Thursday, July 20, 2017

Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

Review by Lauren

source: copy from e-library; all opinions are my own

Official Summary (add on Goodreads): In these funny and insightful essays, Roxane Gay takes us through the journey of her evolution as a woman of color while also taking readers on a ride through culture of the last few years and commenting on the state of feminism today. The portrait that emerges is not only one of an incredibly insightful woman continually growing to understand herself and our society, but also one of our culture.

Review: Bad Feminist is a book that I've heard a lot about, so I finally decided to check out this book of essays with an overarching theme of feminism. Gay has a good writing style, bringing in personal experience, research, and novels to make her point about various topics. While I'm not a POC of color, like the author, I could still read those essays and be empathetic toward Gay and other POC who don't get to see themselves in popular media or who are treated differently because of the color of their skin. However, I am a woman and feminism in the most simple terms is "equal rights between men and women" and that's something I could definitely relate to and understand. Despite this book being written by a female author, I think men can and should read it too. Feminism isn't anti-men, after all, and if people are anti-men and declaring themselves feminist, then they don't understand the overall goal of the movement. 

I liked that Gay states she's a bad feminist, because she doesn't always do the things she knows she should. One small example is that she likes to listen to hip hop/rap music that is very much anti-women. I think this is common for a lot of people, especially if you listen to the radio. You like the voice, the music, and yeah, the lyrics aren't great...but you can't help but nod or even sing along. It doesn't make you a bad person. Maybe it makes you a bit of a bad feminist, but nobody is perfect, and feminism isn't perfect. It's a movement for equality but not everyone follows it in the same way. This is probably the biggest reason it gets such a bad rap, from men and women. Gay talks about women who try to distance themselves from feminism, including big names in pop culture. They are asked if they are a feminist in interviews and they say no. I hate hearing this because they are letting the negative aspects of feminism keep them from saying "yes, I believe in equal rights between men and women." They shouldn't say "I hate men" or "women are better" because that's not feminism, and if they think it is, then that's kind of sad. 

Bad Feminist is a bit of an educational experience; it's full of interesting and intelligent essays. While I didn't love everything in the book, I could understand or empathize with most of it. I would certainly recommend people read it to get just one perspective on not only feminism, but inter-sectional feminism (this means you aren't a straight, white woman). 

I actually pre-ordered Gay's newest release, a memoir called Hunger, so that I could meet her and get it signed. Unfortunately, I was sick and couldn't attend, but I hadn't picked up my book so I got it from the store yesterday and while it's not personalized, it was signed, so I'm excited about that. I can't wait to read it! 

*I'm sharing this review here because the author identifies as LGBT+

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Sovereign by April Daniels

Sovereign by April Daniels

Review by Lauren

source: copy from Netgalley; all opinions are my own

Official Summary (add on Goodreads)Only nine months after her debut as the fourth superhero to fight under the name Dreadnought, Danny Tozer is already a scarred veteran. Protecting a city the size of New Port is a team-sized job and she's doing it alone. Between her newfound celebrity and her demanding cape duties, Dreadnought is stretched thin, and it's only going to get worse. 

When she crosses a newly discovered supervillain, Dreadnought comes under attack from all quarters. From her troubled family life to her disintegrating friendship with Calamity, there's no trick too dirty and no lever too cruel for this villain to use against her. 

She might be hard to kill, but there's more than one way to destroy a hero. Before the war is over, Dreadnought will be forced to confront parts of herself she never wanted to acknowledge. 

And behind it all, an old enemy waits in the wings to unleash a plot that will scar the world forever.

Review: Sovereign is the second book in the Nemesis series, which follows the transgender superhero Danny Tozer. Danny is male-to-female and when she was granted the powers of Dreadnought, her body finally mirrored the way she felt on the inside. Danny is great at her job, but she has a lot of anger for a teenager. She's been through a lot, even with superhero powers, and everything seems to be mentally and emotionally catching up to her, even if her physical strength just gets better.

I loved the first book, Dreadnought, so I was really excited to read the sequel. I thought this one was just as good. I love the intricacies of superheros, the villains, and everything that goes into making these books. Daniels has an amazing imagination. While this series is fully developed, with a lot of great information, there are never any info dumps. Things are revealed as needed and it works! As for Sovereign, I really loved the journey that Daniels takes Danny on in terms of her anger and past traumas. I felt it was handled well, and as realistically as possible when dealing with super humans.

