Monday, May 28, 2018

It's Time to Say Goodbye

Hey everyone!

I know I haven't been around much, and I apologize for that. Unfortunately, I've decided to stop utilizing this blog. I will continue to write about LGBT+ topics - including lots of book reviews - on ShootingStarsMag. If you aren't already following me there, please do! I'd love to still keep in touch and as always, I'll be visiting your blogs and commenting. I'm not going anywhere - I'll just be posting strictly on ShootingStarsMag instead of on both blogs.

Why am I moving to just one blog?

1. I've been able to blog less and less here, and I don't want a blog that's only a few posts a month. I'd rather turn all my energy to just the one blog - where I blog practically five days a week, every week.

2. With all the new GDPR compliancy restrictions, it's been a bit stressful figuring out what I needed to do and then adding all those new things to ShootingStarsMag. I haven't done anything anything with this blog, and I'm not going to, as I will no longer be using it. I'm not deleting the blog though - you can still come here and look at old posts. I'll keep updating my blog list in the sidebar because it's how I keep track of new posts from bloggers I love. I don't want to figure out where else to keep these blogs (yes, I do follow most of them via Bloglovin, etc. - but this is seriously handier sometimes!)

Anyway, I just wanted to thank everyone for reading and/or commenting all these years. It's been great sharing my love for all things LGBT+ and that won't stop because I'll keep posting about it on ShootingStarsMag too.

Please follow me there?

Best (and remember - let's get beyond tolerance!!!)


Monday, May 14, 2018

Lock Nut by J.L. Merrow

Lock Nut by J. L. Merrow

Review by Lauren

source: copy from Netgalley; all opinions are my own

Official Summary: Read it on Goodreads if you're okay with some slight spoilers! 

Review: If you've been reading my blog for awhile now, then I know that I love the Plumber's Mate Mysteries series and Lock Nut is number 5. I do think these books are best read in order. Each one focuses on a new, complete mystery, but at the same time, you get to know more about some of the characters as you read the books - especially main characters, Tom and Phil, who are in a relationship. I love seeing their relationship grow and change through the books, which made it seem really realistic. As for the mysteries, Phil is a private investigator and Tom has a "power" of sorts that lets him feel the emotions of a person who has deliberately hidden something; so, say that something is a body - it would probably have a really strong, bad feeling attached to it (and it would feel guilty if the person felt bad). This power comes in handy in each book to help solve various crimes, but it's not necessarily something that Tom loves.

As the books progress, more and more people find out about this gift and they don't always understand that he's not a psychic in the "traditional" sense where he can see the future or find anything (it has to be deliberately hidden). Lock Nut's mystery surrounds a guy who has most likely been murdered, and Tom was just seen the previous day chasing him around Camden Market in order to deliver a package. Therefore, many believe that Tom is Tom and Phil do get involved, but in order to find out who the real culprit was, and boy, did I not see this one coming! Maybe it will be obvious to some - I can never say - but I do think the motive will surprise many, and that's just as interesting as the who, right?

One thing that I really loved about this book is all the mentions of Camden Market - where the deceased used to work - because this is somewhere that I actually visited when I went to London. It was nice to recognize the landscape and picture my time there. If you ever go to London, I recommend checking out Camden Market.

It looks like Lock Nut might be the final book in the series, but I'd really love to hear more about Tom and Phil and all their crazy adventures. I don't usually care if I have a physical copy of most e-books that I read, but I honestly wish I had actual copies of this series that I could keep on my shelves. I might have to invest in those! Hopefully that will tell you just how much I enjoyed these books! Read them!

Friday, May 4, 2018

Life of Bliss by Erin McLellan

Life of Bliss by Erin McLellan
Review by Lauren
source: copy from Netgalley; all opinions are my own
Official Summary (add on Goodreads)Nobody plans to accidentally marry their frenemy with benefits.
Todd McGower and Victor Consuelos do not like each other. They can’t have a conversation without insults flying, and Victor seems to get off on pushing Todd’s buttons. The fact that their antagonism always leads to explosive sex . . . well, that’s their little secret.
Victor has a secret of his own. His full-blown crush on Todd is ruining his sex life. He hasn’t looked at anyone else in months, and he’s too hung up on Todd to find a date to his cousin’s wedding.
In a moment of weakness after a heart-stopping night together, Todd agrees to be Victor’s fake boyfriend for the wedding. Victor will have his plus-one—which will get his family off his back—and Todd will get a free mini-vacation. It’s a win-win.
But pretending to be fake boyfriends leads to real intimacy, which leads to too much wine, and suddenly, Todd and Victor wake up with wedding bands and a marriage license between them. That was not their plan, but a summer of wedded bliss might just change their minds.
Review: When I requested to read Life of Bliss, I didn’t realize it was the companion novel to Life on Pause. Luckily, I’d already read the latter (my review here). If you have not, you could still read Life of Bliss as a stand-alone as it explains how Victor and Todd met each other (through mutual friends – Life on Pause is about them). I really like the friends to lovers and enemies to lovers tropes when it comes to romance, but what’s especially intriguing about Life of Bliss is that it mixes both of these. It’s almost enemies to friends – get married one drunken day – and then friends to lovers. For me, it really worked, and I definitely rooted for Todd and Victor to open up more and more to each other and make it work.
I really liked that Victor and Todd already had a history with each other. They worked physically together, so Life on Bliss was more about them opening up emotionally and realizing that they actually liked each other. I thought it was kind of fun to see them navigate a new marriage, after having drunkenly tied the knot (and signed the papers -so it’s legal). It’s not always easy for them as they are really different people, and Todd ends up moving away from the people and life he knows to live with Victor (it’s not very far, but it’s still a big adjustment).
As we’re officially into Spring, I think this book about a newly married couple is the perfect book to dive into!

