Review: We are Never Meeting in Real Life by Samantha Irby

We are Never Meeting in Real Life
Author: Samantha Irby
Publication Date: May 30, 2017
Publisher: Vintage Books
Genre: Memoir, Essays, Humor
Note: I received an ARC from the publisher via Goodreads in exchange for an unbiased review.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Synopsis:

Sometimes you just have to laugh, even when life is a dumpster fire. With We Are Never Meeting in Real Life., “bitches gotta eat” blogger and comedian Samantha Irby turns the serio-comic essay into an art form. Whether talking about how her difficult childhood has led to a problem in making “adult” budgets, explaining why she should be the new Bachelorette–she’s “35-ish, but could easily pass for 60-something”–detailing a disastrous pilgrimage-slash-romantic-vacation to Nashville to scatter her estranged father’s ashes, sharing awkward sexual encounters, or dispensing advice on how to navigate friendships with former drinking buddies who are now suburban moms–hang in there for the Costco loot–she’s as deft at poking fun at the ghosts of her past self as she is at capturing powerful emotional truths.


I learned of We are Never Meeting in Real Life on Goodreads. I was sorting through the giveaway section and saw it. The witty title and adorable cover drew my attention immediately. When I read the blurb, I knew I had to enter to win it. And I did, so I’m lucky!

We are Never Meeting in Real Life is a group of essays about blogger/author Samantha Irby’s life. She has a straight forward way of telling things like she sees them and is great at describing the outrageous experiences of her past. Her tone is sometimes upbeat, sometimes not, but it’s always humorous. Irby has a way of saying things that others will either detest (language and issue sensitive) or wish they had thought of (down with the swearing and oversharing).

I fell in the latter category. I truly enjoyed reading We are Never Meeting in Real Life. I wasn’t aware of Samantha Irby prior to reading her essays, but I loved her style. She wasn’t apologetic about her thoughts and experiences, and I liked that. My favorites in this collection were My Bachelorette Application, You Don’t Have to Be Grateful for Sex, Fuck It, Bitch. Stay Fat, and A Christmas Carol.

I probably would have given this set of essays 5 stars if I hadn’t been slightly concerned about the way the author presented some of her stories. She has been dealt with some very crappy situations in life, and while this book seemed upbeat about it all, there was a hint of sadness behind some of it. Like if she made fun of her own life enough, it wouldn’t be so depressing. That made me sad. She seems like a cool, introverted chick. I wanted sunshine and rainbows for her. Hopefully, the rest of her life will be.

Review: Goodbye Paradise by Sarina Bowen

Goodbye Paradise
Series: Hello Goodbye, #1
Author: Sarina Bowen
Publication Date: March 21, 2015 (previously published as In Front of God and Everyone in 2015)
Publisher: Sarina Bowen
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary Romance, LGBTQ+
Note: I received an ARC from the author in exchange for an unbiased review.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

Most people called it a cult. But for twenty years, Josh and Caleb called it home.

In Paradise, there is no television. No fast food. Just long hours of farm work and prayer on a dusty Wyoming ranch, and nights in a crowded bunkhouse. The boys of the Compound are kept far from the sinners’ world.

But Joshua doesn’t need temptation to sin. His whole life, he’s wanted his best friend, Caleb. By day they work side by side. Only when Josh closes his eyes at night can they be together the way he craves.

It can never be. And his survival depends on keeping his terrible desires secret.

Caleb has always protected Josh against the worst of the bullying at the Compound. But he has secrets of his own, and a plan to get away — until it all backfires.

Josh finds himself homeless in a world that doesn’t want him. Can Caleb find him in time? And will they find a place of safety, where he can admit to Josh how he really feels?

Warning: Contains a hot male/male romance, copious instances of taking the Lord’s name in vain, and love against the kitchen counter. This book was previously released under the title: In Front of God & Everyone.


I had no idea Sarina Bowen had published a M/M romance series under another name. I am so happy she decided to rerelease Goodbye Paradise because I probably never would have found out about these books without her doing it. That would have been a travesty because I love Sarina Bowen’s writing, and Goodbye Paradise was outstanding.

Goodbye Paradise captured my heart from the very beginning. I was immediately pulled in by Josh and Caleb’s thoughts and experiences in the Paradise cult. I also enjoyed experiencing all their new experiences through their eyes once they left the cult. Their world was fascinating to me. I was so impressed with the settings and characters Sarina Bowen created in this book.

