Monday, December 11, 2017

Romance Redefined by SJD Peterson


Romance Redefined by SJD Peterson

Review by Lauren

source: copy from publisher; all opinions are my own

Official Summary (add on Goodreads): Opposites attract, but are some differences too drastic for a romance to survive?

On the surface, Benson Howard Winthrop III and Hugh Bayard have a lot in common: they’re young, handsome, and blessed to be one of the wealthiest couples in the country. Surely they have everything anyone could want. But Ben is no longer satisfied with their long-running relationship. Hugh’s need to control every situation is suffocating him, and Ben needs to know if he can make it on his own merits by following his passion.

But Ben’s mother isn’t about to let her son live in a rundown apartment as a struggling actor. She’s determined to get him back to his rightful place at the top of the social ladder—and back with Hugh.
Rekindling their romance will require more than doing what’s expected. Ben and Hugh need to understand and embrace each other’s differences. They’ll have to support each other even when one makes a decision the other doesn’t agree with. For their passionate love to grow, they will need to redefine the meaning of romance… only then can they find true happiness.

Review: I really loved the premise of this one! Ben has loved Hugh for years, and it's obvious he would still be with the man if he thought Hugh could give him what he wanted. What that is is essentially emotion - and attention. Hugh closes himself off, even with Ben, and he doesn't always treat Ben how someone should if they are really in love. Also, Ben has dreams of his own and he wants the chance to pursue them on his own terms, instead of just using family money to get what he wants. What made me not love this book quite as much is that I didn't think there was enough of Ben and Hugh working on their relationship. Yes, they are in each others lives throughout the book and getting pulled back into each other's orbit, but it didn't seem like the bigger conversations and/or revelations happened until later in the book and I would have liked it more throughout. Regardless, I did really enjoy this one! It's an intriguing look at a relationship - a bit of a second chance romance, if you will.

Friday, December 8, 2017

All of the Above by Quinn Anderson


All of the Above by Quinn Anderson

Review by Lauren

source: copy from Netgalley; all opinions are my own

Official Summary (add on Goodreads)Brendon isn’t in a rut, per se—he just always seems to be in-between things. Jobs. Degrees. Boyfriends. He never finishes what he starts. The perfect path is out there somewhere, and if he can just figure out what it is, he’s certain everything else will fall into place.

The last thing he expects is to meet his soul mate in the pages of a magazine quiz. “Who Is Your Perfect Man?” by Matthew Kingston seems like a road map to his future husband: the author himself. Brendon may not have his life figured out, but if Matt is as romantic as his quiz, Brendon can check “true love” off his to-do list.

When Brendon fakes a meet-cute between them, Matt proves to be as wonderful as he hoped. The more Brendon gets to know him, the harder he falls. But Brendon has a confession to make: how can he explain to Matt that he arranged their “fated” meeting? Brendon can’t tell if he’s found his soul mate, heartache, or all of the above.

Review: I gave this one 3 stars on Goodreads, and I often find those middle of the road reviews to be the most difficult to review sometimes. I liked aspects of All of the Above, but it was definitely not a favorite of mine and it's not something I could really recommend to just anyone. I think the whole "meet cute" idea is kind of fun, though the fact that Brendon orchestrated his could be seen as a bit creepy. Granted, I don't think he does anything too out of the box and he's obviously a good guy. I think my biggest issue with the book is that these two just didn't really seem to go together for me. There is an intriguing part later in the book where the two of them tell each other the things they don't like about each other (it's kind of the middle of an argument, so it's not out of the blue) and I was thinking "Yeah, they are kind of right...why do they like each other so much?" It's definitely a cute read, but again, it didn't really click with me.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Life on Pause by Erin McLellan


Life on Pause by Erin McLellan

Review by Lauren

source: copy from Netgalley; all opinions are my own

Official Summary (add on Goodreads): Niles Longfellow is a nerd, and not the trendy type of nerd, either. He wears a historically accurate homesteader costume to work every day, has a total of one friend, and doesn’t know how to talk to guys. So when he gets a flat tire and the hottest hipster ever stops to help him, all Niles can think is that he’s wearing his stupid cowboy getup. Normally, Niles feels invisible to other men, but he’d take that invisibility any day over Rusty Adams seeing him in suede and fringe.

Rusty moved to Bison Hills to help his sister raise her daughter, and nothing is more important to him than that. He’s also fresh off a breakup, and isn’t prepared for anything complicated. But then he meets Niles. Rusty sees Niles as more than a clumsy, insecure guy in a costume. He sees a man who is funny, quirky, and unexpected.

Nothing about their connection is simple, though, especially the lies and insecurities between them. Niles doesn’t know if he can trust Rusty with his heart, and when Rusty’s sister decides to move away, Rusty doesn’t know if he can stay behind.

Review: I really loved both Niles and Rusty, together and as individual people. Life on Pause did have a lot of drama, but I felt that it was realistic and handled well. Niles has very low self-esteem so it's difficult for him to think that Rusty might actually want to be him, as opposed to someone else.