Monday, April 30, 2018

White Rabbit by Caleb Roehrig

White Rabbit by Caleb Roehrig 
Review by Lauren
source: ARC from Karen at For What It’s Worth (thanks, Karen!)
Official Summary (add to Goodreads): Rufus Holt is having the worst night of his life. It begins with the reappearance of his ex-boyfriend, Sebastian—the guy who stomped his heart out like a spent cigarette. Just as Rufus is getting ready to move on, Sebastian turns up out of the blue, saying they need to “talk.” Things couldn’t get much worse, right?
But then Rufus gets a call from his sister April, begging for help. And then he and Sebastian find her, drenched in blood and holding a knife, beside the dead body of her boyfriend, Fox Whitney.
April swears she didn’t kill Fox—but Rufus knows her too well to believe she’s telling him the whole truth. April has something he needs, though, and her price is his help. Now, with no one to trust but the boy he wants to hate yet can’t stop loving, Rufus has one night to prove his sister’s innocence…or die trying.
Review: Oh, I just loved this one. White Rabbit is the second book by Roehrig (and I loved that one too – my review of Last Seen Leaving can be found here). I’m a big fan of mysteries, and it’s always exciting when there’s a YA release, because I don’t read a lot of them for this age group. Honestly, I never really guessed the ultimate culprit – I had some “maybes” as the truth was fast approaching, but overall, this one kept me wondering throughout the book.
It’s told solely through the point of view of Rufus, whose ex-boyfriend (well, secret ex-boyfriend) shows up wanting to talk…and then before he can say what’s on his mind, Rufus’ half sister April calls him. This sends Rufus and Sebastian to the party April is at, only to find nobody else there but April and her boyfriend, Fox Whitney…who is, you know, dead.
This book takes place over one really long night, and I thought it worked well. The reasoning for Rufus not calling the police right away made sense to me, and don’t worry, the police do ultimately become involved. Before this though, Rufus, Sebastian, and April set out to try and figure out just who might have killed Fox and tried to pin it on April. Oh, and Sebastian still needs to tell Rufus what’s on his mind.
I really liked Rufus and Sebastian together; it’s obvious they both really care about each other, and yes, Sebastian did some stupid stuff in the past and hurt more than just Rufus, but I could understand where he was coming from. There’s a scene later in the book, pertaining to Sebastian, that is especially emotional and lovely. I also really enjoyed the dynamics of Rufus’ family. His dad wants nothing to do with him, he has a sadistic older brother, and a younger sister (April) who seems to like him okay, but Rufus knows he can’t always count on her. It’s an interesting mix and it added a lot of intrigue to the story.
White Rabbit is full of lies, half-truths, and plenty of suspense. I’ll happily read anything Roehrig publishes at this point.
Still need to read Roehrig’s debut, Last Seen Leaving? Again, check out my review!

Monday, April 23, 2018

Medley by Layla Reyne

Medley by Layla Reyne

Review by Lauren

source: copy from Netgalley; all opinions are my own

Official Summary (add to Goodreads): Sebastian Stewart was never Mr. Dependable; he was more the good-time guy who only wanted to swim, party, and ink tattoos. Until he cost his team the Olympic gold four years ago. Bas is determined to do right this time around—by his medley relay team and his rookie mentee.

Jacob Burrows is in over his head. The Olympic experience—from the hazing, to the endless practices, to the unrelenting media—makes the shy nineteen-year-old’s head spin. He’s trying to be everything to everyone while trying not to fall for his gorgeous tattooed teammate who just gets him—gets his need to fix things, his dorky pirate quips, and his bisexuality.

When Jacob falters under the stress, threatening his individual races and the medley relay gold, he needs Bas’s help to escape from drowning. Bas, however, fearing a repeat of his mistakes four years ago, pushes Jacob away, sure he’ll only let Jacob down. But the only path to salvaging gold is for Jacob to finally ask for what he needs—the heart of the man he loves—and for Bas to become the dependable one.

Review: I love Layla Reyne, and I highly recommend her books. Medley is the second book in what I believe is a duology called Changing Lanes. Readers meet Sebastian - Bas - and Jacob in the first book, Relay, which focuses on two other members of their Olympic swimming team. First off, I love the setting of the Olympics. I know we just had the Winter Olympics, and swimming is a Summer sport, but it was still fun to read this book around actual Olympic time. While you can easily read just Medley, as events in Relay are explained/summed up, I do think both books are really good, so it's your choice! While I really liked Medley, and I would recommend the book, I do know that some readers might get frustrated with the back and forth between Bas and Jacob, though it's really just Bas' fault.