If you haven't read Dreadnought yet, please do, and if you have, then I hope you'll continue with Sovereign. 

Monday, July 17, 2017

Something's Brewing at Joe's by S.J.D. Peterson

Something's Brewing at Joe's by S.J.D. Peterson

Review by Lauren

source: copy from Dreamspinner Press; all opinions are my own

Official Summary (add on Goodreads): The promise of a dream job lures Murphy to Tampa, but he arrives to the rude awakening that the offer is on hold. Now he’s got two choices: slink back to Michigan with his tail between his legs or stay and look for work. Things perk up when he goes into a coffee shop and learns the owner is looking for someone to renovate the apartment above it. He happily takes the job, only later realizing he’s met Joe Sterling, Kaffeinate’s proprietor, before… when they hooked up at a club Murphy’s first night in Tampa.

Murphy and Joe are both proud, passionate, and outspoken. Neither is looking for a relationship, though they can’t deny they go together as well as coffee and doughnuts, in spite of their tempers. But that’s before Joe learns Murphy will be working for the corporation he believes is harming local businesses and the environment—and if Murphy will be supporting it, Joe will want nothing to do with him, dooming any possibility of an unexpected happy ending.

Review: Going into this book, I expected a fairly straightforward romance, but there is actually a bit of suspense involved too, which was a nice surprise. This is a short, yet enjoyable read. Murphy is new to Tampa and agrees to help renovate an apartment until the business he moved there for is ready for him to begin. Before this renovation job, Murphy has what he believes to be a one night stand with a man named Joe, except he soon finds out that Joe owns the apartment and the coffee shop below it. Despite this surprise, the two slowly being a relationship. After all, Murphy won't always be working for Joe, and he's doing the renovation for free in order to live in the apartment. 

The problems begin when Joe realizes who Murphy is meant to be working for, which is headed by a man who has no respect for small businesses or the environment. Both men have strong personalities, and while Joe might get upset, Murphy isn't one to let someone else tell him what to do. This certainly leads them to butt heads here and there, but it wasn't overly dramatic in any way. It made the characters seem real and it allowed the two to navigate a relationship that was more than just the honeymoon phase. Obviously all relationships will have problems, so I appreciate when authors can show the characters dealing with an issue or two. 

Friday, July 14, 2017

The Pearl Thief by Elizabeth Wein

The Pearl Thief by Elizabeth Wein
Review by Lauren
source: copy from publisher; all opinions are my own
Official Summary: When fifteen-year-old Julia Beaufort-Stuart wakes up in the hospital, she knows the lazy summer break she’d imagined won’t be exactly like she anticipated. And once she returns to her grandfather’s estate, a bit banged up but alive, she begins to realize that her injury might not have been an accident. One of her family’s employees is missing, and he disappeared on the very same day she landed in the hospital.
Desperate to figure out what happened, she befriends Euan McEwen, the Scottish Traveller boy who found her when she was injured, and his standoffish sister, Ellen. As Julie grows closer to this family, she experiences some of the prejudices they’ve grown used to firsthand, a stark contrast to her own upbringing, and finds herself exploring thrilling new experiences that have nothing to do with a missing-person investigation.
Her memory of that day returns to her in pieces, and when a body is discovered, her new friends are caught in the crosshairs of long-held biases about Travellers. Julie must get to the bottom of the mystery in order to keep them from being framed for the crime.
Review: One of my all time favorite books is Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein. If you don’t know the book, I do suggest checking it out. The Pearl Thief is actually a prequel, of sorts, to Code Name Verity. One of the main characters in CNV is Julia, so it was great fun to see this young girl before she gets caught up in WWII.
The Pearl Thief has a slower pace, as it very much pays testament to the setting and time period. It becomes easy to see the places Julia does. Normally I’m not a fan of overly descriptive books, but I feel like Wein had a nice balance between the overall descriptions and the main focus of a man gone missing and Julia’s own stay in the hospital. One summer day, coming home from boarding school, Julia wakes up to find herself in the hospital. She’s been hit over the head but she cannot remember any details. Things start to come to her here and there as time goes on though, just adding to the mystery. Along with Julia’s possible attack, there is the issue of a missing man, who is currently in the employ of her family. The big question is whether the two are connected in any way.
I loved getting to know more about Julia, and after reading The Pearl Thief, I was dying to re-read Code Name Verity. Perhaps soon! Along with Julia, readers are introduced to the McEwen family who are Scottish Travellers and not always looked well upon. Julia becomes friends with Euan and Ellen, brother and sister, but some of the adults in the area are not as accepting and are quick to place blame on the family. Julia knows that they would never hurt her or anyone else, but it is not always easy to convince others of this fact.
Just one of the things I really loved about this book is Julia’s friendship with Ellen. It’s never explicitly stated, but I feel it was fairly obvious to see that Julia would be bisexual in this day and age. She is attracted to men, and even kisses a few, but she’s also very much attached to Ellen and the two end up trying out kissing on each other. It’s something that young girls sometimes do, but throughout the book, it just felt that the author wanted readers to realize that Julia liked boys and girls, even if it was never given a specific name by anyone. At any rate, I thought it was a lovely addition to a historical novel.
Definitely read Elizabeth Wein, whether you start with The Pearl Thief or another of her books.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Pounding Skin by L.A. Witt

