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!


-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.


-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!!

Friday, November 3, 2017

Antisocial by Heidi Cullinan

Antisocial by Heidi Cullinan 

Review by Lauren

source: copy from Netgalley; all opinions are my own

Official Summary (add on Goodreads): Xander Fairchild can’t stand people in general and frat boys in particular, so when he’s forced to spend his summer working on his senior project with Skylar Stone, a silver-tongued Delta Sig with a trust fund who wants to make Xander over into a shiny new image, Xander is determined to resist. He came to idyllic, Japanese culture-soaked Benten College to hide and make manga, not to be transformed into a corporate clone in the eleventh hour. 

Skylar’s life has been laid out for him since before he was born, but all it takes is one look at Xander’s artwork, and the veneer around him begins to crack. Xander himself does plenty of damage too. There’s something about the antisocial artist’s refusal to yield that forces Skylar to acknowledge how much his own orchestrated future is killing him slowly…as is the truth about his gray-spectrum sexuality, which he hasn’t dared to speak aloud, even to himself.

Through a summer of art and friendship, Xander and Skylar learn more about each other, themselves, and their feelings for one another. But as their senior year begins, they must decide if they will part ways and return to the dull futures they had planned, or if they will take a risk and leap into a brightly colored future—together.

Review: I'd only read a couple reviews of Antisocial before reading the book - and they were mostly positive. I really liked the book, and I thought certain aspects were handled well. However, after reading the book, I realized that a lot of people have strong issues with the asexuality and love for Japanese culture in this book (many refer to it as fetishism). Now, this doesn't really change what I thought of the book when I read it, but I can see some of their concerns looking back, though not all of them. I still really enjoyed Antisocial and I thought the friendships were done really well - as well as the relationship between Xander and Skylar. Honestly, I think this is a case of read it for yourself - people might have issues, and they are good to keep in mind, but I would never tell someone NOT to read something just because myself or others have problems with it. 

At any rate, I ADORE Carry the Ocean and Shelter the Sea by this author and would highly recommend you check those out, if nothing else!