Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson

The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson

Review by Lauren

source: copy from Netgalley; all opinions are my own

Official SummaryDavid Piper has always been an outsider. His parents think he's gay. The school bully thinks he's a freak. Only his two best friends know the real truth: David wants to be a girl.

On the first day at his new school Leo Denton has one goal: to be invisible. Attracting the attention of the most beautiful girl in his class is definitely not part of that plan. When Leo stands up for David in a fight, an unlikely friendship forms. But things are about to get messy. Because at Eden Park School secrets have a funny habit of not staying secret for long , and soon everyone knows that Leo used to be a girl.

As David prepares to come out to his family and transition into life as a girl and Leo wrestles with figuring out how to deal with people who try to define him through his history, they find in each other the friendship and support they need to navigate life as transgender teens as well as the courage to decide for themselves what normal really means.

Review: I think any book about being transgender is important in some way because it's a topic that is important and needs to be focused on. I read a couple mixed reviews of this book before I ever started, so I was a bit wary going in, mainly when it came to how the author represented the character of David. Throughout the book Leo is called Leo, his chapter titles are named Leo, and everyone thinks of him as he is - a boy. This makes sense because Leo is living as a guy from the beginning of the book. David is still living as a guy, not a girl like he wants. I think the issue for people is that David isn't referred to as his chosen name once he reveals it. but again, this didn't really bother me.

David might eventually reveal what he wants to be called and that he wants to live like a girl and not a boy, but he isn't officially "out" or living this life until the very end. Once we get to that point, David is no longer David. Because this was an issue for people, I just thought I'd share my two scents, as well as prepare any future readers who may find it strange! Again, this is just my opinion and kind of how I see the author's reasoning for how she titles her characters.

As for the overall story, though, I thought it was done fairly well. It's a good book for teens who don't necessarily know what transgender means or who have negative connotations. It's easy to see that both David and Leo are regular teenagers in a lot of ways. They have friends, problems with their families, siblings, crushes, and everyday school to deal with. Of course, their lives are not as easy as some other teens because of their unique situation of having been born in the wrong body, but I appreciated that Williamson made these characters are realistic as possible. That's important with these books. They might have differences, but they are just teenagers at the end of the day.

Because I live in the United States, any novel that is written and set in a different country, counts as a Bridge the Gap book. The Art of Being Normal qualifies as it's set in England.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Beta Test by Annabeth Albert

To those of you in the U.S., Happy Memorial Day! I hope you had a nice weekend. Today is also my birthday; just thought I'd throw that out there. ;)

Beta Test by Annabeth Albert

Review by Lauren

source: copy from Netgalley; all opinions are my own

Official SummaryBrilliant graphic designer Ravi Tandel is ahead of the game—he's just been asked to present a top secret project at a huge conference in Seattle. All systems are go...until he learns his buttoned-up office nemesis is coming along for the ride.

Tristan Jones isn't really the gamer type, but he knows the back end of the video game business inside out. Together, he and Ravi will give an awesome presentation. If they survive the cross-country trip first.
Tossed together in close quarters, Ravi's shocked to see Tristan's sexy, softer side emerge from such a conservative shell. He's less shocked to learn his handsome colleague's prominent family would never support an out-and-proud son. But Ravi didn't struggle through his own coming out to hide who he is now. To be together, Tristan will have to push past his fear and ultimately decide: Does he want a future with Ravi? Or is it game over before they've even begun?
Review: Beta Test is the second book in the #gaymers series (which I have to say, is a very accurate, yet unique series title!) I read and reviewed Status Update, the first book, late last year and really loved it so I was excited to see what and who the second book would be about. Status Update involved a fairly long road trip, and Beta Test is the same. Except this time, Ravi and Tristan know each other beforehand; they just don't particularly know what to think of each other. Ravi is out and proud, no matter what people think. He does have issues with his family, though, so he understands that worry and fear. As for Tristan, he's kept his sexuality not exactly a secret, but private. Nobody knows he's gay at his new job, until his anger at Ravi lets it spill one evening.

Cue the road trip! These two are paired up to bring an exhibit from their video game company to a comic convention. It doesn't take too long for the two to warm up to each other. Ravi is more extroverted, but he understands and even starts to crave some alone or quiet time, like Tristan needs. Being on the road together, and even having to stay at hotels on the way, means the two open up about things in their past - family issues and past relationships. While there is definitely an attraction, none of them really want to disrupt their work life, especially if they get together and it doesn't work out. This leads to a "road relationship and nothing else" type of deal. Of course, who really thinks their connection/attraction can just go away after the convention?

