Friday, May 27, 2016

Behind the Scenes...

I feel like I've been posting a lot these last couple weeks, which is great, but let's take a bit of a breather. I had a lot of books to read/review from April and May so that was the main reason for so many posts! Now I'm hoping to focus more on my BEA books - I have some other Netgalley things to read/review, but not nearly as many.

Anyway, for today, I wanted to point you in the direction of two guest posts I did on other book blogs recently. I (and the blog owners) would love it if you could comment on the actual post if you happen to read these.

Bookstackamber is honoring Mental Health Awareness Month in May and I was happy to guest post over there, writing about social anxiety and how authors can write it better.

Just yesterday, my guest post for Arctic Books was posted. The topic "Would You Ever Sell Your Blog?"

Again, if you do read these (and I hope you do!) please leave a comment over on their blog so the bloggers know you checked it out. I know they'd love it, and I'd appreciate the feedback on these!

NOW, I have two things that are upcoming that I want to tell you all about.

First, for the month of June: I am gathering guest posts by book bloggers for ShootingStarsMag using the topic "what is a hobby or interest that you have besides books/reading?" You can do a tutorial, a how-to, how you got into the hobby, whatever you want! I want to show off what us book bloggers do besides read. So I'd love it if you could write something for me. It doesn't have to be terribly long. Just email: lauren51990 AT aol DOT com and put "guest post" somewhere in the title. I know it's late notice, but you have a couple weeks still. I can post whatever you write later in the month! I'm mostly scheduling based on when I receive things!

Second, Leave a Mark Auctions: If you've been around for awhile, you might remember Leave a Mark Auctions. IF NOT, they are a set of online auctions that myself and a fellow book blogger hosted back in 2007/2008 or so. We had sets of auctions running for a month or so, and all the money raised went to First Book. You can read a lot more about the history of these auctions if you visit the link above (and please do - you can also follow the blog over there!) but basically: authors mark up one of their novels (or annotate, write notes in the margins, etc.) and then we auction them off. This time around, I'm changing the charity that gets the money every few months and making these auctions long running, so that there will be auctions held on a regular basis. The auctions will start this July. So July-September, all money raised goes to First Book. After that, the charity will change for the next three months. Basically, follow the blog. Let me know in the comments of authors you want to mark up books (I can reach out!) or tell your own favorite authors to check it out and see if they want to take part. Other famous folk can donate too - they just mark up a favorite book (we had a musician do that in the past)!


Thursday, May 26, 2016

Bedmates by Nichole Chase Cover Reveal

Alicia here, with the cover reveal for Nichole Chase's newest book. I absolutely adored her Royal series, so I can't wait to read this one. Enjoy!


Image Map


Everyone makes mistakes, especially in college. But when you're the daughter of the President of the United States, any little slip up is a huge embarrassment. Maddie McGuire's latest error in judgment lands her in police custody, giving the press a field day. Agreeing to do community service as penance and to restore her tattered reputation, Maddie never dreams incredibly good looking but extremely annoying vice president's son, Jake Simmon, will be along for the ride.

Recently returning from Afghanistan with a life-altering injury, Jake is wrestling with his own demons. He doesn't have the time or patience to deal with the likes of Maddie. They're like oil and water and every time they're together, it's combustible. But there's a thin line between love and hate, and it's not long before their fiery arguments give way to infinitely sexier encounters.

When Jake receives devastating news about the last remaining member of his unit, the darkness he's resisted for so long begins to overwhelm him. Scared to let anyone close, he pushes Maddie away. But she isn't about to give up on Jake that easily. Maddie's fallen for him, and she'll do anything to keep him from the edge as they both discover that love is a battlefield and there are some fights you just can't lose.

Add to goodreads

About Nichole Chase:

Nichole Chase is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Suddenly Royal and Recklessly Royal. She lives in Georgia with her husband, toddler, superhero dog, Sulcata tortoise, and two cats. When not devouring novels by the dozens, you can find her writing, painting, crafting, or chasing her daughter around the house while making monster noises.

