Friday, September 22, 2017

Rank and File by L.A. Witt

Rank and File (Anchor Point #4) by L.A. Witt

Review by Lauren

Source: copy from Netgalley; all opinions are my own

Official Summary (add on Goodreads - released September 25): Senior Chief Will Curtis is as straitlaced as they come. While his fellow Sailors have partied their way through their enlistments, he’s had his eye on the prize—making master chief and retiring after thirty years of service.
Lieutenant Brent Jameson is a Navy brat turned Annapolis grad. He’s lived and breathed the military his whole life, and he knows he’s destined for great things—once he’s done paying his dues at the bottom of the ladder.

When their paths cross, both men know better than to give in to temptation, but that doesn’t stop them. It also doesn’t keep them from coming back for more, even though being discovered would sink their careers. Something has to give—Will can retire, Brent can resign, or they’ll both face court-martial.

But there’s also the option neither wants to acknowledge: jump ship and walk away from each other instead of ending their careers over a fledgling relationship. And they should probably decide before they fall in love.

Except—too late.

Review: I love the Anchor Point series, and Rank and File is probably one of my top favorites out of the four so far. Senior Chief Will Curtis has been in the Navy for a lot longer than Lieutenant Brent Jameson, but their titles mean that, technically, Brent has rank over Will. It doesn’t exactly seem fair, but it’s the main reason Brent and Will can’t be out together. They meet each other in a slightly awkward situation, but it doesn’t take long before the attraction for each other kicks in. Another chance meeting leads to them hooking up for the first, and what is supposed to be the last, time. Of course, this just leads to them sneaking back and forth into each other’s apartments.

Throughout these clandestine meetings, the two really get to know each other and lust definitely turns into love over time. Of course, there is still the issue of them not being allowed to date. As the summary states, Will could retire – he’s closer to that time – or Brent could resign. Obviously neither of these options seem great since they have both worked a really long time to get where they are, and Brent especially has a lot to lose by giving up his Navy career. I loved Will and Brent together, but there is always the undercurrent of when things are going to blow up, so to speak. Readers will definitely be rooting for some way for the two of them to make it work, and still be happy with their jobs and each other.

Personally, I don’t mind drama in a book, especially when it feels warranted and not too overdone. However, Rank and File doesn’t really have much in the way of drama, at least when it comes to Will and Brent. They understand perfectly the situation they created for themselves, and while they might not be happy about the seemingly inevitable conclusion, they don’t take that out on each other. Definitely a mature relationship that worked well! I can’t wait for Anchor Point #5!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Happy Bisexual Awareness Week!

photo source
It's Bisexual Awareness Week! This is an important week because so many people don't believe that bisexuality exists. This includes people in the LGBT+ community. It's horrible that an already marginalized group has to keep "proving" their existence. So, as someone who identifies as bisexual, let's celebrate those out there under the B umbrella of LGBT+.

In honor of this week, I thought I'd share this post I found on Arctic Books - 25 Books With Bisexual Protagonists. There are so many books on the list that I need to get my hands on - including two that I own but need to read ASAP; those are They Both Die at the End and The Gentlemen's Guide to Vice and Virtue.

Anything on the list you've read, or want to read?

Monday, September 18, 2017

The Quarterback by Mackenzie Blair

The Quarterback by Mackenzie Blair

Review by Lauren

Source: copy from Netgalley; all opinions are my own

Official Summary (add on Goodreads): Matt Lancaster is the star quarterback at Bodine College, a small Southern Division II school with an ultra-conservative Dean of Athletics. Matt is also very much in the closet, and he thinks he’s kept his secret well hidden. Until his best friends take him to a happy endings massage parlor and request a male masseuse for him.

In walks Trevor Kim, a gorgeous, pierced, tattooed fellow Bodine student who does massages—without happy endings—to pay for school after his family kicked him out for being gay. Trevor takes one look at Matt and breaks all his own rules about mixing business with pleasure.