As for Rusty, he's very much a part of his sister and her daughter's lives. He helped raise his niece and with the idea of them moving, Rusty isn't entirely sure if getting into a relationship with Niles is a good idea. Neither of the guys wanted to hurt each other, and they were often trying to keep themselves from being hurt, but it's almost inevitable in a relationship. There were moments where I wished the two would talk more to each other and just be honest. It might have helped alleviate some of the drama, but at the same time, a lot of what occurs does help the two of them grow. When Rusty and Niles work, they work well together. I liked how the two of them did open up about certain aspects of their lives as they grew their relationship.

Another aspect I really liked about Life on Pause are the secondary characters, from Rusty's family to his co-worker/ex-boyfriend, to Niles' best friend. It added a lot of layers to the story so that while the relationship aspect was fraught with difficulties, the book wasn't entirely about Rusty and Niles' love life. This is the only book I've read from McLellan so far, but she's someone I'll keep an eye out for in the future!

Friday, November 17, 2017

Skin by Christian Baines


Skin by Christian Baines

Review by Lauren

source: copy from Netgalley; all opinions are my own

Official Summary (add on Goodreads): Kyle, a young newcomer to New Orleans, is haunted by the memory of his first lover, brutally murdered just outside the French Quarter. 

Marc, a young Quarter hustler, is haunted by an eccentric spirit that shares his dreams, and by the handsome but vicious lover who shares his bed. 

When the barrier between these men comes down, it will prove thinner than the veil between the living and the dead…or between justice and revenge. 

Review: Honestly, I'm not sure what I'd rate this one if I had to. It was definitely not what I expected at all, but it's also a fascinating premise at the same time. I really felt for Kyle whose lover is murdered one night. He's not sure how to keep his memory alive, turning toward some of the spiritual stories he was told about New Orleans.

Marc is someone that made me equally upset and mad. Upset because he's with an abusive lover - though not boyfriend - and he's essentially being used. This makes you mad on his behalf, but it also makes you wonder why he doesn't just leave. Granted, I understand that that's a big question. Where would he go? He doesn't have anyone else. He's almost okay with what he's being given, even if it's awful and heartbreaking. So yes, I'm madder on his behalf than anything because it's horrible that he's found himself in this situation.

The book goes back and forth between Kyle and Marc, and eventually things start to come together, but not until near the end. In fact, I didn't understand why the book was called Skin until the last page of the book and boy is it freaky! There isn't much to say about this one without giving things away, so I'll end it about here. It was an intriguing read but not necessarily one that completely hooked me.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Vanilla by Billy Merrell


Vanilla by Billy Merrell

Review by Lauren

source: copy from ALA17; all opinions are my own

Official Summary (add on Goodreads): Hunter and Vanilla become boyfriends before they're even teenagers, and stay a couple even when adolescence intervenes. But in high school, conflict arises -- mostly because Hunter is much more comfortable with the sex part of sexual identity. As the two boys start to realize that loving someone doesn't guarantee they will always be with you, they find out more about their own identities -- with Hunter striking out on his own while Van begins to understand his own asexuality.

In poems that are romantic and poems that are heartbreaking, Vanilla explores all the flavors of the spectrum -- and how romance and love aren't always the same thing.

Review: I have such a hard time reviewing books that have controversy surrounding them because I'm not someone who wants to get enmeshed in all the drama. Regardless, here we go! This book is about Vanilla and Hunter who have been dating for years, but now that they are a bit older, Hunter wants to take the romance to a new level. It makes sense. I think most teenage boys have sex on the brain and Hunter really does love Vanilla. Where the controversy comes in for this is that Vanilla is asexual. Here's the thing though - Vanilla doesn't realize he's asexual until near the end of the book. This means that when Hunter is pushing for more, he doesn't realize that Vanilla isn't just nervous. He tells Vanilla that he'll want it eventually, because he isn't thinking "hey, my boyfriend might be asexual" and I can't blame him. It's not a sexuality widely talked about and I think this book shows that. I feel like it might have helped if Vanilla had applied asexuality to himself a little earlier in the story, but everyone's coming out experience is different. Sometimes you just don't know how to label your feelings, you know?

I was a little iffy on the names though - everyone has a bit of a nickname in the book, so you know, Vanilla isn't actually the kid's name. People have issue with this too because it makes it sound like Vanilla is only called that because his sexuality is so vanilla, but I feel like Hunter explains in the book that that's never why he called his boyfriend that. Also, the book is told in verse - and it's mostly Vanilla and Hunter's point of views - so that might make some aspects of the story difficult to really understand. Maybe aspects of the book are getting lost in translation, if you will. I don't know.