BEA Wrap-Up + Link Up Your Own

Lauren on the Navy Pier

Alright, it's time for my BEA Wrap-up! I was really excited to attend Book Expo America this year in Chicago. My sister was able to go last minute, which meant I was able to attend and she was very kind and drove us to the city. It's only about 5 or so hours to get there, so not too bad. Definitely a lot better than having to deal with flying to NYC. Plus, I hadn't been to Chicago since I was about 14 so it was kind of cool to be there again.

We drove into Chicago on Wednesday night, ate dinner, and prepared ourselves for the first day of BEA (well, the first full day).

Thursday, May 12

My hotel was near a shuttle stop, which was amazing. I highly recommend getting a hotel that has a shuttle stop that brings you straight to the convention center if you attend BEA in the future. NYC has the same set-up. It makes getting to and from SO much easier than finding your own way around the city after a long, long day walking around the convention floor.

Lindsey and I at BEA
The first day of BEA was a lot of fun. I got to meet Lindsey from Bring My Books for a quick photo. I wish I could have talked to her more, but we were headed in opposite directions. Good thing she called out my name though or I would have missed her!

All of my autographed books
I've been to BEA before so I know that putting too much on your list of "need to do or need to get" can become a bit too much. It's good to have back up ideas, though, but I tried to limit what signings I wrote down and I did pretty well with getting those books signed and meeting the authors! At the same time, I was also able to continually check out the floor and end up in other random autographing lines, meaning I was able to meet a lot of great authors that I hadn't planned for and that's part of the fun!

The first signing I had to make on Thursday was for Audrey Coulthurst, who wrote Of Fire and Stars. I had talked to Amanda from Being Perry on Twitter about meeting up, and this was one of the signings we had in common. I texted her and we realized we were only a couple people apart in line. It was great meeting her, but sadly, we didn't get a picture together! I did run into her one or two other times and we talked via text a couple times. It was fun to meet her in person! I also happened to be right in front of author Mia Siegert in that line and I DID get a picture with her!!

Mia and Me!
Isn't her hair awesome? That was the first thing that stuck out to me and then I noticed her badge with her name. I turned around and went "Mia?" and she's like "Yes?" and then I explained who I was on Twitter and she knew who I was, as we've talked and she guest posted on my other blog not too long ago! She's so nice. We talked a bit in line - we were both very excited for Audrey's novel! The lovely Raychelle from Steele Reviews took our photo. I got to talk to Raychelle a bit more in line for Gemina the next day too. It was great talking to her more- I knew OF her blog, but I hadn't talked to her much before.  Plus, she lives in Ohio, which is awesome!

Author Lisa McMann and I
Alright, so I can't remember if Lisa was there on Thursday or Friday, because her signing was one I just happened to run across and the line was short. I've met Lisa before and I used to talk to her online a lot when her first YA novel, Wake, was coming out. Therefore, I was really excited when she saw me and was like "I know you!" I had to get a photo. Going Wild is the first in a new MG series from her!

Adam Silvera and Me
Adam's debut novel, More Happy Than Not, was one of my favorite books last year so I was really excited about his next book, History is All You Left Me!! Adam was too sweet. I guess he was afraid nobody would be in line for him, but it was long, and people were waiting for awhile! I was in line for about 30 minutes before it started and then another 30 minutes perhaps until I got to meet him, but so worth it! I'd talked about LGBT+ books that were going to be at BEA on Twitter and Adam told me to send him a list, so I did. Therefore, it was cool when I met him and he asked if I'd gotten any of those books that I wanted!

My autographed books on top includes More Happy Than Not because I happened to win a Twitter giveaway for a copy, and the person who ran it saw I was going to be at BEA so she met up with me on Friday and gave it to me there. That person was Kylie from Twitter - check her out - and I was really excited to have another person to meet at BEA, because I really wanted to meet more bloggy people this year, and I did! I also met Susan from Wastepaper Prose again. The first time, she said "hello" in passing and then I was able to sit down for a bit later on and talk to her more!