Both Josh and Caleb were amazing characters. Caleb was a protector with Josh’s best interests at heart. He knew what he wanted and went for it, but he did so in such a sweet and controlled manner. I loved his inner strength and confidence. I absolutely adored Josh. I have to admit that he was my favorite. He may not have had the strength that Caleb had, but his soul was beautiful. Josh radiated kindness. His thoughts of inadequacy and his internal struggles with what was right and wrong were easy to connect to. There was so much depth to his journey.

Caleb and Josh’s romance wasn’t an easy one. Coming from the cult, they both had different ideas of how their lives together should progress. They not only had to navigate through concerns of what others would think of their relationship, but they had to discover and experiment to learn what type of physical relationship worked for them. The love and understanding between the two of them was very sweet.

Another amazing thing about Goodbye Paradise were its side characters. Everyone Caleb and Josh met along the way was special and contributed to their journey. I especially loved Daniel, Maggie and Chloe. Their support of the boys was heartwarming. I loved the family they made.

Goodbye Paradise has taken a special place in my heart — right behind Him and Us. I loved every minute of Caleb and Josh’s journey to freedom and love. Their story was such a special one, and M/M romance fans are not going to want to miss out on it. I also can’t forget to mention that fans of the True North series are going to love the little mentions here and there about some of their favorite people. 😉 I can’t wait to read the next book in this series!

PURCHASE LINKS:

Amazon: http://geni.us/GPamazon
iBooks: soon
B&N: http://geni.us/GPnook
Kobo: http://geni.us/GPkobo
Google: http://geni.us/GPgoogle

COMING SOON:

Hello Forever
Hello Goodbye, Book 2

Review: Off Campus by Amy Jo Cousins

Off Campus
Series: Bend or Break, #1
Author: Amy Jo Cousins
Publication Date: December 30, 2014
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary Romance, LGBT+

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ½

Synopsis:

Everyone’s got secrets. Some are just harder to hide.

With his father’s ponzi scheme assets frozen, Tom Worthington believes finishing college is impossible unless he can pay his own way. After months sleeping in his car and gypsy-cabbing for cash, he’s ready to do just that.

But his new, older-student housing comes with an unapologetically gay roommate. Tom doesn’t ask why Reese Anders has been separated from the rest of the student population. He’s just happy to be sleeping in a bed.

Reese isn’t about to share his brutal story with his gruff new roommate. You’ve seen one homophobic jock, you’ve seen ’em all. He plans to drag every twink on campus into his bed until Tom moves out. But soon it becomes clear Tom isn’t budging.

Tom isn’t going to let some late-night sex noise scare him off, especially when it’s turning him on. But he doesn’t want any drama either. He’ll keep his hands, if not his eyes, to himself. Boundaries have a way of blurring when you start sharing truths, though. And if Tom and Reese cross too many lines, they may need to find out just how far they can bend…before they break.

Warning: This book contains cranky roommates who vacillate between lashing out and licking, some male/male voyeurism, emotional baggage that neither guy wants to unpack, and the definitive proof that sound carries in college housing.


To be honest, I’m not sure how to explain how I feel about Off Campus. I enjoyed reading it, but there were some things that bugged me a bit. I think in order to simplify this review, I’m going to give you a list of likes and dislikes.

What I liked:

  • Tom’s simple way of describing his attraction to both male and females.
  • Tom’s confusion on his relationship with Reese, and what he went through to come to terms with the changes in his life.
  • Tom’s support of Reese, and the tenderness he showed him.
  • The way Reese stood up for what he needed.
  • Tom and Reese’s connection.
  • Reese’s dad. I loved that guy so much!
  • Cash. Another guy I loved so much.
  • The way Tom and Reese figured things out and the ending.

What I wasn’t super fond of:

  • The third person narration. It kept me from completely connecting with the characters.
  • The games Reese played at the beginning. I understood the reasoning behind what he did, but it did kind of make me wonder why Tom was eager to jump into something with him.
  • It felt like there was almost more sex than story at times. And while I like sex in my books, I’m not a huge fan of reading about one of the main characters with other people.
  • Jack. I don’t know why I wasn’t a fan of his part of this story. It just seemed like extra stuff the story didn’t necessarily need.

So, obviously, the good outweighs the not so good in Off Campus. I thought it was a great story exploring sexuality and how the pressure to “come out” can be completely overwhelming for a person. It wasn’t the best M/M romance I’ve read, but it’s a good one. I enjoyed it, and I will hopefully continue reading this series at some point.