However, it made sense to me because Bas is trying to make up for something he did in the previous Olympics and not let his team down, while also trying to take care of Jacob, who is a first time Olympic swimmer. When it's obvious that Jacob wants more, Bas has a hard time saying no - because he wants more too. However, he also thinks he's going to ruin things for his teammates if he gives in too much, so it's a lot of pushing Jacob away, believing Jacob is better off without him anyway, since he has so much still ahead of him (there is a bit of an age difference here; Jacob is 19 and Bas is later 20's I believe).

Despite the back and forth, I was still intrigued by the story and I knew Bas and Jacob would get it together at some point. I'd say the first book is more 4 stars, and this is 3.5, but that doesn't mean I didn't highly enjoy both of them!!

Friday, April 20, 2018

Etsy Pride: Love, Simon Edition!

I'm back with another Etsy Pride! Today, I'm sharing some fun Love, Simon (or Simon Vs. the Homo-Sapiens Agenda) items that you can buy on Etsy today. I'd love any of these!! As always, these images are from Etsy; I do NOT own any of them.

Love, Simon t-shirt - you can buy this shirt for $15.29 from Seventh Society in Canada.

I love the look of this shirt. It's simple and understated, but I like that! Plus, the red color is bright and fun - perfect for the upcoming summer.

Simon Vs. inspired candle that smells like chocolate cookies! You can get a 9 oz. jar for $12.50 courtesy of Little Crow Candles of Florida.

I'm curious what a chocolate cookie candle would smell like, though it's obviously in honor of Simon's love of Oreos. I wish there was an image of the actual candle, but regardless, it sounds like a fun gift for any fan!

Custom Simon Spier Funko Pop from MK Workshop Treasures. Since this is custom made, it does cost $35, but honestly, that's not too bad!

I'm always in awe of people who make their own Funko Pops, and I love that they are often book characters - since they don't normally get their own Funkos. I'd love to have Simon for my collection, and it says Blue is on his way!

Simon Vs. Miniature Book Magnet - courtesy of A Magnetic Library based in Arkansas. One magnet is $4.50. 

How cute is this 3-D magnet? I love that it really looks like a book, with the pages on the sides and everything! Plus, it's not that expensive and you can get other books if you aren't a fan of Simon Vs. (or even if you are!) I think I need a few of these!! 

There aren't a ton of Love, Simon/Simon Vs. items on Etsy (YET), but there are some others so definitely go searching if none of these catch your eye! 

Would you purchase any of these, for yourself or a friend? Tell me! 

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Squared Away by Annabeth Albert

Squared Away by Annabeth Albert

Review by Lauren

source: copy from Netgalley; all opinions are my own

Official Summary (add to Goodreads): In the wake of tragedy, SEAL Mark Whitley rushed stateside to act as guardian to his sister’s three young children. But a conflicting will could give custody to someone else—someone Mark remembers as a too young, too hot, wild party boy. Even after six years, Mark can’t shake the memory of his close encounter with Isaiah James, or face up to what it says about his own sexuality.

Isaiah’s totally over the crush that made him proposition Mark all those years ago. In fact, he’s done with crushing on the wrong men altogether. For now, he’s throwing himself into proving he’s the best person to care for his cousin’s kids. But there’s no denying there’s something sexy about a big, tough military man with a baby in his arms.

As the legal details get sorted out, their long-buried attraction resurfaces, leading to intimate evenings after the kids are tucked in. A forever future is within reach for all of them, if only Mark can find the courage he needs to trust Isaiah with his secrets—and his heart.

Review: Squared Away is the fifth book in the Out of Uniform series and I just loved it so much! This book just really pulls at your heartstrings. Isaiah's cousin - who is more like his brother - and Mark's sister are married and when they die in a car accident, the two men are left with three kids. Except, there are conflicting thoughts via the wills as to who exactly is meant to look after them. Mark has a strong sense of duty and as a navy doctor, he doesn't let go of control well. He believes that he should look after the kids because it's his sister, he's older, and he still very much sees Isaiah as a teenager with a crush on him. Isaiah's a lot different than Mark gives him credit for though, and the book really does explore their slowly budding relationship.

One of the things that I really loved about Squared Away is that Mark is gray ace (which essentially is between asexuality and sexuality). Mark has never been interested in intimate relationships until Isaiah, which is why he's never had a relationship work in the past. However, being with Isaiah doesn't magically mean he wants to have sex with him all the time. I liked how the author explored Mark's sexuality, especially since he was trying to figure it out as the book went along as well. Isaiah was really sweet and patient, and he never pushed Mark for more. Just having Mark was enough for him, which should be how any relationship is, whether the couple has a lot of sex or not. That can be the the whole basis of a relationship after all.

There is a bit of drama, but I thought it was realistic in terms of the situation and the character's personalities, but I also really like how Mark and Isaiah try and work things out in as mature a way as possible - at least in front of the kids. Those kids are definitely the ones they worry about the most in all the chaos of finding them their new "forever family" if you will.

I do recommend this series. You can read these as stand-alones, but some of the previous characters do show up here and there throughout.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Kiss the Boy by Keiynan Lonsdale

It's been awhile since I've shared some music, and I'm really loving this song, so I thought I'd see what you all thought!