That night I went to dinner with my sister, we swam in the hotel pool, and got ready for the next day!

Friday, May 13

My feet were hurting but not nearly as bad as last year in NYC, so I was really grateful for that! I got to see Amanda for a second again. I was in line for Daniel Kraus and she was waiting for Maggie Stiefvater - the lines were next to each other. I was excited to get Daniel's novel The Death and Life of Zebulon Finch because it's one I've wanted to read for awhile. I asked when the second was coming out and he said "October" and then he joked that "Once you finish this, it'll be October" because it's a bit of a heavy novel! I'm excited!

Later, I got Stalking Jack the Ripper signed by Kerri Maniscalco. I didn't get a picture because there were a lot of people in line and I felt weird. I did a lot better asking for pictures this year though. I don't think I asked anyone last year! Just go for it, if you're shy like me! Unless there is a set rule and they tell you "no pictures" then they don't usually care!

My September book haul - easily the busiest month! 
BEA always has these large magazines with details on that particular day, which are nice to see signings or book drop times you didn't know about before. I tried to look at Friday before we were let onto the floor though so I didn't have to lug the magazine around - it's heavy! Checking this out was great though because I found out about some cool drops. My sister was a huge help in getting to various drops while I went somewhere else, usually a signing, etc. We both love to read so it was cool to get things for both of us! My sister was able to get in line for Replica by Lauren Oliver, for example, while I waited in another line (I think it was Kerri's signing).

At the end of the day, there was a drop for Gemina. My sister and I got in line a bit early, but man, that line was so long. I literally laid on the ground because my feet were so tired and so were my shoulders! Lugging all those totes around gets crazy tiring after awhile. It was worth it though as we got a copy and I can't wait to read it. I loved Illuminae. I hurried over to the Caleb Roehrig signing after that though because I really wanted to get Last Seen Leaving. The line was fairly short at that time, so I was able to get a signed copy! Yay! Success!

BEA Blogger Dinner

After my Friday on the convention floor, I went back to the hotel for a bit to wait until it was time to head to the blogger dinner. I was really excited to attend as I knew this would be a good time to meet up with bloggers I hadn't seen yet. I was looking at Twitter and author Mia Siegert (photo of us above) had asked if anyone at BEA wanted to do dinner. I told her about the blogger dinner and she was worried she wouldn't be allowed to go, but I said it was fine, so I was really excited that she came. She ended up getting there early, so my sister and I took a taxi to meet with her and we were the first ones there. There was a whole area in the back sectioned off for us with a BEA Blogger Dinner banner. It was so cute. My sister, Mia, and I got a table together and chatted as people began to show up. Velvet from VVB 32 Reads was one of the next people to arrive and she joined us. We swapped cards and were both like "I know you!" It was fun to meet her in person, as her blog has been around for awhile now! Check her out!

Nicole and Me
I stayed at my table, eating and chatting, so I was glad that other bloggers were paying attention. I was meant to meet Nicole from Feed Your Fiction Addiction at the dinner and she even tried to tweet me to see if I was there, but I didn't see the message. She found me though and it was great talking to her in person for the first time! It was really exciting to meet these bloggers. I love Nicole's blog and she's always been super sweet to me! Along with Nicole, Laura from 125 Pages came over. She got sidetracked by Mia, which I thought was fantastic! Mia had a really good time and I'm glad she was able to come with so she could chat with bloggers, etc.

Laura and Me
Once Nicole left the table (she was about to leave soon), Laura and I started to chat more! I swear I'm repeating myself, but I just loved meeting these bloggers in person. I loved the blogger dinner so much. It was a relaxing atmosphere, with people coming and going. It worked really well!

Michelle and Me
The final person that I met at the dinner (that I got a picture with) was Michelle from Pink Polka Dot Books. We had chatted on Twitter about the dinner, so I knew she would be there and we had to meet! I got a photo right before I left. She's too sweet and I loved meeting her!

That's about it for my BEA Re-Cap. I didn't include all of the photos that I took of the books, but you can see more of those (as well as a few photos of my sister and I at the Navy Pier) on my Instagram.

