From YA Books Central
Reviewed by Kimberly Pauley
Rating:  4 Stars
Whew! Fast and furious...
Wow, I really wasn’t sure what to expect when I got Desert Blood 10pm/9c in the mail. The cover looks like an ad for a TV show (this is on purpose, of course, you’ll see why in a minute)…actually, not just any TV show, but a sex-filled Latino police/crime soap opera. A sexy, intense hunky cop surrounded by scantily clad women. A line at the top of the book boldly proclaims “Everyone wants a piece of the rich and famous.” and the first line on the back says, in big bold print, “An all-Latino cast stars in this fast-paced and sexy Hollywood mystery”.

Yeeeeowwwch. Pull out the fire extinguisher, ‘cause this one’s gonna burn ya.

So, when I started actually reading the book (hey, you know you can’t judge a book by it’s cover, right?), it was a little different. Not a letdown in any way, mind you, just different from what you might expect. Honestly, if I’d based picking this book up solely on the cover, I probably wouldn’t have. I’m not a soap opera kind of gal. But then I’d have missed out on a good story.

Gus Gonzalez, a fourteen year-old orphan, has been adopted by Nicholas Hernandez. While it is already unusual for a single guy to adopt a teen age boy, Gus’ situation is made even more unusual by the fact that Nick happens to be a famous (and hunky) TV star (hence the “Desert Blood” title; it’s the name of Nick’s TV series). As with any celebrity situation, the two are constantly embroiled in false-accusations and media frenzies, the worst of which being when Nick is accused of having a Michael Jackson-esque (allegedly, I guess I should add) relationship with Gus by the tabloids.

Nothing could be further from the truth, of course. But it is true that things are starting to get seriously scary. Threatening letters have started arriving (promising death to Gus) and a knife-wielding intruder breaks into their house. Then things *really* start to get out of control and the plot thickens with car chases, kidnappings, and much, much more.

It soon becomes obvious that Nick does have a secret to hide. Can Gus figure it all out before the bad guy gets the upper hand? Will Nick come clean, or will his secret tear their family apart forever? Will any of them make it out alive?

This is a fast-paced (let me repeat that: this is a *fast-paced*) mystery-adventure with
race-against-the-clock energy. A good pick for reluctant readers and equally grabbing for both girls and boys. Recommended for ages 12 and up or 14 and up, if the reader is particularly squeamish or easy to terrify (though nothing is overly graphic, I just know a few 12 year-olds that can’t handle the kind of intensity a novel like this has).

For those of you who like to know all the nitty-gritty – Ronald Cree based this book, in part, on his real-life friendship with actor Nicholas Gonzalez (of The OC, Law & Order: SVU, and Anacondas
fame) and his own experiences as an adoptive father.


Reviewed by Jennifer Wardrip, aka "The Genius"
Rating:  5 Stars

It's very rare, at least in my own reading experience, to find a debut novel that is, in essence, perfect.  By perfect I mean a balanced blend of mystery and suspense, outstanding plot, great character development, and memorable dialogue.  DESERT BLOOD 10PM/9C, however, manages to do all of this and more!

Nicholas Hernandez, cop star of the top-rated television show Desert Blood, is more than just a pretty face on a billboard.  The previous year, at the age of twenty-six, Nick ignored the advice of his manager and the leers of his fans and did something no one else would dare to do--he hired a lawyer, appealed to three separate judges, and adopted Gus Gonzalez.  Then twelve years old, Gus became an overnight sensation, the adopted son of one of television's hottest stars.

At fourteen, Gus now finds himself at the center of a tabloid frenzy that never seems to let up.  If he's not being abducted by aliens, then there obviously has to be something unseemly and untoward in his relationship with his famous father.  Even though Nick is the kind of dad any son would love to
have--he's loving, understanding, strict but fair--the media is determined to make the relationship between the two of them something it most definitely is not.  As if the tabloid rumor mills aren't enough, Gus also has to take the ridicule of kids at school, who are either jealous that they're not starring in Desert Blood, or just downright vicious in taunting Gus about his "Michael Jackson-esque" father-son relationship.

Although he has his father's love, and the ear of his best friend, Lalo (one of the funniest characters of the book), Gus still fears deep down that something will happen to leave him without his new dad.  But then the speculations of the press seem like just a bad dream when a guy with a knife breaks into their home, and Gus finds out that Nick has been receiving menacing letters--letters that threaten to harm Gus, and ones that Nick never told his son about.

Soon danger seems to be lurking around every corner--more letters, real disappearances--and it's up to Nick the father, not Nick the cop Gabriel on a television show--to find out who is threatening his family and their lives.

