Liked: first, I have to say that you’ll definitely need suspension of disbelief here but if you can manage to take the story for what it is then it’s pretty entertaining. I wasn’t sure though if it was supposed to be comedic or serious a lot of the time because of the way I perceived Timmy’s naïveté (in the end, I decided to look at this as funny and light). I’m pretty sure the poor boy was the only person in the entire country who didn’t know he was gay. I felt sorry for him most of the time because he just let it fly over his head even when it was banging him in the face. Some could be accounted for by the fact that he was so religious and was being raised in an almost oppressively religious community. Other things also contributed I’m sure, like his age and the fact that exposure to information about sexuality wasn’t as accessible in that time and place. Even with all that I feel like the poor kid was extremely immature for his age (or maybe I’m used to kids much too mature for their age).

The ending was a bit cutesy and bittersweet at the same time. Luckily these are young characters so I wasn’t in need of the perfect HEA. In some ways, the ending actually reminded me of the ending in the movie Mean Girls.

What I Didn’t Like: My husband and I have a little inside joke about movies and television where we say “this is like Meet the Parents”. It’s basically a way to say that something we know people expect to be funny is actually pissing us off because it’s just plain asshole behavior. That movie spends way too much time having Ben Stiller being humiliated and ridiculed by his fiancée’s family and her standing around letting it happen without ever standing up for him. I loathe situations like that and unfortunately, it happens way too much in entertainment. So whenever he or I see that happening we both look at each other, roll our eyes or grit our teeth and say “Meet the Parents”. That’s what happened in this book and let me tell you, I wanted to punch someone in the throat when it did. Particularly the adults throughout the story. This entire school was filled with some of the worst teachers and administrators on earth. From the principal to the school nurse, the gym teacher to the Math teacher, they were all jerks. Of course, I’m not saying it was unrealistic (I had way too many asshole teachers to count growing up) it just made me angry that Timmy went through what was going on and the teachers basically perpetuated it.

*** Copy provided to Bayou Book Junkie for my reading pleasure, a review wasn't a requirement. ***

Meet the Author

Sam Hawk’s fiction is inspired by his experiences at a private Christian Academy in rural South Carolina in the ’70s. He survived his Southern adolescence with his sanity relatively intact and went on to earn degrees from the College of Charleston and the University of South Carolina Law School. He also served in the U.S. Army as a JAG officer for twelve years. He resigned his commission when it became clear he was expected to persecute homosexuals as part of his job.

Sam then moved to Dallas, Texas where he met the man of his dreams and found his LGBT family. Sam and his husband have been married for over ten years and live with their Corgi and Chartreux cat in the requisite charming old house in a historic district where gay couples are legally compelled to live.

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