This song is called "Kiss the Boy" by singer/actor Keiynan Lonsdale, who played Bram in the movie Love, Simon. This video shows Keiynan in the very beginning and end, but it's really more of a lyric video.

What does that mean? Well, the lyrics are displayed on the screen throughout, which is awesome, because it helps you learn the song better. But the rest of it is put together from various videos that couples submitted. You have girls/girls, boys/boys, boy/girl, etc.

I really love this song and how it promotes self-acceptance and just being happy. It's just all about love, and it's so catchy too!

What do you think?

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Once Burned by L.A. Witt

Once Burned by L.A. Witt

Review by Lauren

source: copy from Netgalley; all opinions are my own

Official Summary (add to Goodreads): Captain Mark Thomas’s world has been tossed on its head: A long overdue but still unexpected divorce. A promotion out of left field. Last-second orders to a ship where careers go to die. As the dust settles in his new home, he barely recognizes his life, but he sure recognizes the loneliness creeping in.

Diego Ramírez wants nothing to do with the military or its men. Not after the Navy burned him both literally and figuratively, costing him his career, his health, and ultimately his green card. Now working illegally in an Anchor Point bar, he keeps the military and its personnel at arm’s length.
But after a single moment of eye contact across the bar, Mark and Diego can’t resist each other. As a one-night stand quickly turns into more, Diego knows he’s playing with fire. Now he can stick around and let things with Mark inevitably fall apart, or he can run like hell and wonder what might have been. One way or another, Diego knows he’s about to get burned. Again.

Review: Once Burned is the 6th book in the Anchor Point series, and these are still some of my favorite books. Each book is its own stand-alone, but if you want to read them in order, previous couples/characters do continuously show up throughout the series. For example, in Once Burned, Diego's best friend is Dalton, whose book was the 5th in the series, Going Overboard. If you remember my review for Going Overboard, I mentioned that I wished I had more of the actual relationship in the book, and I definitely got that with Once Burned. Diego is wary to get involved with an Navy guy, because he used to be in the Navy and now he has no green card and could easily get deported back to Mexico. So he tries to keep his head down, working in a bar under the table, and not hooking up with Navy guys. Until Mark enters the bar and he breaks his rule for one night...that turns into many more.

I admired Diego a lot for everything he had dealt with after having served the U.S. in the Navy for years and even being injured. I didn't realize that people in the military who didn't have citizenship or lost their green card could be deported. That's seriously messed up - to have someone fight for your country and then kick them out. I love that "50% of the author’s royalties from this book will be donated to charities supporting US military veterans who have been deported or are at risk of deportation" so I'd definitely purchase this book if you love the series or are at all interested in reading them! It helps a great cause.

Anyway, back to the book. Diego has already been through a lot, but as he starts to fall for Mark, he does decide to give it a chance to see if he can make things work, despite Mark being in the Navy. As for Mark, he's just out of a divorce and excited to be with someone he really connects with, but at the same time, he does understand where Diego is coming from and he wishes things could be different. He knows that Diego might leave him at any moment, but he still holds on and hopes that they can make it work too.

I thought this book was really well done and focused on a topic about the military that I didn't even realize was an issue, and I'm sure many others didn't either!

Friday, April 6, 2018

Hard Line by Sidney Bell

Hard Line by Sidney Bell

Review by Lauren

source: copy from Netgalley; all opinions are my own

Official Summary (add to Goodreads): Premed student Tobias Benton is making amends for his past. He keeps his head down, mouth shut and colors within the lines. But when his close friend Ghost goes missing, Tobias will do whatever it takes to get answers—including using blackmail to enlist some help. The last thing he’s looking for is romance.

Private investigator Sullivan Tate isn’t above a little breaking and entering to solve a case, but when Tobias catches him in the act, it’s almost game over. Their uneasy alliance only gets more complicated when Sullivan learns that Tobias shares his interest in kink. Mixing sex and work could kill Sullivan’s career, but Tobias’s acceptance of Sullivan’s darkest urges is nearly impossible to resist.
Side by side, Tobias and Sullivan spend their days searching for the truth and their nights fulfilling their respective fantasies. But the answers they seek are far more dangerous than they realize, and soon they find themselves fighting for more than just each other.

Review: This is the second book in the Woodbury Boys series. It's okay if you want to read this on its own, but I do kind of recommend reading the books in order. You meet Tobias in the first one, but you also get a lot of needed back story for the plot in Hard Line. However, I also really loved Hard Line a lot more than the first book, Loose Cannon, so if you find yourself a bit "meh" about the first book, try and read on! Now, Tobias is someone who almost always tries to do what's expected of him. He loves his family but they can also be really suffocating. When his friend, Ghost, goes missing, he ends up hiring private investigator Sullivan Tate, whose current case coincides with Tobias' interests. The two don't really start out on good terms, as Tobias is essentially blackmailing Sullivan to help him.

However, the two do start to get to know each other better during the investigation and an a relationship of sorts starts. I thought the relationship was handled well, because Sullivan doesn't just suddenly forget how the two started working together. He's not okay with Tobias blackmailing him. As time goes on though, the two begin to work with each other a lot better and the relationship really works. I should also note that they have a bdsm relationship of sorts, though pretty much only when it comes to sex. Sullivan doesn't want Tobias to submit in everyday life, and Tobias is definitely not going to do that as he's done it throughout most of his life already. However, when it comes to their intimate relationship, the bdsm aspects work well for them, and I thought it was portrayed safely, which is a positive.