Pounding Skin by L.A. Witt

Review by Lauren

source: copy from Netgalley; all opinions are my own

Official Summary (add on Goodreads): Fighter pilot Jon Russell never sleeps with the same man twice. Known for his lack of shame when it comes to hooking up, Jon has no interest in commitment—even friends with benefits sounds like too much work.

Matt Huffman has slept with lots of women. He’s had loads of girlfriends. So why does the hot as hell pilot getting a tattoo as the result of a lost bet stop his breath? And how come he can’t stop thinking about him, even after he’s gone?

When Jon returns to Skin Deep the second time, he doesn’t want another tattoo. He wants to hook up with the gorgeous artist he spent hours agonizingly close to, and Matt wants to explore some curiosity about men. Fulfill the desire he can’t stop fantasizing over. And he wants to do it with Jon.

As their casual hook up becomes more than just skin deep, both Matt and Jon are faced with questions they don’t want to answer. Matt understands he’s bi—but are these feelings he has typical of hooking up with a man? Or is it only Jon that can make his heart pound? If Jon wanted nothing more than a fling, why does he find himself needing not just Matt’s body, but all of him? And can their relationship withstand the hardships that makes Jon avoid them in the first place?

Review: Pounding Skin is the second book in the Skin Deep, Inc. series. Both books in the series take one half Navy man and one half tattoo artist to create one explosive couple. I loved the first book, Back Piece, so I was very excited to read Pounding Skin. This book features Matt, who readers get to meet somewhat in Back Piece, and Jon, who is a Navy fighter pilot we are just getting to know. While these books can be read in any order, I'd recommend reading Back Piece first, because that couple is featured a bit in Pounding Skin and I imagine it would be nice to know their history. 

As for Pounding Skin, these guys have some great chemistry, in and out of bed. Matt has had many girlfriends, but he's never dated a guy. He's always said "I'm not gay" so it takes a specific incident to make him question that. He knows he likes girls, but maybe he's bisexual and not straight. As for Jon, he's mostly definitely gay, but he's not the relationship type like Matt has always been. When he starts "seeing" Matt, the two get along well and end up inviting each other to various work functions and the like, but nobody ever comes out and says "we're dating" or "we're exclusive." It's something Matt would like eventually, but is Jon the guy? And as for Jon, he's not sure he believes in long term love and commitment, not when it seems to end in heartache for those around him. 

I thought Witt did a great job showing the perspectives of both Matt and Jon. It's easy to understand where both of them are coming from, even as you root for them to work it all out and be together for the long haul. I love the mix of Navy and tattoo artist in this series, as Witt is happy to share details and background information about both businesses. These aren't just titles for the guys' romance - this is their life,  and that's clearly shown in this series. 

Pounding Skin is out today, so go get it! And don't forget to enter my Favorite Things Giveaway. It's a hop - so check out what other blogger's are offering. 

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Favorite Things Giveaway + More

This is only open to those in the U.S., I'm afraid, but if you are interested in entering my Favorite Things Giveaway (or hosting your own) please go here.


Also, if you or someone you know has written a YA manuscript, you can try entering this crowd-sourcing competition to get it published!


I've been reading a lot of LGBT+ books but I need to get reviews written and scheduled out, so that sort of explains the lack of posts recently! I've just mostly been behind on things in general, so I apologize for that, but I'm still visiting, and thanks for all the comments!