That's what I thought...

Overall, this was a good read! I can't really say if I preferred one over the other - Status Update or Beta Test. They do have similar "type" of characters, but I still liked the differences! I'll be curious to see if there is more to come! I think I know who the next book might focus on...

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.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Darkest Corners by Kara Thomas

The Darkest Corners by Kara Thomas

Review by Lauren

source: copy for review; all opinions are my own

Official SummaryThere are ghosts around every corner in Fayette, Pennsylvania. Tessa left when she was nine and has been trying ever since not to think about it after what happened there that last summer. Memories of things so dark will burn themselves into your mind if you let them. Callie never left. She moved to another house, so she doesn't have to walk those same halls, but then Callie always was the stronger one. She can handle staring into the faces of her demons—and if she parties hard enough, maybe one day they'll disappear for good. Tessa and Callie have never talked about what they saw that night. After the trial, Callie drifted and Tessa moved, and childhood friends just have a way of losing touch. But ever since she left, Tessa has had questions. Things have never quite added up. And now she has to go back to Fayette—to Wyatt Stokes, sitting on death row; to Lori Cawley, Callie's dead cousin; and to the one other person who may be hiding the truth. Only the closer Tessa gets to the truth, the closer she gets to a killer—and this time, it won't be so easy to run away.

Review: I love a good mystery/thriller and it's even better when you find one that is YA, because they are kind of rare. Good ones, at least. And The Darkest Corners by Kara Thomas is definitely a good one. I loved getting to know Tessa and Callie, years after they sent a man to prison for being the Ohio River Monster, a serial killer who murdered Callie's cousin. Except it's been years now and the man behind bars, Wyatt Stokes, is still fighting the case and Tessa is beginning to wonder if they testified against the wrong guy.

Callie is desperate to say Wyatt is the killer in the beginning, because she knows it could upset her family greatly if she says different. Callie and Tessa are both hiding secrets about that time in their lives, but as the book goes on, more and more is revealed, leaving the reader wondering just who is to blame? Is Wyatt the Ohio River Monster? If he's not, is he a killer at all?

Thomas does a fantastic job at throwing out clues. I honestly did not know who was to blame, and it's not as simple as "that person is guilty." Oh no, there are twists and turns and all sorts of dark secrets from the past revealed. This is a book that will keep you up late reading, and as soon as you're finished, you want to discuss it with someone else!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Knit Tight by Annabeth Albert

Knit Tight by Annabeth Albert

Review by Lauren

Source: copy from Netgalley; all opinions are my own

Official SummaryOne of Portland's hottest young baristas, Brady is famous for his java-topping flair, turning a regular cup of joe into a work of art. Every Wednesday—aka “Knit Night”—hordes of women and their needles descend on the coffeehouse, and Brady's feeling the heat. Into the fray walks a tall, dark, and distractingly handsome stranger from New York. His name is Evren, and he's the sexy nephew of Brady's sweetest customer, the owner of the yarn shop down the street. He's also got a killer smile, confident air, and masculine charm that's tying Brady's stomach in knots. The smitten barista can't wait to see him at the next week's gathering. But when he tries to ask Evren out, his plans unravel faster than an unfinished edge. If Brady hopes to warm up more than Evren's coffee, he'll have to find a way to untangle their feelings, get out of the friend zone, and form a close-knit bond that's bound to last a lifetime…

Review: Knit Tight is the latest in the Portland Heat series. While I've seen these books around, I've never read any of them until now. However, after reading and loving Knit Tight, I know I need to go back and check out more novels by Albert. One of the things that really captured me about this book are the characters of Evren and Brady. These two have their issues, mainly concerning taking care of family, but they don't let that stop them from trying to build a friendship. Of course, that friendship does lead to more.

I don't mind sex in books, but I also like when the couple in love are shown to connect on other levels. I want to get to know both parts of this couple. Albert does this extremely well. I really felt like I knew Evren and Brady and I felt for them whenever they went through something painful. I loved that they could be there for each other. Evren is in town helping his aunt with cancer, but Brady is trying to make a living to support his younger siblings, since their parents have passed. There are some heavy topics and moments in this book, but there are also plenty of light, sweet ones too. It's a beautiful blend - and yes, that is supposed to be a reference to coffee, hence Brady's job.