My sister and I drove home Saturday afternoon, but we slept in a bit first, packed up, and then went to the Navy Pier for a little bit. Not everything was open, but it was still fun. Very cold though! I got a shirt for a friend's son, whose birthday party I had to miss, and I got a basic t-shirt for myself just to have something! My sister got my mom a magnet for Chicago because she loves magnets when she or any of us go anywhere. All in all, it was a lot of fun. I met some amazing people - bloggers and authors alike - and I'm glad I was able to attend!

I don't know if anyone has this on their blog (sorry if you do!) but I would love to read all of the other BEA Wrap-Up posts, so if you have one, please link up below. It's open until June 10, 2016!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Mr. and Mr. Smith by HelenKay Dimon

Mr. and Mr. Smith by HelenKay Dimon

Review by Lauren

source: copy from Netgalley; all opinions are my own

Official SummaryFisher Braun knows how to keep a secret. As a covert paramilitary operative, his job—and his life—depends on it. He's at the top of his game, ready for action and always in control. No enemy has ever brought him to his knees, but one lover has: Zachary Allen, the man currently sharing his bed. The perfect package of brains and brawn, Zach is someone worth coming home to, and Fisher hates keeping him in the dark about what he does. But the lies keep Zach safe. Until the day Fisher loses everything. . . .

Zachary Allen is no innocent civilian. Although he plays the tech geek, in reality he's deep undercover for the CIA. In a horrible twist of fate, the criminal enterprise he's infiltrated has set its sights on the man whose touch drives him wild. Zach would do anything for Fisher—except blow his own cover. Now, in order to save him, Zach must betray him first. And he needs Fisher to trust him with all his heart if they want to make it out alive.

Review: This is a new series by author HelenKay Dimon and the next title is called The Talented Mr. Rivers and comes out in September. I loved Mr. and Mr. Smith (and the titles are too fun - playing off old action films/books) and I can't wait to read about the next couple, who we meet in this one!

Back to Mr. and Mr. Smith though - Fisher Braun is part of the CIA so he tends to keep his dalliances with men a secret, not telling anyone on his team that he's gay. He definitely doesn't enter relationships. Until he meets Zachary Allen. These two are actually living together by the time the story starts and everything starts to blow up in their faces, because Zach is actually in the CIA too.

In the beginning, Fisher thinks that Zach betrayed him and that everything they shared was a lie. It's easy to fall for both of these guys. Time is running out before Zach might have to go back undercover, and neither of them really knows how to make the other understand their feelings. Zach swears his feelings for Fisher weren't a lie, but Fisher feels betrayed by all the lies that did occur throughout their relationship and he's not sure he wants to even try to believe Zach.

Mr. and Mr. Smith is an action-packed, suspenseful novel where lives really are on the line. Along with that, Dimon has created a passionate, fierce relationship between Fisher and Zach. These are two very strong guys but they do have secrets and vulnerabilities and I definitely rooted for them to be together in the end!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Agatha: The Real Life of Agatha Christie

Agatha: The Real Life of Agatha Christie by Anne Martinetti, Guillaume Lebeau, Alexandre Franc

Review by Lauren

source: copy for review; all opinions are my own

Official SummaryThe life of Agatha Christie was as mysterious and eventful as her fiction. This beautifully illustrated graphic novel traces the life of the Queen of Whodunnit from her childhood in Torquay, England, through a career filled with success, mischief, and adventure, to her later years as Dame Agatha. Revealing a side to Christie that will surprise and delight many readers, Agatha introduces us to a free-spirited and thoroughly modern woman who, among other things, enjoyed flying, travel, and surfing. Centering around an episode in 1926 when Christie staged her own disappearance, Agatha is an intriguing, entertaining, and funny exploration of the 20th century’s best-loved crime novelist. 
Review: This is a graphic novel biography of Agatha Christie, except it's not really a biography. I know, a bit confusing. But look at this way - it follows the true life of novelist Agatha Christie, but the authors obviously had to take license in order to create a graphic novel, where the whole story is told through dialogue and illustrations. One of the things that the authors included was the presence of some of Christie's greatest creations, particularly Hercule Poirot, the Belgian detective in many of her novels. Poirot is like a voice in Christie's head, except he's physically present in the illustrations.