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Love and Other Hot Beverages by Laurie Loft

First off, Happy 4th of July to those in the U.S.! I'm going to see Wonder Woman - again - in a few hours and I'm excited because we're doing 3-D. It's a good movie! I do recommend it if you haven't seen it already. For those out of the U.S., I hope your week is going well. Any fun plans, either way?
Love and Other Hot Beverages by Laurie Loft
Review by Lauren
source: copy from Netgalley; all opinions are my own
Official Summary: After a rough breakup, Todd Addison wants time alone to grieve. While still dreaming of winning back his ex’s love, he moves across the country and finds work with a construction company. The last thing he needs is the cute office boy developing a crush on him, especially since he’s back in the closet.
Sebastián Nye can’t help feeling sorry for the obviously brokenhearted Todd. Though rebuffed repeatedly, Sebby chisels away at Todd’s resistance, determined to help him forget—a task potentially beyond anyone’s capabilities. He never meant to fall for the poor guy, but he does. Hard.
Desperate to hold on to Todd, Sebby hatches a sneaky plot guaranteed to end Todd’s heartbreak—if Todd doesn’t bail and ruin everything. Just when things can’t get more complicated, Todd’s ex wants him back. And Sebby’s abusive ex is just waiting to catch Sebby alone. Todd and Sebby must decide what’s worth fighting for, what’s worth sacrifice, and what’s worth compromise, or their relationship will begin and end with a broken heart.
Review: To be honest, if this wasn’t a review copy, I probably wouldn’t even write a review for this one. It has an average rating of 2 stars on Goodreads – though I only saw this when I went to say I’d finished. I ended up giving this one 2 stars too. It’s not a DNF so there was enough about the characters and the overall story that made me want to know how it all ended. However, most of the book rubbed me the wrong way.
For one thing, Todd has a very weird way of talking that tended to annoy me throughout the book. He’s a word guy, so it made sense within the story, but it still felt off and like he was trying too hard to sound smart. It’s a bit hard to explain, but it wasn’t working for me.
Another thing I didn’t like about the book is the weird direction it took between Todd and Sebastian – it kind of turned into a “maybe open relationship” sort of deal – and since that came out of the blue for me (based on the summary), it just didn’t work. I’ve read books with more than two people in the relationship but it all depends on how it’s done and the reasoning for it in Love and Other Hot Beverages was a negative for me.
I did care about the characters though. I wanted Todd to find someone who wanted him as much as he wanted them. I wanted Sebastian to find true love instead of exes that use and abuse him. So, it wasn’t all bad. I just can’t say I’d really recommend it in the end!

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Rainbow Roundup: From Vampires to Graphic Novels

I've been meaning to post this one for awhile, so some of the posts are a bit older. You should still check them out of course!

On a personal note, I went to Chicago last weekend for ALA - the American Library Association Conference. It was a lot of fun and I got some great books. I should have pictures and more to share soon!

Happily Ever Chapter reviewed Hell and High Water by Charlie Cochet (THIRDS #1) (adult, m/m romance)

Metaphors and Moonlight reviewed Real Vampires Do It in the Dark by Amy Fecteau (M/M, Adult, Paranormal)

My Thoughts...Literally! reviewed The Love Interest by Cale Dietrich (YA, m/m)

Books for a Delicate Eternity reviewed Release by Patrick Ness (YA)

Happily Ever Chapter also reviewed Heels Over Head by Elyse Springer (NA, M/M)

For What It's Worth reviews Mature Content by Megan Erickson and Santino Hassell (m/m, Gay/Bi characters, Adult)

Krista's Dust Jacket ALSO reviewed Mature Content by Megan Erickson and Santino Hassell

Literature Lynx has a post about LGBT+ Graphic Novels

Diva Booknerd reviewed Release by Patrick Ness (M/M, YA, Paranormal)

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Back to You by Chris Scully

Back to You by Chris Scully 

Review by Lauren

source: copy from Netgalley; all opinions are my own

Official SummaryJournalist Alex Buchanan has come home to the remote British Columbia town he grew up in, but only because his estranged father is dying. For Alex, the homecoming holds a mix of memories, mostly bad. The only bright spot is reconnecting with Benji Morning, the childhood friend he never truly forgot. As boys, the strength of their bond had frightened Alex. But now that he’s confident in his bisexuality, he’s drawn back to quiet, soft-spoken Ben.

Ben isn’t the same boy Alex left behind, though. His life has been overshadowed by the disappearance of his sister two decades earlier, and now a new break in the case threatens to undo the peace he’s worked so hard to attain.