Matt needs to keep his scholarship, win the National Championship, and survive his asshole father. Instead, he falls in love. Trevor needs to accept that the football god is meant to end up with him rather than a perky cheerleader. It’s time for a happy ever after for both of them.

Review: Oh, I really loved this one! The relationship, so to speak, between Matt and Trevor starts off in an unconventional manner but it leads to them both wanting more. Matt is finally learning to deal with his own sexuality, even if he’s afraid to let people know about it. He has a lot on the line – a jerk of a father who could take his sisters away from him, a conservative college that might not care he’s the star quarterback if he’s gay and he needs his scholarship to graduate. There is a lot to lose for Matt. On the other hand, Trevor has already lost a lot, including his own parents. It’s tough sometimes for these two to see the other side. Matt isn’t always sensitive to what Trevor has gone through, and Trevor sometimes forget what Matt is dealing with and how it could harm his future if he comes out too soon.

Despite it not always being easy, these two do work well together, and they have some wonderful friends that make great secondary characters. I loved seeing them push the two guys together when it might seem like their stubborn natures will keep them apart. Plus, they have some hot chemistry, so there are plenty of sexy times…don’t worry!

While neither of the guys have great parents in their lives, they do have extended and “adopted” family that make it known they will always be there for them. I loved this, because even when parents show that their love has limits, there are people out there who will be there for you and love you just as you are. It was great that both Matt and Trevor were able to find and/or realize this by the end of the book.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Rainbow Roundup: LGBT+ Book Giveaways

This is a Rainbow Roundup of sorts - I'm sharing LGBT+ book giveaways on Goodreads. It's been awhile since I've done this, so I figured it was about time!! I'm putting who the giveaways are open to, but even if it's not your country, check out the link to see the summary and if you want to add to your to-read list!

The Bravest Thing by Laura Lascarso - enter here - open to U.S.

All-Out: The No-Longer Secret Stories of Queer Teens Throughout the Ages, an anthology with authors such as Shaun David Hutchinson, Kody Keplinger, and Alex Sanchez - enter here - open to U.S. and Canada

Call Me By Your Name by Andre Aciman - enter here - open to U.S.

Mondays With You by K.J. Lewis - enter here - open to U.S.

Autoboyography by Christina Lauren - enter here - open to U.S.

Romancing the Inventor by Gail Carriger - enter here - open to U.S.

Like Water by Rebecca Podos - enter here - open to U.S.

Club Arcana: Operation Janus by Jon Wilson - enter here - open to U.S., Canada, Great Britain, and Australia

Monday, September 11, 2017

Gone for You by Riley Hart

Gone for You by Riley Hart

Review by Lauren

Source: personal copy; all opinions are my own

Official Summary (add on Goodreads): Oliver Hayes wears his heart on his sleeve, and his friends never let him forget it. Every Friday night spent at Wild Side, their favorite West Hollywood bar, Oliver’s lack of hookups becomes the hot topic. It’s not that he doesn’t want a good time. He just wants it to mean something, which is a lofty goal when he’s still pining after his childhood crush, Matt, who left ten years ago to start a new life in New York City.

Matt Daniels has always felt most at home seated at a piano. He might not have entirely fit in with his family and friends, but he was always able to find himself in music. Or at least he did before he gave up his dream a lifetime ago. Now, he has a successful modeling career and should be enjoying every second of it. Yet nothing feels right, and Matt fears he’s losing himself.

Just when Oliver decides to get over Matt for good, Matt waltzes back into LA. As Matt struggles to understand what he’s missing in his seemingly perfect life, he falls right back into leaning on Oliver for support. Things aren’t what they used to be between them, though. They tumble into bed together, and it’s hard not to continue ending up there. For the first time in years, Matt’s inspired to compose again, reigniting a spark he thought long extinguished.