Knit Tight is one I highly recommend! The idea of coffee and knitting makes me think of winter and the holidays, but it's definitely a book you should think about grabbing now, especially if you're stuck inside on a rainy day.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Edge of Wild by D. K. Stone

Edge of Wild by D.K. Stone

Review by Lauren

source: copy from author; all opinions are my own

Official SummaryTransplanted from New York City to the tiny mountain town of Waterton, Alberta with the task of saving a floundering new hotel, Rich Evans is desperate to return to the city as soon as he can. The locals seem unusually hostile towards his efforts, or maybe even menacing, and was that a cougar on his door-step last night? As Rich begins to wonder whether his predecessor disappeared of his own accord, he finds himself strongly drawn to Louise Newman, the garage mechanic who is fixing his suddenly unreliable BMW, and the only person in Waterton who doesn’t seem desperate to run him out of town. As Rich works on the hotel, the town is torn apart by a series of gruesome, unsolved murders. With Louise as his only ally in a town that seems set against him, Rich can’t help but wonder: will he be the next victim?

Review: I "met" author Danika Stone (D.K. Stone for her adult novel, Edge of Wild) on Twitter when I saw she was recruiting bloggers for her street team. I immediately signed up because I thought Edge of Wild sounded great, and I love a good mystery. In the past couple months, you've read a guest post by Danika, as well as my recent interview with her, and now finally, my review!

Edge of Wild is a really atmospheric novel. It takes place in Waterton, Alberta, Canada, and the setting is very important to the overall story. Waterton is a fairly closed off town, where locals welcome some tourists but they don't want too many people. Of course, without the tourists, these same locals find it difficult to run their businesses. When Rich Evans comes to town as the new manager of the big hotel trying to make it in Waterton, he's not exactly met with a friendly welcome.

The previous manager, Jeff Chan, complained of people messing with his cabin and one of his cougar pups even went missing...and then, Chan himself goes missing. Enter Evans, who is trying to fix the mess that Chan left behind. The hotel seems to break down in one way or another left and right, and the townsfolk are wary of telling Evans anything about mysterious leases in town. The only person who is really nice to Evans is Louise - Lou- Newman, who runs the only gas station/garage in town. Unfortunately, she doesn't know anything about the leases or strange goings-on in the town.

It was interesting to get to know the various townsfolk, and Stone keeps you guessing and wondering as to why they are so closed off. Lou is a sweet girl who knows what it's like to feel like an outcast, so she feels bad for Evans but hates feeling pushed aside when the town notices her spending too much time with Evans. Despite this, she still tries to follow her heart. There is a nice romance in Edge of Wild, but it doesn't take over the book, and it actually moves a bit slow, which was nice. After all, most people are going to be curious about all the back luck and death surrounding Rich Evans and Waterton itself.

There is a killer out there. Are they after Evans? What will they do to keep outsiders out of Waterton? Stone is adept at revealing a clue here and there, with a new threat occurring over and over. All of these things are perfect in building suspense and questions. I was definitely surprised by the end! Aspects of the answer are easier to figure out as you read, but when it comes down to it, I was shocked!

Monday, May 16, 2016

Smut by Karina Halle Release Day Blitz

Alicia here, with the release day celebration of Smut! I can't read this book! And, this is most definitely an adult book!


Smut 0 days

Smut AMAZON - Copy

What happens when the kink between the pages leads to heat between the sheets?

All Blake Crawford wants is to pass his creative writing course, get his university degree and take over his dad’s ailing family business. What Amanda Newland wants is to graduate at the top of her class, as well as finally finish her novel and prove to her family that writing is a respectful career.

What Blake and Amanda don’t want is to be paired up with each other for their final project but that’s exactly what they both get when they’re forced to collaborate on a writing piece. Since Amanda thinks Blake is a pushy asshole (with a panty-melting smirk and British accent) and Blake thinks Amanda has a stick up her ass (though it’s brilliant ass), they fight tooth and nail until they discover they write well together. They also might find each other really attractive, but that’s neither here nor there.

When their writing project turns out to be a success, the two of them decide to start up a secret partnership together using a pen name, infiltrating the self-publishing market in the lucrative genre of erotica. Naturally, with so much heat and passion between the pages, it’s not long before their dirty words become a dirty reality. Sure, they still fight a lot but at least there’s make-up sex now.