Obviously if the book upsets you, stop reading it, but I also know that some asexual men and women have reviewed the book in a positive manner so it's one of those "you do you" type of books. I liked it - though I almost wish it was a regular narrative and not in verse just because of the nature of the subjects talked about.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Lace-Covered Compromise by Silvia Violet


Lace- Covered Compromise by Silvia Violet

Review by Lauren

Source: copy from Netgalley; all opinions are my own

Official Summary (add on Goodreads): Adam Kingston expects to inherit his father’s multinational conglomerate. When he finds out half of it went to Nate Thomas—an annoying man whose dreams for Kingston Corp.’s future clash with Adam’s need to stave off financial disaster—Adam is furious. He’s willing to do whatever it takes to wrest control of Kingston Corp. from Nate.

Nate may be soft-spoken, but he refuses to be swayed by Adam’s arrogant demands. When Nate accidentally drops a pair of his lacy panties in front of Adam, there’s no mistaking Adam’s interest. Nate hadn’t realized Adam was bisexual, but now that his secret is out, Nate is willing to use Adam’s lust against him if it means protecting the welfare of the company he loves.

For Adam and Nate, hatred and desire are closely linked. Their inability to compromise threatens the company and could expose their tightly held secrets. But as they work together to develop a plan to save Kingston Corp., they begin to realize there might be more to their relationship than anger and lust.

Review: This was a really quick read for me, and I did enjoy it, but I thought I’d do a quick Pro and Con list for you today! Basically, I’d definitely read something else by this author!

Pros:

-I love romances with enemy to lover
-I think they handled Nate’s kink well.  They really showed that different things make people feel good, and that there are people out that there that will be attracted to that. I liked the back-story of how Nate started to change how he dressed.
-I appreciated that Adam was bisexual and it didn’t end with him saying he was gay all along or anything like that. He’s still bisexual.
-I think the business side of the book was handled well, at least in terms of how everything in Kingston Corp. is settled.

Cons:

-Adam has anxiety and panic attacks, and I wish this was developed or shown more since it’s one big reason that he’s wary about ever being in an actual relationship.
-Adam and Nate don't always communicate well, unless they are arguing and basically not compromising. It gets a bit better as the book goes on, but more growth would have been nice.
-Also, this book is only in Adam’s point of view and having both might have helped!

Monday, November 6, 2017

Wheels Up by Annabeth Albert


Wheels Up by Annabeth Albert

Review by Lauren

source: copy from Netgalley; all opinions are my own

Official Summary: Lieutenant Dustin Strauss is a reformed man. No longer a twentysomething hell-raiser, he's his SEAL team's new XO-and a man with a secret. Or seven. He's kept his bisexual identity under wraps for years, along with his kinky side and a fondness for the military-themed semianonymous hookup website Joe4Joe. His latest chat buddy is more than a sexy online distraction-they're taking their very not-safe-for-work relationship into real time. 

Petty Officer Wes Lowe has a smart mouth, a take-charge attitude and an uncanny ability for making things go boom. The life of an enlisted man isn't always enough to satisfy him, but one wild, no-questions-asked weekend with his online love comes close. When a transfer order comes in, Wes feels ready and centered. He'll make a good impression on his new SEAL team and keep his growing feelings for Dustin on the down low.


But as they log more time online and some very real emotions surface, Dustin and Wes struggle to pretend they're just a harmless fling. And when his commander introduces Dustin to his team's newest member, they're in for the shock of a lifetime...and a crushing disappointment: their difference in ranks means even a friendship without sexual contact could end their navy careers for good.

With their hearts on the line, Dustin and Wes may not survive their next mission, let alone find a way toward a future together.

Review: This is the fourth book in the Out of Uniform series and it was great to get Dustin's story, whose younger brother has his own book (At Attention). Dustin is bisexual but he's never told anyone in his life. He has a gay brother and best friend, so he knows that people would support him. However, he also knows that he's going to disappoint his dad who always tells him at least one son will carry on the family name, settle down and have kids. Instead, he focuses on his military career and ends up making a connection with Wes Lowe on a hookup website called Joe4Joe. Through their time chatting, the two learn a lot about each other and it becomes more than just hooking up. In fact, Wes reaches out to meet up in person when Dustin is in D.C. They have a great time - despite Dustin's nerves - but soon they are back on opposite sides of the U.S. Well, until Wes ends up joining Dustin's team out in California and the two can't even act like friends as Dustin is in charge of Wes and that's fraternization.

Obviously the two eventually end up chatting again more and secretly meeting up at Dustin's condo. Part of it is the physical relationship, but a lot of it is the friendship. They know things about each other that nobody else does, or at least not as well. They are there for each other when they need to be, especially when Wes' sister is back in the hospital for a heart condition she was born with. If you've read the previous books in the series, then I should note that this one has a bit of kink but nothing all that outrageous. I think it would be fine even for people that have never read about it in a romance. I thought the dynamic worked, and it showed different sides to Wes and Dylan. This is a part of them they don't share with other people; only with each other.

I really enjoyed Wheels Up, and I definitely can't wait for more in this series!!