I don't know if there will be a third book, but I do think the answer will be yes, and I hope that it features Ghost as the protagonist. We've learned a lot about him in the first two books so it would be interesting to be "inside his head" for a change. Tobias considers Ghost his best friend, but Ghost isn't one to reveal real emotions or let people get too close, so he's hard to figure out sometimes. However, there is a moment near the end of Hard Line where Ghost does something that, I believe, really shows how much he cares for Tobias - though obviously this moment is very Ghost-like.

Definitely an interesting series with an over-arching mystery/story line that goes from book one to book two, just with different couples focused on for each book.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Soul to Keep by Garrett Leigh

Soul to Keep by Garrett Leigh

Review by Lauren

source: copy from Netgalley; all opinions are my own

Official Summary (add to Goodreads): Recovering addict Jamie Yorke has returned to England from California. With no home or family to speak of, he sticks a pin in a map and finds a small town in the Derbyshire Peak District. Matlock Bath is a quiet place—he just needs to get there, keep his head down, and stay clean. Simple, right? Until a chance meeting on the flight home alters the course of his so-called life forever.

Ex-Army medic Marc Ramsey is recovering from life-changing combat injuries while pulling nights as a trauma specialist at the local hospital. Keeping busy is a habit he can’t quit, but when Jamie—so wild and beautiful—bursts into his life, working himself into the ground isn’t as compelling as it used to be.

Marc falls hard, but chaos lurks behind Jamie’s fragile facade. He’s winning his battle against addiction, but another old foe is slowly consuming him. Both men have weathered many storms, but the path to the peace they deserve might prove the roughest ride yet.

Review: This is the second book in the Rented Heart series, but I haven't read the first. However, the first does feature Jamie, so if you're interested in his full story, I'd recommend reading them in order. Otherwise, Soul to Keep works fine as a stand-alone novel. Both guys in this book have dealt with a lot in their past. Marc will always be haunted by his time in the army, and he sees a lot of tragedy in his current job working in a hospital. As for Jamie, he's not sure where his life is leading him, only that needs to stay sober in order to have a good future. I thought the two guys worked really well together. While it seems like Marc helps Jamie more than the other way around, I do think they are both good for each other in different ways. I do wish the book was a bit longer as it would have been nice to see more of Marc and Jamie's relationship once things are a bit more on an even level. Most of Soul to Keep is them working through their own individual problems while eventually trying to make a go of a relationship. At any rate, I did really like this one and I'd read more from the author!!

Friday, March 30, 2018

Mini Review: A Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue

The Gentlemen’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee
Review by Lauren
source: personal copy; all opinions are my own
Read the Summary on Goodreads
I’ve wanted to read this book for a long time, and I finally found the time to do so and boy did I love it! It’s every much as enjoyable as I thought it would be, and as other reviews made me believe it would be. This book follows Monty who is going on a year-long Grand Tour of Europe with his sister, Felicity, and best friend, Percy. Monty has been in a lot of trouble – getting drunk, being expelled from school, and bedding girls and boys. I loved Monty though. He’s not as aware of other people’s circumstances as he could be, but he learns as the book goes on. He’s in love with Percy, but he doesn’t get how Percy’s life is very much different from his own  – they are both part of affluent families but Percy is biracial and that will always hold him back in the eyes of some.
This book is full of fantastic history, amazingly well-written characters, and enjoyable humor! You’ll learn, you’ll laugh, and you’ll feel. I cannot wait for the companion novel, this time following Felicity! 5/5 stars for sure!

In case you missed it, I also did a recap of the Mackenzi Lee signing that I went to - you can find that here

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Blow Down by J.L. Merrow

Blow Down by J.L. Merrow

Review by Lauren

source: copy from Netgalley; all opinions are my own

Official Summary: You can add the book and find the summary on Goodreads. I don't want to ruin too much if you haven't read any of this series. This is the fourth in the series. 

Review: If you've been paying attention, you know that I love this series. It's a mystery series with an m/m romance, but if you aren't a big romance person, don't worry! I think this series does a good job mixing the mystery and romance so that neither really overpower the other. Blow Down is the fourth book in the series, and each one follows the same characters, so it's probably a good idea to start with the first book. I'm sure you'll fall in love with Tom and Phil like I have!

Tom is a plumber, but he also has a gift for finding things. I was asked after my last review if this was a power or just something he's good at it, so I want to clarify that it's a power. He can sense really strong emotions and if something has been purposely hidden, he can follow the tracks of that emotion toward the item. He usually has to be focusing on finding something though; otherwise he's not likely to notice. As for Phil, that's Tom's private investigator boyfriend. Tom and Phil are often teaming up in these books because Phil can usually use Tom's power to help them solve the mystery.

Each book in the series has its own separate mystery, which is fun, but it also progresses the relationship of Tom and Phil, which I love! Definitely give these a shot!

Thursday, March 22, 2018

A Recap of Mackenzi Lee's Author Signing!

I attended a local author event this past Monday to see Mackenzi Lee, who wrote the fantastic book The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue. This tour was in honor of her nonfiction collection Bygone Badass Broads.