But even as they start to fall hard for each other, will their burgeoning relationship survive if their scandalous secret is exposed or are happily-ever-afters just a work of fiction?

Buy it:

iTunes | Nook | Kobo

Add to goodreads.


She holds my gaze for a moment and something passes over her. Regret, maybe. Then she nods. “Sit down. Let’s work.”

And so we do. And for the first time in a long time, it’s strained. I’m about to suggest maybe we need the Estonian vodka anyway when she lets out an exasperated sigh over something she’s reading.

It happens to be something I wrote.

“What?” I ask, wondering what I did wrong.

She gives me the the 'are you kidding me?'look. “Okay, I was ignoring it earlier but I think you need to get a grip on some of this shit. This simply does not happen.”

“Explain, please.”

“I just think it’s unrealistic for there to be so much talking, let alone the fact that the first time they do it it’s in a public place.”

“Too much talking?”

“Yeah.” she scans over the document. “You know, give me your cock, oh you feel so good, harder, harder, you’re so big, fuck me harder big boy.”

“Have you even had good sex?” I ask incredulously.

She flinches. “Of course I have. And it’s none of your business.”

“We’re writing about sex. It’s completely my business. I’m not letting you interject your edits based on your personal experiences about sex because believe me, if the sex is good, you’re moaning my name.”

She raises her chin. “Maybe all those girls were faking it.”

Oh, brilliant.

“Excuse me?” I say, hands pressed against the table, nearly getting out of my chair. “You have no idea. I pride myself in giving a girl as many bloody orgasms as she can handle.”

“Bloody orgasms don’t sound like fun,” she jokes softly.

“They can be if you’re into knife play,” I tell her, even though that’s not exactly what I meant. Still, she scrunches up her nose. “Don’t knock it until you try it, but that’s neither here nor there. When you were with Alan, he must have made you come at least a few times.”

If he didn’t, I feel like finding the guy and showing him a thing or two for wasting four years of her life.

“Yeah,” she says flatly.

“And in the middle of that orgasm, didn’t you want to yell a few things?”


“And why didn’t you?”

She looks at her nails as if they’re suddenly fascinating. “It didn’t seem right. It was…too intimate. I would have felt dumb. He didn’t like any of that stuff.”

The plot thickens. “Any of what stuff?”

“Sex that didn’t involve the missionary position or the bed.”

My mouth drops open. My brain and penis can’t compute this. “I feel so sorry for you.”

We must remedy this.

She glares at me. “It’s not like I didn’t want to do it. I did. And he did try it. Most of it. But it always went back to the same old.”

I knew it. She’s a nerd on the streets and a freak in the sheets.

“I don’t mean to brag,” I tell her in all seriousness. “But you do realize that I could give you an orgasm in thirty seconds.”

Her eyes widen. I can’t tell if she’s horrified or intrigued. “I don’t believe you and I don’t want you to try.”

She’s not getting it. I frown, trying to explain. “If you’re having good sex and it’s with someone you’re comfortable with, you won’t worry about holding back. You’ll cry out all the nonsense you want, you’ll make noises like a pig and scream like you’re on fire because you truly can’t have a good orgasm unless you’re letting go on all accounts.” I lean back in my chair and study her, running my fingers along my jaw. “I would venture that every time you came with your ex, you were only experiencing half of what you should have been. How is it with your vibrators?”

I expect her to tell me to fuck off, that I’m getting too personal but to my surprise she gives me a small smile. “It’s better. But I do have a roommate with exceptionally good hearing.” She clears her throat. “Anyway, so I guess I’m wrong. The heroine can make all the noise she wants.”

“And have first time sex in public.”

“I don’t know…”

“Believe me, when you finally get a chance to fuck, you don’t care where it is. That’s why I always have a condom in my pocket. And the more public the sex, the sneakier you have to be, the hotter it is.”

“But in the book you would never get caught.”

“You don’t always get caught in real life too.”

I can see she wants to ask me where I’ve done it but she loses her nerve. “Okay.” She looks back to the document. “I accept defeat.”

But I don’t want her to. I want to prove to her I’m right and not have her take my word.
Is there a non-creepy way to show her just how amazing good sex can feel? I’m thinking not.

Or…maybe there is.


About the author:

Halle HeadshotKarina Halle is  former travel writer and music journalist and The New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today Bestselling author of The Pact, Racing the Sun, Sins & Needles and over 25 other wild and romantic reads. She lives on an island off the coast of British Columbia with her husband and her rescue pup, where she drinks a lot of wine, hikes a lot of trails and devours a lot of books.