As Alex struggles to repair the relationship with his father before it’s too late, he finds himself caught up in a twenty-year-old mystery, a story he never expected, and a shocking truth that could affect his and Ben’s future together.

ReviewI really love m/m romance, but I also like when there is an added genre on top of it because then you not only get the romance, you get a fully fledged story apart from the two main characters. In Back to You, Alex comes home after receiving a phone call from his sister telling him their father is dying. Alex isn't on good terms with his dad, but he goes thinking he could write an article about it. Of course, once he's home again, he has to reach out to his childhood friend, Ben, who kissed him right before Alex' family moved at the age of 13. He hasn't seen or spoken to Ben since, but he's always held a flame for him.

I love friends to lover romances, and it was really nice to see Ben and Alex getting to know each other again after all the years in between. I also appreciated that while Ben is gay, Alex is actually bisexual, and nobody shames him for that and says he can't be. Bisexuality is valid too and I love when authors have characters that are bi.

As for the other aspect of this book, there is a 20-year mystery of what happened to Ben's older sister, who disappeared one day. Alex decides to help investigate, unsure if he really wants to know the answers. It was a really good mystery -I was fairly surprised by the outcome, but it's a good one! It definitely ends on a hopeful note for most people involved. 

All in all, this was a good one!

Monday, June 19, 2017

Chief's Mess by L.A. Witt

Chief's Mess by L.A. Witt 

Review by Lauren

source: copy from Netgalley; all opinions are my own

Official Summary (add on Goodreads): Anthony Talbot is in Anchor Point to visit family, but after two days of strife, he needs a break. A local gay bar is calling his name.
When Chief Noah Jackson sees that red head stroll into the club, he immediately wants him. They’re perfectly matched, and before long, they’re burning up the sheets. Noah can’t get enough. Anthony can’t stay in Oregon for long, but as soon as he leaves, he’s counting down the days until he can fly back for more. And between his increasingly frequent visits, there’s always phone sex, sexting, webcams . . . anything they can get.

But Noah’s got a carefully crafted façade, and Anthony can’t help noticing the slowly forming cracks. The scent of alcohol in the middle of the day. The extra drinks at dinner. The hint of red in his eyes. Anthony knows what it means. He doesn’t want to believe it, but he’s seen this before, and there’s no denying it. If Noah doesn’t get his downward spiral under control, he’s going to lose both his career and the first man he’s ever really loved.

Review: Chief's Mess is the third book in the Anchor Point series, which features a bunch of Navy men falling in love. I'd suggest reading the books in order, or at least the second one before you start Chief's Mess since the couple in the 2nd book appears a few times in this one. At any rate, I really love Witt and her novels so I'd suggest reading all these books just because of that!

Anyway, back to Chief's Mess. I will say that this is probably my least favorite of the three books out so far, but that doesn't mean I didn't like it. I think my main - and really only - issue is that there is so much of their physical relationship throughout the book and sometimes I wanted a bit more. Now, I think the book is written well and you definitely get to know the two guys - Anthony and Noah - but every now and then I just wanted a bit more of the everyday, emotional side of their relationship. Besides that, this was a good one.

Anthony meets Noah in a bar while in Anchor Point with his sister. It's supposed to be a one night stand - and that turns into a week-long thing while Anthony is still in town. However, once Anthony leaves, they both realize they want more and that begins their long-distance relationship. Because they are able to see each other fairly regularly, it works. They get closer and it soon becomes more than the sex for both of them. They are genuinely falling for each other. However, Anthony is starting to notice that Noah drinks...a lot. He's not sure if it's really a problem or if he's projecting his sister's ex onto Noah.

All in all, I love the Anchor Point series. While I might have wished for a little less physical and a little more emotional, I feel like you still get enough of the emotional to make you fall for these guys. I definitely rooted them on! I can't wait for the fourth novel!

Friday, June 16, 2017

Pride Month: Book Deals + LGBT Book Giveaway

Riptide Publishing has been having some great sales in honor of Pride Month. Each week there are 50% off books on a different letter of LGBT. First it was books with lesbian characters and then books with gay characters. Until June 19, you can get half off on books with bisexual characters. Just visit Riptide here.