But as always, Oliver can’t keep his heart in check, and soon Matt realizes he’s gone for Oliver too. The biggest question is, can he fully give himself to someone if he still hasn’t figured out how to love himself?

Review: Gone For You is one of those books that I might rate a bit lower after time, as it’s taken me awhile to write this review. Not that it’s a good read by any means, but it’s not terribly memorable. I felt bad for Matt who is desperate to make something of himself, but on his own. He’s always relied on his best friend Oliver but he doesn’t want to do that, so he takes off for New York after high school graduation. I could understand this and I did root for Matt to find his passion. At the same time, I felt bad for Oliver too. He’s been in love with Matt for years – and even with Matt across the country, he’s still holding a candle for him. I love when friends turn into more, so I did root for the two of them to figure it out and make it work.

I thought the book was well written and I did appreciate some of the other aspect of the book – like how you can choose your family sometimes. Another theme in the book is physical beauty, as Matt finds work as a model, but it’s not something he’s completely okay with. He uses it for his job, but he has anxiety about people looking at him at the same time. He doesn’t think he can offer much else, and I thought Hart did a good job exploring this. It’s not something that just affects women.

All in all, I’d definitely read more by Hart. This wasn’t my favorite m/m book but it was still a pretty solid read. 

Thursday, September 7, 2017

My Coming Out Story

Hey everyone! I hope you're having a great week. I meant to have this posted earlier in the day, so sorry about that.

Anyway, I'm currently sharing my coming out as bisexual guest post over at My Pixie Blog. Feel free to comment over there if you wish - I keep checking back, and I'm sure Charlotte (whose blog it is) would love to see some new names!

You can find my post here.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Risky Behavior and Suspicious Behavior by L.A. Witt and Cari Z.

Risky Behavior by L.A. Witt and Cari Z.
Review by Lauren
Source: personal copy; all opinions are my own
Official Summary (add on Goodreads): It’s day one of Darren Corliss’s career as a detective, and not only has he been assigned a notoriously difficult partner, but the guy might also be a pill-popping dirty cop. Internal Affairs needs proof, and Darren gets to be their eyes and ears whether he wants to or not.
Detective Andreas Ruffner doesn’t play by the rules, and he doesn’t play well with others. With bodies piling up and a list of suspects who are way above his pay grade, the last thing he needs is a wet-behind-the-ears kid for a partner. Or babysitter. Not even if that partner is easy on the eyes.
As Darren gains Andreas’s hard-won trust, they both realize there’s more than just mutual suspicion simmering beneath the surface. But their investigation is heating up as quickly as their relationship, and Darren has no choice but to go along with Andreas’s unorthodox—and borderline unethical—methods. As IA puts the squeeze on Darren to give up the man he’s falling for, he has to wonder—is Andreas the only cop left in this town who isn’t dirty?
Review: I’d seen this book around, but for whatever reason, I didn’t request it when I saw it available for review on Netgalley. However, I purchased a copy not too long ago and decided to finally check it out and oh boy, I do recommend! I love m/m romances that also combine other genres – especially mysteries. That isn’t to say I don’t like straight up contemporary romances, because I do, but sometimes it’s nice to have other things going on. This is one of those age-gap romances that I seem a bit addicted to lately. Darren Corliss is a young detective partnered with Andreas Ruffner whose partners never seem to stick around long. He has a bad reputation for being unagreeable – among other things. Darren isn’t going to back down easy though, and it soon becomes clear that the two guys can trust if each other, if not anyone else in the police department.
People in the department think Andreas is a dirty copy, but Andreas is certain that a lot of other people are actually the dirty ones. He brings Darren in little by little as he starts to get to know and trust him. The two are attracted to each other – Darren is gay and Andreas is bisexual – but it takes a bit of time before they give into said attraction. The mystery definitely powers most of the book, but that’s not a bad thing, unless you really want a lot of romance. However, there is a sequel that continues to follow Darren and Andreas – so you get more!
Dual Book Reviews: Risky Behavior and Suspicious Behavior #mmromanceCLICK TO TWEET
Suspicious Behavior by L.A. Witt and Cari Z.
Review by Lauren
Source: copy from Netgalley; all opinions are my own
Official Summary (add on Goodreads): Detective Darren Corliss is hanging by a thread. In between recovering from a near-fatal wound and returning to work at a hostile precinct, he’s struggling to help care for his ailing brother. His partner and boyfriend, Detective Andreas Ruffner, wants to help, but doesn’t know how. And with his own family crises brewing, Andreas is spread almost as thin as Darren.
For cops, though, life takes a backseat to the job. When a stack of unsolved homicides drops into their laps, Andreas and Darren think they’re unrelated cold cases. But when a connection surfaces, they find themselves on the tail of a prolific serial killer who’s about to strike again.
Except they’ve got nothing. No leads. No suspects. Just a pile of circumstantial evidence and a whole lot of hunches. Time is running out to stop the next murder—and to pull themselves back from their breaking points. 
Review: After the case in Risky Behavior, Darren and Andreas are due for some down time, but that doesn’t happen when they realize that some unsolved murders over the years might actually be the work of a serial killer. It’s early on that they think they have their man, but they can’t do anything without evidence, so much of the book is figuring out how to prove who the killer is before they kill again. It’s a high stakes operation, once again, and it definitely lends itself to some fast reading. I love the mystery and suspense in these! I also like the added side stories, especially concerning the detectives’ families. Readers are introduced to Darren’s brother in the first book but his condition – early onset Alzheimer’s disease – is getting worse and it wears on Darren. As for Andreas, readers finally get to know more about his exes and children, causing some “aww” moments for Darren, who gets to see a different side to Andreas when dealing with his kids, especially his youngest who is only four.
These are some great books! I’d read L.A. Witt before and loved her work, but never anything from Cari Z. so it was cool to see their collaboration. It’s not often m/m books have direct sequels – following the same characters – so I do recommend this series for that alone. I can’t wait for the third book – due out January 1, 2018.