page from the book - source
One aspect of Christie's life is when she went missing, after finding out her husband had been cheating on her. Nobody knew where she was until she randomly showed up again. This is a part of Christie's history that she never divulged, and while it's featured in the book, the authors don't give concrete reasons. I liked this though, because it kept the book following a biographical narrative - trying to show these real life moments in Christie's life. I love Christie's novels but I didn't know a lot about her personal life, so it was interesting to hear about her traveling the world, being a nurse, marrying two times, having a child, and more.

If you're at all interested in getting inside the life of Agatha Christie, I would suggest this graphic novel. It's a great place to start your learning!

Monday, May 23, 2016

Come What May by A.M. Arthur

Come What May by A.M. Arthur

Review by Lauren

source: copy from Netgalley; all opinions are my own

Official SummaryJonas needs Tate. He just doesn't know it yet.

Or at least, he doesn't want to admit it. Because there is no way Jonas Ashcroft is gay. He's a straight, carefree frat boy player, just like any good son of a conservative state senator. If only his struggle to convince everyone—especially himself—didn't leave him so miserable. No matter how many girls or bottles he drowns himself in, Jonas can neither escape nor accept who he is.

Enter Tate. He's smart, confident, and instantly sees right through Jonas's surly exterior. Sure, he's done things in life he's not proud of, but he knows who he is and what he wants. And what he wants is Jonas. As their easy friendship intensifies into something more, Tate introduces Jonas to a life he's never known. One filled with acceptance and sex and a love that terrifies and excites them both.

But some inner demons refuse to be shaken off so easily. When Jonas's old life barges in, he faces a shattering choice, one that could destroy everything he and Tate have fought so hard for. Sometimes love just isn't enough—and sometimes it's exactly what you need.

Review: Come What May is the first book in the new All Saints series by A.M. Arthur. I've read books by this author before and this was another good one! The one complaint that I could say would be that parts of the book seemed to move a bit too fast, at least in the beginning. Jonas has never really admitted to himself that he's gay, so his reactions toward Tate make sense. However, Jonas seems to warm up to Tate a bit too quick, but that's just me. From there, I didn't have any issues with the book and I would recommend it! I'm curious to read the next one in the All Saints series.

Now, back to Come What May - the title comes from Moulin Rouge - which Tate introduces Jonas too. I loved that they both really liked musicals and Tate could introduce Jonas to something other than the gay world or gay culture. Tate is one of those guys that you just want to help, because he's so willing to be self-sacrificing. He's raising his two younger sisters and he also helps run a homeless shelter for LGBT+ teenagers who have nowhere else to go. As for Jonas, he's hard to like at first, but you warm up to him. His being gay could drastically change his life and you do feel bad for him, regardless of how much you wish he'd be open and honest about himself.

Overall, Come What May was a really good read. There are lot of little "issues" and topics raised throughout, but it's never too overwhelming. It just shows the reality of life and how having someone in your corner is often all you need to survive the ups and downs.

Friday, May 20, 2016

The Heart As He Hears It + High Contrast

The Heart As He Hears It by A.M. Arthur

Review by Lauren

source: copy from Netgalley; all opinions are my own

Official SummaryWhile most of his friends have moved on to “real” careers, Jon Buchanan is content skating through life as a part-time waiter and gay porn star. Firmly single thanks to a previous relationship disaster, he focuses his spare time on Henry, a dear friend dying of cancer.And with Henry’s happiness paramount, Jon is on a mission to help Henry meet his recently discovered grandson.Isaac Gregory hasn’t set foot outside for the past year. He has everything he needs delivered, and his remaining family knows better than to visit. When a complete stranger shows up claiming to be his grandfather—with a distractingly handsome younger man in tow—his carefully structured routines are shaken.Despite his instant attraction, Jon senses Isaac is too fragile for a relationship. Yet tentative friendship grows into genuine companionship. And when Henry’s health begins to fail, they realize Fate brought them together for a reason.Warning: Product contains a neurotic porn star with body image issues, a virgin hero with severe agoraphobia, and a fluffy ball of gray cuteness you’ll want to take home and cuddle.Also contains references to past abuse some readers might find disturbing.