I'd love to share what I thought of the event, as well as let you all in on some other information Mackenzi shared. Instead of copying and pasting it all, I'll just direct you to ShootingStarsMag where you can see the full post!

Mackenzi Lee Author Recap Event - check it out!

Have you read anything by Mackenzi? Are you interested?

Monday, March 19, 2018

Love, Simon is...Amazing

Has anyone seen Love, Simon yet? It's amazing. I'm seriously in love with it and ready to go back and see it again. I'll have a more full review on my ShootingStarsMag blog tomorrow, if you want to keep an eye out. However, I'm also taking other people's thoughts about the movie because I hope to share those in a post this Friday. So if you've seen the movie and have something to add, let me know, or if you wrote your own blog review of the film, send me a link and I'll happily share that too!

Now, if Love, Simon is our near you and you aren't sure about seeing it...please, please do! Or buy a ticket or someone who wants to see it. Show the movie studios we want more LGBT+ movies and hopefully Love, Simon will do so well, they'll make them.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Heat Trap by J.L. Merrow

Heat Trap by J.L. Merrow
Review by Lauren
source: copy from Netgalley; all opinions are my own
Check out the summary on Goodreads
Review: I don’t want to spoil too much about this book as it’s the third in a series, which is why I didn’t include the official summary above. However, I can say that I absolutely love these books. I’m a big fan of m/m romance – as you probably know if you’ve read my blog for awhile – but I also love m/m books that aren’t just focused on the romance (though those are awesome too!) and the Plumber’s Mate Mysteries are just such books. Plus, it’s a series that follows the same couple, which can be rare – most “sequels” in m/m fiction tend to be companion novels.
While I don’t always rate books I read, I gave the first two books (Pressure Head and Relief Valve) four stars, and I rated Heat Trap five stars on Goodreads. Once again, this book features a mystery that Tom and his PI boyfriend, Phil, must try and solve. Tom’s a plumber by trade – hence the series’ title – but he also has the ability to find things that have been purposely hidden, connecting the emotion of the hider with it, so sometimes it’s a bit cheeky, but other times (in the case of murders), it’s much darker. As for Phil and Tom, they have been growing their relationship across all of these books and I love how they are growing closer, as well as getting to know more about each other. Phil and Tom knew each other in school but they hadn’t seen each other in years, and a lot happened during that time period, especially because Phil was definitely not out back in the day.
I feel like this series just gets better and better. The mysteries are all intriguing, and I love when Tom uses his abilities, but I also like the growth of a relationship across multiple books. It feels natural and realistic. I definitely recommend this series, and Heat Trap in particular.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

3 YA Books for $30 (by March 3rd): The LGBT+ Books I Bought

I can't believe that tomorrow is March 1, but I'm ready for some (hopefully) warmer weather. I wanted to stop in today and let you know that the 3 YA books for $30 deal from Barnes n Noble is ending on March 3. There are plenty of LGBT+ YA books that you can get, so hurry hurry hurry! I'd love to know which books you chose.

I've actually gotten a few books already, but I just got paid and I couldn't resist grabbing some more LGBT+ books that I've been wanting to read. Granted, two of the books I got last time were LGBT+ too - Autoboyography by Christina Lauren and Chainbreaker by Tara Sim.

This time? I got the following-

Willful Machines by Tim Floreen

The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza by Shaun David Hutchinson (amazing author!)

The Dangerous Art of Blending In by Angelo Surmelis

What would you purchase? Are you going to take advantage of this great deal?

Friday, February 23, 2018

Etsy Pride: #FebruHARRY2018 Version!

Last month, I shared an Etsy Pride all about Dumbledore - as J.K. Rowling had revealed after the books were released that Dumbledore was actually gay. Since I'm celebrating all things Harry Potter this month, I thought I'd do a mini Etsy Pride with everything related to HP (not just Dumbledore). Enjoy!!

Etsy has TONS of amazing Harry Potter items, so I'm only sharing a very, very, very small portion here! 

Harry Potter Sock Feet Bookmarks from My Bookmark. You can choose the color/house that you want and each bookmark is $25.00. My Bookmark is from the Ukraine!

This Wizarding Waltz Candle - based around the Yule Ball in the fourth book - is from Novelly Yours, based in the U.S. This candle goes for $14.75.

Harry Potter Inspired 5- Piece Kitchen Set from Go Geek Designs, based in the U.S. This set sells for $20.

Omg, if I ever have a baby, I need this Harry Potter Milestone Blanket from Stephyyy Creations, based in the U.S. The blanket is $49.99 and if you add in the Harry Potter glasses (personally, I'd just get the blanket), it's $54.00.

And finally, you can get these fun Harry Potter Book Sleeves (choose your House) from Promiscuous Book Lover, based in the U.S. Each one is only $20.00 (and there are other HP items in the shop!)

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

#FebruHARRY2018 Giveaways to Enter!

I know I know, #FebruHARRY2018 is coming to an end soon...but don't worry! If you haven't seen the giveaways yet, there is still time to enter! I'm sorry to say that these two are both U.S. only though!!

First off, don't forget this great deal for some HP themed cookies! Aren't they just gorgeous?!

Now - giveaway time!