Monday, August 28, 2017

All the Dirty Parts by Daniel Handler

All the Dirty Parts by Daniel Handler
Review by Lauren
source: copy from Netgalley; all opinions are my own
Official Summary: Cole is a boy in high school. He runs cross country, he sketches in a sketchbook, he jokes around with friends. But none of this quite matters, next to the allure of sex. "Let me put it this way," he says, "Draw a number line, with zero is, you never think about sex, and ten is, it's all you think about, and while you are drawing the line, I am thinking about sex." Cole fantasizes about whomever he's looking at. He consumes and shares pornography. And he sleeps with a lot of girls--girls who seem to enjoy it at the time and seem to feel bad about it afterwards. Cole is getting a reputation around school--a not quite savory one--which leaves him adrift and hanging out with his best friend. Which is when something startling begins to happen between them--another kind of adventure, unexpected and hot, that might be what he's been after all this time. And then he meets Grisaille. 
Review: I was really curious about this one, having never read anything by Handler - including his work as Lemony Snicket. However, the writing style is a bit difficult to follow. There are not quotations around people speaking, which isn't a big deal, but this combined with the often short scenes, made the book feel a bit too jumpy and hard to follow. I should note that I was reading an e-ARC, so perhaps a finished copy - especially in novel form - might have been the best bet for me. As for the actual book, there really isn't a story per se. It seems to be more of a look into a high school boy's life.
In All the Dirty Parts, readers get Cole, who loves sex. He thinks about it, talks about it, and has it. Nothing about this is terribly shocking when it comes to teenagers, and I appreciate the honesty Handler shows regarding that. However, there didn't seem to be much beyond that. Yes, he does fall for a girl that almost seems like the female equivalent of him, but he still has issues with seeing females and sex the way he seems males and sex. Basically, it's a case of double standards, and I'm not sure Cole really learns enough by the end of the novel.
I did find his non-relationship with his best friend, Alec, intriguing. Both of them have always watched porn and talked about it, but eventually, they begin incorporating sex into their friendship. It's a non-relationship though because Cole doesn't want anymore than that. He's not gay, and maybe he's not. It's just sex for him. But it's a dynamic in their friendship that doesn't work when Alec develops actual feelings. All in all, this was just okay for me. I probably finished it more because it was short than because I really enjoyed it throughout. 