I've been eyeing all the books throughout the month but I bought my first one yesterday, so I know it features a bisexual character. The one I chose was Risky Behavior by L.A. Witt and Cari Z. I've read books by Witt before and love them, so I'm excited about this one! Of course the summary sounds great -and there is a sequel due out soon I believe!

I also wanted to let you know that I'm hosting a giveaway on Twitter for Pride Month-

Visit my Twitter page (the giveaway is pinned to the top). If you follow and RT the original tweet you can enter to win ANY #LGBT book up to $15. Open to anyone who can receive books from The Book Depository.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Heels Over Head by Elyse Springer

Heels Over Head by Elyse Springer

Review by Lauren

Source: copy from Netgalley; all opinions are my own

Official SummaryJeremy Reeve is one of the best divers in the world, and he’s worked hard to get where he is. He intends to keep pushing himself with one very clear goal in mind: winning gold at the summer Olympics in two years. That medal might be the only way to earn his father’s respect as an athlete.

Brandon Evans is everything Jeremy isn’t: carefree, outgoing, and openly gay. With his bright-blue eyes and dramatic tattoos, he’s a temptation that Jeremy refuses to acknowledge. But Jeremy can’t ignore how talented Brandon is—or that Brandon has no interest in using his diving skills to compete.

They’re opposites who are forced to work together as teammates, but Jeremy’s fear of his own sexuality and Brandon’s disinterest in anything “not fun” may end their partnership before it begins. Until a single moment changes everything, and they help each other discover that “team” can also mean family and love.

Review: I will admit that some people who read this might get really annoyed and frustrated with Jeremy. However, I think his attitude about certain things is reasonable. He doesn't have a great family life - his dad and brothers always make fun of his diving. He's a great diver though, and he's desperate to finally get that Olympic gold medal in hopes of making his family proud. Everything seems to be going smoothly, until his coach takes on a new diver named Brandon. Brandon's good, but he's not as disciplined. He's only been diving for two years.

Jeremy is prickly in the beginning but he soon accepts Brandon as a friend, and more. While Jeremy is definitely gay, he's terrified of people knowing. This makes Brandon have to hide their relationship, which he doesn't like, but he does it to stay with Jeremy. Obviously there is drama and issues surrounding this situation, as well as Jeremy's often single-minded focus on diving. This leads to hurt feelings between all involved. I don't want to say much because it would spoil the book, but I found the diving aspect of the story was really fascinating and I liked Brandon and Jeremy together when things were working well. I did feel bad for both of them, oftentimes more for Brandon who is trying so hard to be what Jeremy wants, but I understood the issues that Jeremy was facing and I was rooting for him to address those.

This is a relatively long read, but it went by pretty quick!

Monday, June 12, 2017

Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner

Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner 

Review by Lauren

source: copy from BloggingForBooks; all opinions are my own

Official SummaryOne day Carver Briggs had it all—three best friends, a supportive family, and a reputation as a talented writer at his high school, Nashville Academy for the Arts.

The next day he lost it all when he sent a simple text to his friend Mars, right before Mars, Eli, and Blake were killed in a car crash.

Now Carver can’t stop blaming himself for the accident, and he’s not the only one. Eli’s twin sister is trying to freeze him out of school with her death-ray stare. And Mars’s father, a powerful judge, is pressuring the district attorney to open a criminal investigation into Carver’s actions.

Luckily, Carver has some unexpected allies: Eli’s girlfriend, the only person to stand by him at school; Dr. Mendez, his new therapist; and Blake’s grandmother, who asks Carver to spend a Goodbye Day with her to share their memories and say a proper goodbye to his friend.

Soon the other families are asking for a Goodbye Day with Carver, but he’s unsure of their motives. Will they all be able to make peace with their losses, or will these Goodbye Days bring Carver one step closer to a complete breakdown or—even worse—prison?

Review: This book has a very intriguing question at the heart of it: if someone gets in a car accident due to texting, who's to blame? The person who texted - knowing they were driving - or the driver who tried to text back, while driving? Well, the main character in Goodbye Days, Carver, is the first half of that question. He texted one of his three best friends - knowing they were driving - and they got into a car accident, killing all three of the young men. Now Carver is afraid that charges will be pressed against him and he'll end up in jail. He's got a great lawyer, and he's finally seeing a psychiatrist, but the guilt eats away at Carver day after day.

While this sounds like a heartbreaking book - and it can be - it's also full of humor and hope. There are flashbacks to Carver meeting his three friends, as well as ordinary moments of them just having fun. The relationship between all three boys felt very realistic and I loved getting a glimpse of the life they all had BEFORE. 