Halle is represented by the Waxman Leavell Agency and is both self-published and published by Simon & Schuster and Hachette in North America and in the UK.

Hit her up on Instagram at @authorHalle, on Twitter at @MetalBlonde and on Facebook. You can also visit www.authorkarinahalle.com and sign up for the newsletter for news, excerpts, previews, private book signing sales and more.

Book Reviews: The Empty Hourglass + To Live Again

The Empty Hourglass by Cornelia Grey

Review by Lauren

source: copy from Netgalley; all opinions are my own

Official SummaryThomas Escott has always wanted to be a toymaker, yet just as he achieves his dream, an accident claims his right hand. He’s certain his life is over—until he hears about groundbreaking prosthetics being made by a reclusive inventor.

Jethro Hastings is perfectly content to live alone up in the mountains working on a secret masterpiece: a humanoid automaton that will change the scientific community forever. He’s behind schedule, and the date of the unveiling is fast approaching, so when Thomas shows up on his doorstep offering help in exchange for a mechanical hand, Jethro agrees. Time, after all, is running out on another deal he’s made: one with the devil.
The devil gives Jethro’s inventions life, but he can just as quickly take life away—Jethro’s, to be exact. As the sand in the devil’s hourglass falls, marking the time until the end of the deal, inventions go haywire, people get hurt, and Thomas realizes he needs Jethro just as much as his prosthetic. Now he must find a way to save Jethro’s soul, but negotiating with a devil is just as difficult as it sounds.
Review: I've read one other book by Grey and that was Circus of the Damned (the second Deal with a Devil novel) and The Empty Hourglass is the third. These don't need to be read in any type of order. The only link between them is the devil character that makes deals with people. Circus of the Damned was one of those novels that I loved, giving it 5 stars on Goodreads, so I was really excited to read another book by this author. While The Empty Hourglass is definitely interesting, and all the characters are a bit eccentric, yet highly intriguing, I didn't like this one as much as Circus of the Damned. Regardless, I'd still recommend this one.

It's a bit of a steampunk novel where Jethro Hastings creates wonderful mechanical inventions, especially in the realm of prosthetic arms and other items a human may need. Thomas Escott finds Jethro in hopes that he can give him a new hand, since he's a toymaker  and doesn't think he can do his job with only one hand. If he can't make toys, Thomas isn't sure what he's good for in life. There is a quick attraction to Jethro on Thomas' part, but nothing moves quick. It's actually a very sweet romance, where there aren't descriptions of sex and the physical parts of romance. As for the rest of the story, it does make you wonder throughout. It's an inventive, enjoyable novel.

To Live Again by L.A. Witt

Review by Lauren

source: copy from Netgalley; all opinions are my own

Official SummaryGreg Douglas’s wife surprised him with an early 25th anniversary gift: a divorce. Staying with friends Ethan and Rhett seems like a good idea, just until he gets back on his feet. The guys have an even better idea to take his mind off his troubles—take him out to explore the other half of his bisexuality.After a quarter century suppressing his hidden desires, he’s not waiting any longer.Especially not after laying eyes on the gorgeous deejay at Wilde’s.Deejay and single dad Sailo Isaia isn’t looking for anything serious. He’s definitely not out to be a sexual teacher, never mind to a man almost two decades his senior. But as Greg gets the hang of having a male lover, Sailo can’t help himself. They both keep coming back for more. And more. And more.But a few nagging questions hold Sailo back from giving his whole heart. Is this just Greg’s midlife crisis and rebound fling? Or a chance to fill that empty space—forever—for both Sailo and his beloved son?

Review: While not a book bad by any means, this one does focus a lot on the sexual and physical nature of a relationship. I wish we had gotten a bit more of the emotional connection between Greg and Sailo, especially since this is the first male/male relationship that Greg has ever been in. Regardless, I did like these two together and I definitely rooted for them. I liked that Witt showed Greg coming out to some of his children, and exploring their relationship as well. This book, while heavy on the physical romance, did not make sure to keep Greg's family in mind. There are scenes with his ex-wife, many moments with friends, and a few key scenes with his children, as I mentioned above.

I'm certainly curious to read more by Witt. To Live Again has a great message - that you aren't too to old to find or reinvent yourself.