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Etsy Pride: One Benefits a Good Cause

I think it's about time for another Etsy Pride - if you aren't aware of what this means, it's a feature where I share LGBT+ and rainbow themed pride items that you can buy on Etsy.

Before I get there though - do you have an account on Ebates? You can get cash back on so many online purchases - anything on Etsy actually counts- and if you sign up for an account with my link, make a $25 purchase one of the thousand online shops, you'll automatically get $10 (I'll get money too so win-win). My link is here.

Rainbow Pride LGBT Lip Scrub from Etsy shop Deluxe Diva Delights - the flavor is sherbert and you can get it for $9.99.

How fun is this? I really like the colors throughout. Proceeds for this lip scrub go to survivors and families of the victims of the Orlando Pulse Night Club shooting. Great cause!

I know most of you like to read, so how about this Rainbow Heart book tote? It's from Etsy shop Snarky Pink Tees and you can get it for $24.95 - there is a choice of a canvas or a black tote.


How fun are these? Would you choose one of these items for your own collection?

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Rainbow Roundup: Gentlemen's Guide to the Edge of the Universe

I have been reading a lot of LGBT+ books, so I promise more reviews are coming - as well as some other fun posts!

For What It's Worth reviewed The Gentlemen's Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee (BI MC, YA, Historical Fiction)

Arctic Books reviewed At the Edge of the Universe by Shaun David Hutchinson (YA, sci-fi)

Kissin Blue Karen reviewed Release by Patrick Ness (YA, Gay MC)

Wonderland's Reader reviewed The Gentlemen's Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee (Bi MC, YA, Historical Fiction)

Happily Ever Chapter reviewed Takeover by Anna Zabo (Two Gay MC's, Adult)

For What It's Worth also reviewed Last Seen Leaving by Caleb Roehrig (YA mystery, Gay MC)