I have yet to read The Serpent King by this author, but it's one I do want to get to soon. I highly recommend reading Goodbye Days whether you read the author's debut or not. They aren't connected, so no need to worry about that. I found this book to be upsetting and wonderful, often all at the same time. I wanted to yell at some of the adults in Carver's life for not understanding that he is a child too. I thought the idea of doing a Goodbye Day with the various parents/adults of the boys lost - Blake, Eli, Mars-  was a really brilliant idea. 

Some were much harder for Carver than others, but he starts with saying goodbye to Blake with Blake's grandma, who loves Carver and would never blame him. This goodbye day is obviously my favorite. I think all of them helped Carver heal a little bit though, even if it opened up some of the wounds at the same time. 

Very good; I recommend! I'm sharing this review here because one of my Carver's friends is gay, and there are a couple really wonderful moments in the book! 

Friday, June 9, 2017

Straight Expectations: The Story of a Family in Transition by Peggy Cryden

Straight Expectations: The Story of a Family in Transition by Peggy Cryden

Review by Lauren

source: copy from Netgalley; all opinions are my own

Official SummaryEver since they were young, Peggy Cryden noticed her children's gender expression did not correspond with society's expectations of their biological gender. In this moving and honest memoir, Peggy details the experiences and challenges of raising both a gay son and a gay, transgender son and shares her family's journey of adversity and growth, which has helped inform her work as a psychotherapist.

Review: I'm glad to have been given the chance to read this book. It was a very well done memoir. The writing style was easy to read and follow. It's almost conversational. In the beginning, it does focus a lot on Cryden's own life growing up, and while this was interesting, I still found myself more eager to hear about her sons. After all, that was the aspect of the book that made me most interested in reading Straight Expectations!

It was heartbreaking to hear about all that her two sons had to endure growing up, but it was also great to see how they grew and become wonderful young men. The book focuses on a transgender son, a gay son, a son with OCD and a eating disorder, and more. The author doesn't shy away from these topics. She's open and honest. This is a good book to read whether you know a lot about LGBT+ youth already or not. 

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

It Could Happen by Mia Kerick

It Could Happen by Mia Kerick

Review by Lauren

source: copy from Dreamspinner press; all opinions are my own

Official SummaryThree misfits, mismatched in every way—Henry Perkins, Brody Decker, and Danny Denisco—have been friends throughout high school. Now in their senior year, the boys realize their relationship is changing, that they’re falling in love. But they face opposition at every turn—from outside and from within themselves. Moving to the next level will take all the courage, understanding, and commitment they can muster. But it could happen.

Henry is a star athlete and the son of religious parents who have little concern for the future he wants. Brody is a quirky dreamer and adrenaline junkie, and Danny is an emo artist and the target of bullies. Despite their differences they’ve always had each other’s backs, and with each of them facing a new and unique set of challenges, that support is more important than ever. Is it worth risking the friendship they all depend on for the physical and romantic relationship they all desire?

Review: When reviewing this on Goodreads, I couldn't really rate this book because it was more of a 3.5 than a 3 or a 4. It's a good read. I liked the relationship between the three guys and how they became each other's family. I thought the adults in the book spoke in a weird, sort of stilted manner though. It didn't feel entirely realistic. All in all, it was a good story though. It was interesting to see how the three guys made their relationship work while still in high school. 

Monday, June 5, 2017

On Point by Annabeth Albert

On Point by Annabeth Albert

Review by Lauren 

source: copy from Netgalley; all opinions are my own

Official SummaryPushing thirty, with his reenlistment looming, decorated navy sniper Maddox Horvat is taking a long look at what he really wants in life. And what he wants is Ben Tovey. It isn’t smart, falling for his best friend and fellow SEAL, but ten years with Ben has forged a bond so intimate Maddox can’t ignore it. He needs Ben by his side forever—heart and soul.

Ben admits he likes what he’s seen—his friend’s full lower lip and the perfect muscles of his ass have proved distracting more than once. But Ben's still reeling from a relationship gone to hell, and he's not about to screw up his friendship with Maddox, too.

Until their next mission throws Ben and Maddox closer together than ever before, with only each other to depend on.

Now, in the lonely, desperate hours awaiting rescue, the real challenge—confronting themselves, their future and their desires—begins. Man to man, friend to friend, lover to lover.

