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!!