Monday, August 14, 2017

Dirty Deeds by HelenKay Dimon

Dirty Deeds by HelenKay Dimon
Review by Lauren
source: copy from Netgalley; all opinions are my own
Official Summary (add on Goodreads)Alec Drummond didn’t make his billions by playing nice—or by playing much at all. When it comes to pleasure, Alec only has time for whatever’s quick and easy, which is exactly what he gets from his company’s hot new computer genius. But Gaige Owens isn’t some pushover. He pushes back, and it’s giving Alec a rush. The question is, could Gaige be the one who’s leaking trade secrets? Just to be safe, Alec keeps him close at hand . . . night and day.
Gaige never thought he’d roll over for a man like Alec again, but who could resist sex this mind-blowing? Then there’s the draw of Alec’s mysterious side: his cutthroat ambition, his covert CIA connections, and the murder in his past. For Gaige, a deeper look proves an irresistible temptation. But when Gaige and Alec are stripped of their defenses by an unseen danger, everything they don’t know could bring them closer together—or tear them apart. Only one thing is certain: Before it’s all over, someone’s going down.
Review: Dimon has a trilogy called the Tough Love series (links to my reviews – Mr. and Mr. SmithThe Talented Mr. Rivers, and Guarding Mr. Fine) and while you don’t need to read those before starting Dirty Deeds, Alec Drummond is a character that appears. If you have read the Tough Love series, then you definitely need to continue with this one. This book (including the previous series) is full of suspense, mystery, weapons, and possible injury. Alec is the head of a billion dollar company, and he doesn’t get along with most people, his brothers the main exceptions. He helps the CIA when it suits him, but he’s not happy when CIA agent Seth has Gaige Owens enter his work and hack into his system. Now Gaige is being forced to work for Seth, and Alec doesn’t trust either of them, so he’s keeping a close eye on Gaige…so close, Gaige is staying at his place.
Alec and Gaige are different in ways, but oh so wonderful for each other. The chemistry is intense and it doesn’t take long for their “work” relationship to turn physical. Neither of them expect to truly trust each other though, but as the book continues, it becomes clear that they might be the only people either of them can truly trust. After all, neither of them appreciate being told what to do by the CIA.
Dimon is a great author, and I will happily keep reading her work. You’re to fly through these pages! It’s a perfect mix of plot/mystery and romance/passion. Give me the sequel already!
On a different note, I’m celebrating 10 years this month so I’m doing random giveaways and I want to make sure you know about them.
Twitter Giveaway: Follow me and RT original link to win anything Harry Potter related $12 and under from The Book Depository. Open INT’L if TBD ships to you. Ends August 16th. Enter here – it’s the pinned tweet at the top!
Instagram Giveaway: Follow me, like the post, and tag a friend in the comments to enter to win a book (extra entry if you share the post and leave another comment). Two winners – each person gets one book of choice – and it’s open to U.S. only. Giveaway ends August 31. You can win Pop Goes the Weasel, Black-Eyed Susans, or the novel version of Broadchurch. I’ve read and enjoyed all of these (they are all mystery novels!). Post to enter here.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Permanent Ink by Avon Gale and Piper Vaughn

Permanent Ink by Avon Gale and Piper Vaughn

Review by Lauren

source: copy from Netgalley; all opinions are my own

Official SummaryAt twenty-three, Poe Montgomery is going nowhere. He still lives in his father’s basement and spends most of his time tagging with his friends. When an arrest lands him in debt, Poe accepts the front desk job at Permanent Ink, the tattoo shop owned by his father’s best friend, Jericho McAslan. Jericho is nearly twice Poe’s age, but with his ink and prematurely graying hair, he quickly takes the starring role in Poe’s hottest fantasies.

Jericho is known for his ability to transform poorly designed tattoos into works of art, but he was once as aimless and misdirected as Poe. Wanting to pay it forward the way someone once did for him, Jericho makes Poe his apprentice and is determined to keep things strictly professional. Easier said than done when Poe makes his interest—and his daddy kink—abundantly clear.

Jericho can’t resist Poe or their intense chemistry for long. But between the age gap, tension with Poe’s father, and Poe’s best friend calling him a sellout, they’ll need to ensure they’re both on the same page before they can rewrite their rocky start into something permanent.

Review: I really liked this one! Despite not having any tattoos myself, I find them fascinating and I enjoy books that focus on them. Poe ends up getting an apprenticeship at Jericho's tattoo shop, because Jericho got a second chance as a young kid and he wants to help someone else. Poe isn't that grateful or interested in the beginning, but he already likes to draw and paint with graffiti, so it isn't long before he realizes what a meaningful art form tattooing can be. Of course, around this same time, Poe and Jericho realize they are both attracted to each other. Not only do they have a big age gap - but Jericho is Poe's dad's best friend. Complicated? Yes, indeed.

Of course, it wouldn't be a romance if these two didn't get together and they do! Their chemistry is fantastic and while Poe likes to use the word "daddy" when it comes to sex, he's not looking for another father figure in his life. I liked that the authors explored this dynamic. Because Jericho is older than Poe, he finds himself wanting to steer Poe in a certain direction and he has to realize that he's Poe's boyfriend. He can't tell him what to do. 

I also really liked the relationship between Poe and his best friend Blue (yes, it's his real name). Not that it was entirely healthy, but it was portrayed well. Poe is finally finding stability in his life, but Blue's not and it leads to a lot of issues between them that affect more than just them. 