Review: Based on the summary, I thought this book might take place mostly on the mission while the two wait for rescue, but that's really just the beginning of the story. I really loved On Point. I'm a big fan of friends to lovers romances, and I think this one was done really well. On Point is the third in the Out of Uniform series - and this is a favorite series of mine! I can't wait for the fourth book. You can read these books out of order, but I suggest reading them in order since you'll see the characters in all the books. For example, I already knew a bit about Ben and Maddox before reading On Point and it just made me even more excited to check out their story.

One thing that I really loved about On Point is that while the two guys are already best friends, that doesn't mean that becoming more than that is easy. They still have their doubts and worries, and these are things they have to work through - together. Definitely recommended! 

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Summer Stock by Vanessa North

Summer Stock by Vanessa North

Review by Lauren

source: copy from Netgalley; all opinions are my own

Official SummaryTabloid scandals have driven TV star Ryan Hertzog to North Carolina’s Outer Banks, where he’s hiding out doing summer stock at his cousin’s seaside theater. When a hookup with local handyman Trey Donovan results in Ryan being photographed butt naked, he vows to keep his pants on and his hands off Trey. How was he supposed to know Trey would turn out to be the summer stock set builder?

Trey isn’t looking for a relationship; he’s still recovering from the emotional fallout of an abusive marriage. But Ryan’s laughter draws him in again and again, and he’s not about to say no to fooling around.

As the summer heats up, the paparazzi catch Ryan in increasingly compromising situations. Ryan might be too much drama for a summer fling—and Trey might be just an intermission from Ryan’s Hollywood life. But if they take their cues from Shakespeare, all’s well that ends well.

Review: I think it's safe to say that I love Vanessa North. The first book I read by her, Blueberry Boys, was fantastic and I loved Summer Stock just as much. It's really easy to love both Ryan and Trey. While Ryan is back in his hometown working on Shakespeare plays because of his bad boy antics in Hollywood, he's not a bad guy. He doesn't take himself seriously and he's more than happy to play the secondary character instead of the lead. 

However, when his best friend ends up in rehab, he knows that he needs to
 stay out of the press and get his life back on track before taking on Hollywood again. 

As for Trey, he works on the sets every summer for Shakespeare by the Sea. He used to be married, but that relationship was abuse and his ex is now in jail. Despite this, he's open to the possibility of seeing Ryan after they have what was seemingly a one-night stand. 

However, he still has issues in his past that he has to deal with and he seems to unintentionally sabotage their relationship because he doesn't feel good enough. It was sad to see, though perfectly understandable at the same time. 

I loved seeing Ryan and Trey open up to each other and realize that they can be a good match. It's not easy and it doesn't take just the summer, but it's great when it finally all comes together! Highly recommended! 

Monday, May 29, 2017

The Penalty for Holding by Georgette Gouveia

The Penalty for Holding by Georgette Gouveia

Review by Lauren

source: copy from Netgalley; all opinions are my own

Official SummaryWhen the quarterback of the hapless New York Templars is injured, backup QB Quinn Novak takes the team to the playoffs. There he attracts the attention of two other quarterbacks who’ve been rivals since high school – Mal Ryan of the Philadelphia Quakers and Tam Tarquin of the San Francisco Miners. Quinn begins a volatile relationship with the narcissistic Mal and a loving one with the open-hearted Tam, keeping each secret from the other.

What he doesn’t know is that the two have a complex sexual history of their own. Quinn will have to overcome a thorny present as well as a troubled past if he hopes to have a promising future.

Review: I gave this one two stars, but sometimes I think that's too nice. The Penalty for Holding is a difficult book to review. It's definitely a book that went in a direction I was not expecting. I will say that I didn't like the way it was written though - and the pace of the book was a bit too jumpy. There were moments in the book that seem to come out of the blue, without any specific explanation. I wasn't a fan of the ending either, because I just felt like it gave a bad representation of being gay. I can't really explain without spoiling the book, so I'll leave it at that.

There is also a case of domestic violence between two gay men that could have been great, but it was very lackluster. The topic wasn't focused on enough or fully addressed in the book, though there's a sense it will be in the future. It's a tricky topic, and it just didn't work for this book.

Obviously I finished the book, so it wasn't completely awful. There were moments that I enjoyed. I just felt like nothing really worked out in the way that I hoped/wanted. Definitely not something I can recommend, I'm afraid.