DESERT BLOOD 10PM/9C is the perfect read for lovers of a good mystery and suspense story, and for everyone who has ever wondered what really goes on in the lives of celebrities.  Kudos to Mr. Cree for such a cheer-worthy debut novel!

From Booklist
Gr. 8-11. Fourteen-year-old orphan Gus Gonzalez isn't sure why the young, handsome television star Nick Hernandez adopted him. Despite rumors in the tabloids, there's nothing unsavory about their relationship: Nick is a firm but fair father. The mystery and action heat up after someone breaks into their house, followed by the kidnapping of Gus' friend and the death of a high-school bully. In an attempt to rescue his friend, Gus puts his own life in danger, which ultimately exposes the secrets at the heart of his adoption. Readers may wish for a tidier plot; it takes several long paragraphs of explanation by the villain (while he holds a knife to the hero's throat) to tie up loose ends. Yet the snazzy jacket, picturing a handsome yet stern-looking young cop and two sexy young women, evokes the glitzy backdrop perfectly, and readers will want to plunge into the book to see what the blood spatters on the cover are all about. Todd Morning
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

VOYA - 4Q   4P   M  J  S
Cree provides a welcome respite from more cookie-cutter styles of storytelling.   Gus Gonzalez, a fourteen-year-old orphan, is settling into life as the newly adopted son of hot young television star Nicholas Hernandez.  A life of fame is not all it's cracked up to be - the cute girl at school has a crush on Nick, the tabloids are having a field day speculating on the Michael Jackson-ish possibilities of Nick and Gus's relationship, and to top it all off, someone is out to get them.  Gus and Nick are still trying to settle into their new relationship as father and son, and this situation is not going to help.  Worse, the mystery ties in to a dark secret from Nick's past, linked to Gus, and it might change everything for everyone involved.

Because Nick and Gus are essentially at odds with and feeling out each other the entire time, it is difficult to get anything out of their relationship other than awkwardness, which aids the story but does not really allow for much depth.  Thank goodness for Gus's best friend, Lalo, who is constantly pestering Nick into giving him a role on his show and who provides a bit of spark to two otherwise cardboard figures.  But Cree fashions a welcoming world into which one can easily get sucked, brilliantly blending the thriller-mystery with current elements of popular culture that are all the rage, like an all-access glance deep inside the personal life of a TV megastar.  --  Matthew Weaver.

DESERT BLOOD 10pm/9c by Ronald Cree
Reviewed by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

I almost didn't buy this one because its cover is just incredibly ridiculous. If you don't believe me, check Amazon. I picked the book up with every intention of mocking it to my best friend, who was cruising the young adult aisles at Borders with me, but when I turned to read the back of the book, I found myself strangely intrigued. It's a mystery/thriller with a fantastic setup- a year before the start of the book, Gus Gonzalez (then thirteen) got the surprise of his life. An orphan from the age of five, Gus had given up hope of being adopted when a prospective parent of the most unusual kind zeroed him out from the other boys in his group home. Nick Hernandez, star of the hit television show Desert Blood and the hottest It Guy in television, shocked the world by adopting a teenager at the ripe old age of twenty-six. By the time the book starts, Nick and Gus have developed a dynamic that I went gaga for (for some reason, I've always *loved* books where the main character's guardian is really young- it was one of the things I loved about THE OUTSIDERS the first time I read it). Nick is strangely paternal in a really sexy stern older brother (as in your friend's older brother, not yours) kind of way, and Gus and his best friend, Lalo, are completely believable kids. Cree does a great job working in the public's reaction to the adoption, including a variety of accusations that Nick and Gus's relationship is anything but paternal, while still keeping the home dynamic

So anyway, you've got this really engaging backdrop. I mean, the kid was adopted by a twenty-six year old movie star who's got the leading role on a television show that sounds like a mix between Law and Order and The OC. How cool is that? And then you have the mystery... Nick has been receiving threatening letters, and they've started to name Gus in the threats. There's tension! There's suspense! There's casting calls and a wonderful Latino grandmother!

For as ridiculous as I thought the cover was, I really enjoyed reading this one and read several parts twice. And, yes, the parts I read twice may have been the parts where I thought Nick seemed particularly hot, but that's neither here nor there. As an added bonus to what is basically a fun mystery with a neat setup, this one also has the benefits of being both a "boy book" (maybe that explains the cleavage shot and flames on the cover?) and a book that features a cast of predominantly Latino characters. All in all, I'd call this one a surprise.  -- Jennifer Lynn Barnes