Review: We Are the Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson

We Are the Ants
Author: Shaun David Hutchinson
Publication Date: January 19, 2016
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, GLBT, Contemporary

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

There are a few things Henry Denton knows, and a few things he doesn’t.

Henry knows that his mom is struggling to keep the family together, and coping by chain-smoking cigarettes. He knows that his older brother is a college dropout with a pregnant girlfriend. He knows that he is slowly losing his grandmother to Alzheimer’s. And he knows that his boyfriend committed suicide last year.

What Henry doesn’t know is why the aliens chose to abduct him when he was thirteen, and he doesn’t know why they continue to steal him from his bed and take him aboard their ship. He doesn’t know why the world is going to end or why the aliens have offered him the opportunity to avert the impending disaster by pressing a big red button.

But they have. And they’ve only given him 144 days to make up his mind.

The question is whether Henry thinks the world is worth saving. That is, until he meets Diego Vega, an artist with a secret past who forces Henry to question his beliefs, his place in the universe, and whether any of it really matters. But before Henry can save the world, he’s got to figure out how to save himself, and the aliens haven’t given him a button for that.


Before I start this review, I must thank Kelly @ Here’s to Happy Endings for sharing her ARC of We Are the Ants with me. If she hadn’t passed this book onto me, I might not have read it and that would have been a travesty.

When I began reading We Are the Ants, I was immediately confused and unsure if this book was going to be for me. Science fiction isn’t normally my preferred reading genre, and there were some pretty big science fiction-y things happening right away. Normally, that probably would have bored me, but it didn’t. We Are the Ants enthralled me the entire time I was reading it. The author’s writing and storytelling were brilliant. I read it in one evening. That’s how good this book was. A non-science fiction reader couldn’t put it down.

I absolutely loved the cast of characters. Henry was a boy on the brink of manhood. Life was tough for him to begin with and being abducted by aliens didn’t help. The added pressure of trying to decide whether to save the world or not compounded his already stressful existence.

Henry’s relationship with his family a big part of this story. His family wasn’t as easy to love as Henry was, but the more I got to know them the more they grew on me. It took me a long time to understand their motivations and opinions. Their lack of support for Henry at times frustrated me, especially his mother. I wanted to give her a good shake a couple of times.

The other characters that had a large part in this story were Henry’s classmates. I had a love-hate relationship with them. I loved what they brought to the story, but I hated pretty much all of them. They were a true representation of what kids can be like when presented with someone who doesn’t fit the mold.

We Are the Ants was a beautiful and thought-provoking coming of age novel. It touched on so many issues that will resonate with today’s youth and adults alike. If you haven’t already read it, I would highly recommend doing so.

Review: Falling for the Player by Jessica Lee

Falling for the Player
Author: Jessica Lee
Publication Date: January 16, 2017
Publisher: Entangled Embrace
Genre: New Adult, Sports Romance, Contemporary, GLBT
Note: I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review.

Rating: ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Synopsis:

Bad boy and former NFL running back Patrick Guinness is tired of meaningless sex. Ever since his scorching hot one-night stand three years ago, no one has interested him. So when Max Segreti wanders into his mechanic shop—and his life again—Patrick can’t stop thinking about the totally-out-of-his-league law grad and the possibility of getting him out of his system once and for all…
Max Segreti has spent his entire life doing what his father wants. But when he runs into the hotter-than-hell player he’s never been able to forget, he’s not thinking about studying for the bar. A distraction is the last thing he needs, but after an encounter leaves him wanting more, Max embraces the chaos that Patrick brings…even as he knows it can’t last. They’re too different to ever have a future together.


I am not a reader who DNF’s books very often, but I’m sad to say I did just that with Falling for the Player. I feel really bad about it because I feel like I should be reviewing the entire book not just what I read of it, but it’s just not possible with Falling for the Player. I’m not trying to trash this book. The writing had potential and so did the storyline. There were just too many big things that did not allow me to enjoy this book.

Falling for the Player was written in third person. This caused the majority of my problems. First, it felt like I was being told what was happening instead of experiencing it through the characters eyes. Second, I had a hard time switching back and forth between characters. There was no notice of when points of view were changing. The two main characters were both male and they sounded too similar. Their very different personalities didn’t even help much.

Another problem I had was that I couldn’t connect with the characters. I didn’t get why they were so into each other. I never really felt their connection beyond the television shows they both liked. There was potential for a great connection in that first chapter, but I felt the author ended it by cutting off the chapter abruptly before it was made. There didn’t seem to be much more than a sexual attraction between them from that point on.