Finally, I should note that yes, Poe's name comes from Edgar Allan Poe and I think it's fantastic. In fact, Poe uses Raven as his graffiti name and tends to paint a lot of skulls and ravens. 

Apparently this is the first in the Art and Soul series, so I'm curious to see what comes next! 

Monday, August 7, 2017

Making It by Christine D'Abo

Making It by Christine D'Abo 

Review by Lauren

source: copy from Netgalley; all opinions are my own

Official Summary: Devan knows exactly what he wants from life: a good career, a husband who loves him, and a child to call his own. He’s working at the perfect job, and has found the man of his dreams in Eli. That only leaves one box left to tick. When his friend offers to be a surrogate mother for Devan and Eli, he’s convinced all his dreams have come true.

Eli has been fighting his entire life. Fighting to keep his sick mother safe, fighting his frustration, and fighting daily as an up-and-coming MMA star. The one thing he can’t fight is the feeling that he’s made a terrible mistake agreeing to be a father with Devan. On the worst night of their lives, Eli knows Devan is better off without him, and leaves.

When Eli returns three years later he comes face-to-face with Devan and a son who might be his. Devan has moved on with his life, but seeing Eli once again reignites forgotten passion. Yet if Eli wants to make it work with Devan, he must decide if he’s ready for the biggest fight of his life.

Review: This is the third book in the Ringside Romance series. While I did enjoy Making It, it's probably my least favorite in the series. I just felt that things moved a bit fast. I love a second chance romance, but Devan seemed to forgive a little too easily when it comes to Eli walking out on him three previous prior. I did appreciate Eli's friends being honest with him about how he didn't treat Devan right. That's one thing that Eli definitely knows, but he's trying to prove to Devan that they can still be together. Of course, that's still difficult when Eli is an up and coming MMA fighter who nobody knows is gay. 

I do love both guys and I want it to work, of course, but I guess I hoped there would be a more of a wait or Eli would have to do more to prove himself. At any rate, this is a fun series, and I would still recommend you check them all out. You can read them out of order, but you see the previous couples in each  subsequent book so reading them in order would help you understand them more! 

Interested in the other books? Working It is the first in the series (my book review here) and Faking It is the second in the series (my book review here). 

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

We Now Return to Regular Life by Martin Wilson

We Now Return to Regular Life by Martin Wilson

Review by Lauren

source: copy from ALA 17; all opinions are my own

Official Summary (add on Goodreads)Sam Walsh had been missing for three years. His older sister, Beth, thought he was dead. His childhood friend Josh thought it was all his fault. They were the last two people to see him alive.

Until now. Because Sam has been found, and he’s coming home. Beth desperately wants to understand what happened to her brother, but her family refuses to talk about it—even though Sam is clearly still affected by the abuse he faced at the hands of his captor.

And as Sam starts to confide in Josh about his past, Josh can’t admit the truths he’s hidden deep within himself: that he’s gay, and developing feelings for Sam. And, even bigger: that he never told the police everything he saw the day Sam disappeared. 

As Beth and Josh struggle with their own issues, their friends and neighbors slowly turn on Sam, until one night when everything explodes. Beth can’t live in silence. Josh can’t live with his secrets. And Sam can’t continue on until the whole truth of what happened to him is out in the open.

Review: There really isn't a review that I could write for this book that would do it justice. I will say that you should go in knowing this book is told in Josh and Beth's point of views, but I felt like you got to know Sam through them, as well as what he went through. I think it was an interesting choice not to give Sam's point of view, but a good one. It would have been a vastly different novel if Sam was telling readers what he went through for those years he was missing. With Josh and Beth's story, it's still sad and upsetting, but they also bring a source of hope and light to the book. They both have different ways of viewing Sam and his disappearance, and it really shows that when something like this happens, it affects a variety of people in different ways. 