Review: Jon is in the porn industry, which he loves. It means having sex in a safe environment, because the person who runs it is a good guy. After Jon's last relationship, he'd much rather do porn than find a long-lasting boyfriend. Not until he meets Isaac, who is the previously unknown grandson of Jon's friend, Henry. Both Isaac and Jon are immediately attracted to one other, but Jon doesn't want to ruin anything for Henry by making a move, plus Isaac has been afraid to leave his house for the past year, ever since his grandmother passed away. As for Isaac, not only is he afraid to leave the house, but he never really grew up with much company outside his family (which included an abusive father) so he's never dated or ever really thought about his sexuality.

Putting Jon and Isaac together doesn't seem like it would work, but it does.

I loved that these guys help each other. It's not just about Jon helping Isaac face the world. Isaac also helps Jon, which makes it a great friendship, and eventual relationship. I loved that things moved slowly between these two. It wouldn't have been realistic at all to have Jon and Isaac become in any way physical too quick.

There is another aspect of this book beyond the relationship that adds some mystery and suspense. That's all I'll say because I don't want to give anything anyway. It's doe well, and it's interesting, though it's not a needed aspect of the story. It would have been find to focus just on Jon, Isaac, and Henry's relationships and lives.

High Contrast by Tess Bowery

Review by Lauren

source: copy from Netgalley; all opinions are my own

Official SummaryJacob Shain is your average member of Generation Screwed. He has a boring internship, no cash flow, and a tiny NYC apartment he has to share with Ethan, his much-cooler, tattoo artist twin brother. Not to mention his love life is DOA. At least, until his brother’s shop hires on a new piercer, and Jacob’s humdrum life takes a turn for the weird.Cody Turner is gorgeous, funny and kind—everything Jacob wants in a boyfriend.Except for the way he refuses to talk about his past, or where he lives, or anything about his personal life.When Ethan is arrested while on a mission of mercy, the reason Cody is so tight lipped comes to light. And while Jacob and Cody fight to understand the depth of their feelings for one another, the police dogs catch their scent. So does the local mob.Now Jacob has to make the hardest choice of his life: stay safe like a good boy, or dive headfirst into a world he barely understands…and hope Cody is there to break his fall.

Review: I loved High Contrast, and I'm so curious to see what the next book in this series will be about (or rather who the book will be about, as I assume it will deal with another couple). For this one, the story revolved around Jacob Shain and Cody Turner. Jacob has an office job, but he feels like he's boring compared to his brother who co-owns a tattoo studio. New employee Cody Turner definitely catches Jacob's attention, and it takes a bit to finally realize that Cody is just as interested in Jacob. They don't start going out right away though...Cody tries to put the brakes on that, for reasons that aren't completely revealed until the end. Regardless, Bowery gives you enough information about these characters so that you aren't annoyed by instead of being curious and wanting to know more.

I loved the everyday, regular guy nature of Jacob. He definitely puts himself out there more in the book because while the relationship between him and Cody is unfolding, a lot of slightly unbelievable moments occur. I don't mean unbelievable in a bad way though - it's just not your everyday love story. I also don't want to give too much away. Let's just say that Cody is carrying secrets from his past, a life that he wants to get away from. It catches up to him though, as these things do, and it takes more than Jacob and Cody to fix things. I loved how the whole tattoo shop, plus Jacob's best friend and his twin Ethan's girlfriend, Andi. It's a true family there and it was great getting to know all of them. Plus, their relationships - especially between Jacob and twin Ethan - felt very real, and helps ground the crazy that surrounds them.