Win your very own wand! There are wizard wands, flower wands, saber wands, and more! This giveaway ends February 28th so get to entering!

Win some yummy butterbeer fudge (I tried it; it's great!) AND a movie of your choice (as long as it stars someone from the HP tons and tons of options here!) This giveaway ends on February 28th too!

That's all I have for you right now, but I DO plan on doing a Twitter giveaway and an Instagram giveaway, so if you aren't following me, please do so! Leave your username in the comments below and I'll be sure to follow you back!

Monday, February 19, 2018

Going Overboard by L.A. Witt

Going Overboard by L.A. Witt

Review by Lauren

source: copy from Netgalley; all opinions are my own

Official Summary (add to Goodreads): Second-class petty officers Dalton Taylor and Chris Ingram have been best friends since coxswain’s school. Now they’re stationed together in the harbor patrol unit of NAS Adams. They’re content as friends, but secretly, they both ache for more. Neither makes a move, though; while Dalton is out and proud, Chris is closeted—even from his best friend.

Then another coxswain’s negligence nearly drowns Dalton. After a taste of how easily they could lose each other, neither man can keep his feelings hidden anymore, and it turns out love and sex come easy when you’re falling for your best friend.

Things aren’t just heating up between the friends-turned-lovers, though. The Navy is investigating the accident, and the harbor patrol chief isn’t going to let his star coxswain go down for dereliction of duty, even if saving him means throwing Dalton under the bus.

As the threats and gaslighting pile up, Chris and Dalton need each other more than ever—as shipmates, friends, and lovers. But if their chief prevails, the only way they can save their careers is to let each other go.

Review: Going Overboard is the fifth book in the Anchor Point series - and I've read and enjoyed them all (they are companion novels, so you can read them out of order if you want, but previous couples are often mentioned). However, I wouldn't say this was my favorite in the series. I really like friends to lovers romances, but I feel like there wasn't a lot of their relationship explored in this one. It took a bit for them to get together after Dalton almost drowns, which was nice and felt realistic. That life or death moment was just a catalyst for both of them to be honest about their feelings.

There is a lot about the Navy in this one, since the accident is being investigated and Dalton is being told to basically not tell the truth and get back out on the boat, even while suffering from obvious PTSD. Chris hates seeing Dalton suffering, and it was sweet how much Chris was there for Dalton - as much as he could be though. Like I said before, I feel like there was so much about the investigation/Navy that we, as readers, don't get as much of a relationship between Chris and Dalton. Part of it might be because they were friends first, so the relationship happens kind of naturally. That's fine, but I guess I just wanted more on-page time with the two of them. At any rate, I do love this series, and I'd happily read more from the Anchor Point world!

Friday, February 16, 2018

Relief Valve by J.L. Merrow

Relief Valve by J.L. Merrow

Review by Lauren

source: copy from Netgalley; all opinions are my own

Official Summary (add to Goodreads): The relationship between Tom Paretski, a cheeky plumber with a gift for finding hidden things, and PI Phil Morrison may only be a few weeks old, but already it’s under attack. Tom’s friends and family are convinced the former bully isn’t good enough for him, and they’re not shy about saying so.

Then Tom’s prickly older sister, Cherry, is poisoned at her own engagement party. Tom’s left reeling and not knowing who to suspect. Could it be her new fiancé, Gregory, a cathedral canon with an unfortunate manner and a taste for taxidermy? Or someone from her old writers’ circle, which she left after a row? Or could the attack be connected to her work as a barrister? Meanwhile, Tom’s honorary auntie’s left him a gag gift from beyond the grave that could be more significant than anyone knows.

Phil’s fighting against the clock to solve the case before somebody ends up dead. And with the poisoner hiding a dark secret, Phil’s terrified Tom could have been the target all along.

Review: The first book in the Plumber's Mate Mysteries is Pressure Head (read my review here) and I really loved it, so I was excited to get the sequel to read/review. These books are better read in order as they feature the exact same characters, following plumber Tom and his PI boyfriend, Phil. Each book has a different mystery, so they connect through the relationship, which is still going strong in Relief Valve, though Tom does sometimes feel awkward knowing that Phil was previously married.
In Relief Valve, readers get to know more about Tom's family, especially his older sister, Cherry, who is suddenly getting married. Well, until she's poisoned at her engagement party, and now Phil and Tom are on the hunt for just who could possibly want to hurt Cherry (if it was Cherry they were after).

I really liked this mystery and I didn't figure out "who done it" until the end. I won't say it's impossible to figure out, but these are the types of mysteries where I'm happy to go along for the ride. I don't try too hard to unravel the mystery because I'm having a good time following Tom and Phil on their adventures, and also watching the two of them grow closer together!

Monday, February 12, 2018

Relay by Layla Reyne

Relay by Layla Reyne

Review by Lauren

source: copy from Netgalley; all opinions are my own

Official Summary (add on Goodreads): Captain is not a title Alejandro “Alex” Cantu takes lightly. Elected by his teammates to helm the US Men’s Swim Team, he proudly accepts the role, despite juggling endless training, team administrative work, and helping out on the family farm. And despite his ex-lover, Dane Ellis—swimming’s biggest star—also making the Olympic Team.