Like I said, this is a difficult book to review, so I'm not going to ramble too much. Just know that it's a 5 star read for me. It felt wonderfully realistic and the characters acted like real people - the good and the bad. Nothing is easy, not even a reunion of this sort because there is still the past to deal with. This book is about what happens when something miraculous occurs and then life continues. This is the "happily ever after" part of the book. I love the title - it's definitely suiting! Check this one out now - add it to Goodreads, order your own copy, ask your library for it. 

*this review is being shared here because Josh is gay, and it's an important aspect of the book*

Monday, July 31, 2017

Barrel Proof by Layla Reyne

Barrel Proof by Layla Reyne

Review by Lauren

source: copy from Netgalley; all opinions are my own

Official Summary (Add on Goodreads): FBI agents Aidan "Irish" Talley and Jameson "Whiskey" Walker can't get a moment's peace. Their hunt for the terrorist Renaud seems to be nearing an end, until a fire allows him to slip through their fingers—and puts Jamie's life in danger. When Jamie is nearly killed, Aidan learns how many forms loss can take. 

Aidan says I love you just moments before learning that Jamie's been keeping a devastating secret about Aidan's late husband. How quickly trust and love can go up in flames. When Aidan requests a solo undercover assignment, Jamie hopes Aidan will find a way to forgive him. 

But the explosions are far from over. Aidan's cover lands him in the heart of the terrorist's conspiracy, and Jamie will have to put his life, his career and his freedom on the line to save the man who has become his entire world. Partners, always is a promise he intends to keep.

Review: Barrel Proof is the third and final book in the Irish and Whiskey series. The first is Single Malt, followed by Cask Strength. When I got Cask Strength for review, I didn't realize there was a book before it, but it was easy to follow and I found myself falling for this FBI duo. Again, I might not have read Single Malt, but the last two in the series - including Barrel Proof- are fantastic. It's full of mystery and suspense, as well as healthy does of betrayal. Obviously not wants to be betrayed, but Barrel Proof shows how some can be forgiven, while others are beyond that.

I like how each book has Aidan's and Jamie's relationship growing and becoming stronger. In Barrel Proof, they are faced with betrayal between the two of them and it tests their relationship. I love when authors have realistic relationships in books. It makes me fall for the characters - and their romance - that much more.

Of course, Barrel Proof (and the rest of the series) is more than just a romance. As I said earlier, there is a lot of mystery and suspense in this one. Lives are on the line. It's action-packed and a quick read. I would definitely recommend these books! 

Barrel Proof comes out next Monday, August 7th. Pre-order it now! 

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Rainbow Roundup: I Stand With Transgender Americans

I'm really saddened about the news that the U.S. government has banned transgender men and women from joining the military. This is wrong - it's highly un-American in my opinion - and I'm so sorry to everyone that identifies as transgender. I don't care if you wanted to join the military or not, if you are transgender, this is a horrible knock to your rights. I really want to do a post - or more - about this decisions. Whether you are transgender or not, American or not, please let me know if you want to share your thoughts. It doesn't have to be terribly long!

Now, on a lighter note...some LGBT+ posts around the blogosphere:

Ivy Book Bindings reviewed The Gentlemen's Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee (YA, bisexual MC, historical fiction)

Novel Ink has a a post about her favorite books that feature f/f romances in honor of Pride Month - which was in June

My So-Called Chaos has a lovely post about Rainbow Outfits for Pride Month this past June

Books for a Delicate Eternity reviewed The Gentlemen's Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee (YA, bisexual MC, historical fiction)

Diva Booknerd reviewed They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera (mix of contemporary/science fiction, YA, bisexual MC)

Books for a Delicate Eternity reviewed The Art of Starving by Sam J. Miller (YA, gay MC)

Boricuan Bookworms reviewed Pounding Skin by L.A. Witt (Adult, Gay and Bi MC's)

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.