The final straw for me was the anger and aggression from Patrick. It didn’t make sense to me. It made him seem crazy. I got that there were major differences in lifestyles between them, but the attitude he had toward Max wasn’t justified. It was off-putting. I had no desire to read any further. I ended my reading of this book at 36%.

Review: Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley

Lily and the Octopus

Author: Steven Rowley

Publication Date: June 7, 2016

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary

Note: I received this book from the publisher via Goodreads in exchange for an unbiased review.

Goodreads Synopsis:

Combining the emotional depth of The Art of Racing in the Rain with the magical spirit of The Life of Pi, Lily and the Octopus is an epic adventure of the heart.

When you sit down with Lily and the Octopus, you will be taken on an unforgettable ride.

The magic of this novel is in the read, and we don’t want to spoil it by giving away too many details.

We can tell you that this is a story about that special someone: the one you trust, the one you can’t live without.

For Ted Flask, that someone special is his aging companion Lily, who happens to be a dog.

Lily and the Octopus reminds us how it feels to love fiercely, how difficult it can be to let go, and how the fight for those we love is the greatest fight of all.

Remember the last book you told someone they had to read?

Lily and the Octopus is the next one.


  ★ ★ ★ ★ ★


The blurb for Lily and the Octopus couldn’t have been more right. Lily and the Octopus was a magical, unforgettable novel about a man and his dog. I absolutely adored the story, the characters and all of the feelings it gave me. I don’t think I’ve ever read anything quite like this book. It’s a book everyone should experience for themselves. I would highly recommend reading it. I loved it!

I know this is probably the sparsest review I’ve ever written, but it was so much fun being in the dark going into this story. The only other thing I will say is that Ted reminded me a little of Sheldon Cooper with a dog. I have to admit that Sheldon’s voice was the narrator in my head.

Lily and the Octopus is definitely the next book you should read.

Review: Leveled by Jay Crownover

Leveled

Series: Saints of Denver, #0.5

Author: Jay Crownover

Publication Date: November 2, 2015

Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, GLBT, Romance

Goodreads Synopsis:

We all need a hero…let the Saints of Denver begin

Orlando Frederick knows what it is to be leveled by pain. Instead of focusing on his own, he’s made it his mission to help others: sports stars, wounded war vets, survivors of all kinds. But when Dom, a rugged, damaged, sinfully attractive cop, makes his way into Lando’s physical therapy practice, he might be the biggest challenge yet. Lando loved one stubborn man before and barely survived the fallout. He’s not sure he can do it again.

Dominic Voss is a protector. The police badge he wears is not only his job, it’s his identity, so when he’s sidelined because of an injury, the only thing he cares about is getting back on the force. He expects Lando to mend his body, he just doesn’t realize the trainer will also have him working toward a hell of a lot more. As attraction simmers and flares, Dom sees that Lando needs repair of his own…if only the man will let him close enough to mend what’s broken.


★ ★ ★ ★ ★


I have to admit that Leveled is my first Jay Crownover book. I chose it because it’s the first book (novella actually) in the Saints of Denver series and I thought it would be a great way to get to know the author’s writing. Well, I miscalculated a little bit because Leveled ties together the Marked Men and Saints of Denver series. There is an overlap of characters between the two series. It wasn’t a big deal, though. Orlando and Dominic’s love story was easily read as a standalone.

Dominic was a rugged cop who was proud of being gay. He may not have flaunted his lifestyle, but he was happy with who he was. I found this very refreshing after reading several M/M romance novels where characters struggle with their sexuality. I liked how he fought hard for both his job and the relationship he wanted with Orlando.

Orlando, a character from previous Marked Men books, was also comfortable with his sexuality. He wasn’t looking for love, but was excited to have found someone who was willing to claim him as his own. But giving his heart away wasn’t as easy for Lando. He has spent years trying to get over the loss of his first love and he’s not sure he’s willing to love again. Lando was a sweet and gentle man compared to Dominic’s cocky persona. The story of his past was so heartbreaking and moving.

Dominic and Orlando’s relationship was super sexy, but also very sweet. I loved how their relationship wasn’t all about what happened in the bedroom. They had a love and respect for each other that helped them deal with the issues they were facing in and outside of their relationship.

Leveled was so much fun to read. I loved it! I’m really excited to finish reading this series and also to go back and read the Marked Men series. If you’re a fan of M/M contemporary romances, you should pick this one up.