Dane has been a pawn in his celebrity parents’ empire from crib to pool, flashing his camera-ready smile on demand and staying deeply in the closet. Only once did he drop the act—the summer he fell in love with Alex. Ten years later, Dane longs to cut his parents’ strings, drop his too-bright smile, and beg Alex for another chance.

Alex, though, isn’t ready to forgive and forget, and Dane is a distraction he doesn’t need on his team, until an injury forces Alex to accept Dane as his medley relay anchor. Working together, their passion reignites. When Dane’s parents threaten reprisal and Alex is accused of doping, the two must risk everything to prove Alex’s innocence, to love one another, and to win back their spots on the team, together. 

Review: I love Layla Reyne so I was really excited to check out her new series, Changing Lanes. This book deals with Olympics swimmers Alex and Dane, who had a summer time relationship as teens. Dane wasn’t, and couldn’t be, out with a preacher father and micromanaging mother. The two are on the USA swimming team and headed to the Olympics, but Dane is still letting his parents rule his life and Alex is out and proud. The two are still attracted to each other though, and Dane regrets how their summer ended. I love the setting of this book, especially with the Winter Olympics fast approaching. Both men are great guys, though it’s easy to want Dane to be his own man. Believe me, he gets there! I can’t wait for the next book…a companion novel with two characters you first meet in Relay!

Friday, February 9, 2018

Pressure Head by J.L. Merrow

Pressure Head by J.L. Merrow

Review by Lauren

source: copy from Netgalley; all opinions are my own

Official Summary (add on Goodreads): Tom Paretski’s not just a plumber with a dodgy hip courtesy of a schoolboy accident. He also has a sixth sense for finding hidden things. Called in by the police to help locate a body near Brock’s Hollow, he’s staggered to encounter Phil Morrison, his old school crush—and the closeted bully whose actions contributed to Tom’s accident.

Phil’s all grown up now, and Tom’s unwilling attraction to him is back with a vengeance. Phil’s now openly gay—and what’s more, he’s interested in Tom’s personal charms as well as his psychic talents. As a private investigator called in by the dead woman’s parents, Phil is sceptical about Tom’s unusual gift, but nevertheless quick to spot its potential to aid him in his work.

The further they go with the investigation, the less they can ignore their shared past, and the more the pressure and the heat build between them. But Tom isn’t certain he wants to know the secrets he’s helping to uncover, while there’s a murderer on the loose who won’t hesitate to kill again—and this uneasy couple is moving right into his sights.

Review: This is the first book in the Plumber’s Mate series and I’m happily going to keep reading them (I’m actually reading the sequel right now, out next month). Tom has a gift of finding things, but only if they were intentionally hidden. He’s friends with one of the cops who brings him in to help find things, and this time, he’s meant to find the body of a girl who was murdered. Of course, he didn’t plan on his old schoolmate Phil to be a private detective looking into the case. These two were, essentially, enemies in school, but Tom’s always been attracted to Phil. The eventual relationship was handled well – I thought that things moved slowly enough, allowing the two to get to know each other in the present day. Tom is also quite funny, which adds a lot of humor and fun!

Monday, February 5, 2018

Mini Review: Blood Visions by L.J. Hamlin

Blood Visions by L.J. Hamlin

Review by Lauren

source: copy from Netgalley; all opinions are my own

Official Summary (add on Goodreads): Private detective Ronan Bayne is a former cop who now runs his own agency specializing in all things paranormal. After several women go missing, and the cops and FBi are equally frustrated and at a loss, Ronan is called in to see if he can find answers they can’t.

After waking up from a terrible vision of a girl, darkness, and blood, Dustin tries to go to the police but to no avail. But on a visit to the crime scene, he crosses paths with Ronan. 

Reluctantly, the two men join forces to locate the missing, but both the case and the partnership prove to be more complicated than either man expects…

Review: I thought the mystery in this one was interesting, and I like the powers that Dustin has which allows him to help solve said mystery. I gave this one 3 stars on Goodreads, because I did enjoy it overall. However, it wasn’t my most favorite and I felt that the guy’s names were used over and over, if that makes sense.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Romantic Behavior by L.A. Witt and Cari Z.

Romantic 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 Andreas Ruffner is no fool—he’s found a man who loves him, puts up with him, and has stuck with him through hell and back, and it’s time to put a ring on it. Darren Corliss is the love of his life, and he wants the whole world to know it.
Now the fun part—the wedding!

Well, after the not-so-fun part of planning the wedding in between dealing with overbearing and impossible-to-please family members. With future mothers-in-law driving them both up a wall, the guest list growing out of control, and the wedding getting ever more complicated, Darren and Andreas have to wonder if they’re in over their heads.

But they’re going to make it to the altar if it kills them . . . and at this rate, it just might.
Review: It’s wedding time! Okay, that might be a bit of a spoiler, but it’s kind of a spoiler for most people reading the series, so hopefully you don’t mind. Romantic Behavior is shorter than the other books and it’s very character focused since there is no mystery or case the guys have to solve. Instead, this is very much about the guys, their family, and finding their happily-ever-after. Plus, if you like the physical romance, you get some of that in this one…it’s sporadic in the other books! I loved this book too, and I think it’s the final one in the series…but I’d happily read more about Darren and Andreas if I could!