Group Review: Us Three by Mia Kerick

In his junior year at a public high school, sweet, bright Casey Minton’s biggest worry isn’t being gay. Keeping from being too badly bullied by his so-called friends, a group of girls called the Queen Bees, is more pressing. Nate De Marco has no friends, his tough home life having taken its toll on his reputation, but he’s determined to get through high school. Zander Zane’s story is different: he’s popular, a jock. Zander knows he’s gay, but fellow students don’t, and he’d like to keep it that way.

No one expects much when these three are grouped together for a class project, yet in the process the boys discover each other’s talents and traits, and a new bond forms. But what if Nate, Zander, and Casey fall in love—each with the other and all three together? Not only gay but also a threesome, for them high school becomes infinitely more complicated and maybe even dangerous. To survive and keep their love alive, they must find their individual strengths and courage and stand together, honest and united. If they can do that, they might prevail against the Queen Bees and a student body frightened into silence—and even against their own crippling fears.

So, every now and then, here at BMBR, there comes a book that we love so much we can't help but rave about it. One Unicorn will read it, wax lyrical and more of us jump on the bandwagon - then we start fighting over who gets to review it. When the glittery DM's come out ya know we're in for trouble. So. In the spirit of compromise we settle the situation by doing a group review. When Justin told us how fabulous Us Three was of course we all wanted to read and review. The afore mentioned compromise has resulted in this post. Enjoy.

Breann's thoughts;

What a story. What a wonderful, beautiful story.

The chemistry between Zander, Nate and Casey was off the charts. They fit together so perfectly, whether it was two of them together or all three of them together, I could feel all the emotion flowing between them. What they had was unexpected for the boys. While they were working together, this strong and solid bond was forming and they had no idea. They had no idea that they could have two people in their life that meant so much to them, that without all three of them there, it just wasn't the same. Just two would have never worked.

The bullying was heavy. It was intense and gut-wrenching. The poor boy, who is just trying to get by, just won’t be left alone. The mean girls won’t let him be. It’s incredibly brave of him to return to school after the horrible things that were done to him. I loved, absolutely loved, how Nate and Zander were there for Casey. They were both there but in completely different ways. They helped in their own way, and both were equally loving and effective in their efforts.

Casey, Nate and Zander’s characters were written flawlessly. Flawlessly, I tell you! They were three very distinct and different people. Their dialogue and choices were true to who they were every single time. The way they comforted and loved each other was different for each of them and I could see their individuality shine through in every scene.

Us Three is one of the best books I’ve read this year. It wasn’t an easy read, but it was definitely beautiful and honest. There were some horribly difficult moments and some romantic and sweet moments. It was intense, but completely worth it.

Justin's thoughts;

What can I say about Us Three? I had very high hope going in but at the same time I had reservations about a YA ménage book. Let me just say that this was a slam dunk. Mia Kerick did an amazing job telling the story of three completely different young men who became friends and then discovered something more between them.

This is a love story. It is told from each of the three MC’s points of view, using different story-telling techniques. The format was interesting and unique and gave me insight into each characters' thoughts and feelings. I felt like I really got to know each of them in a personal way and I was drawn immediately into their story.

As with any book involving bullying, this one may be difficult for some to read. The bullying in Us Three is vicious - and surprisingly the bullies are girls. As extreme as it was, I still found it believable and realistic. In the year 2014 some suggest bullying is no longer a problem and that schools and teachers will not tolerate this sort of behavior. Unfortunately, bullying does still exist and in some instances even to this extreme.

I don’t want to spoil this for anyone so I won’t say more but I highly recommend this book.

Jo's thoughts;

I hesitate normally on deciding to read ménage books. Lets face it, a lot of the time it is just an excuse to read a book about multiple beautiful people putting tab A’s in multiple slot B’s, yet when an author gets the choreography and story right I will own the fact that I have enjoyed them. It is just rare for an author to convey the intimacy I need to feel an attachment for the characters. When I found out this was a YA book I was even more hesitant but on a friends recommendation I read the book and I am so thankful.

Mia Kerick’s portrayal of Casey, Nate and Zander’s lives and how they intertwine just broke me. It is a wonderfully weird combination of heartbreak that rips into you, while still being so beautifully sweet. Ms. Kerick creates these lonely, broken souls and weaves a story showing you how they fit together to complete each other.

The bullying aspect also really stayed with me. I honestly believe we let our “friends” destroy our souls much more than we ever let a significant other. We get so lonely for companionship and acceptance that we keep moving the line of what we would put up with until you no longer recognize who you are and what you would do to fit in. It is horrible to want Casey to not trust, to not have hope, to not forgive and yet……

Lori's thoughts;

When I think of menage, or a relationship of three, I think of smokin' hot sexy times and not-a-lotta plot. This may be unfair because I've not read much in this sub-genre and it's never really appealed to me. When J started talking about this great book he'd just read I had to give it a go though - and I loved every minute of it.

It is a beautiful story, with fabulous characters. Characters that you don't think will work together, yet the chemistry between them is amazing. I don't think I could even pick a favourite because they all brought something special to the story.

The bullying storyline was sensitive and had a twist in it - it wasn't just your typical jock bullies. I'm wracking my brain trying to think of something bad to say about this, but I can't. It's one of those books you start and just can't put down. Mia Kerrick is a new to me author, I can guarantee I'll be reading her stuff again.

Review: Like and Subscribe by AotM Jay Bell

Remember that hunky guy on YouTube who caught your eye? The one with the awesome pecs and killer smile? I bet you couldn't stop watching his videos. Just imagine if you had a chance to meet him and all your fantasies started coming true. There's only one catch: Between you and your dream guy is his less-than-pleased boyfriend. They say that love conquers all, but can love conquer love?

Like and Subscribe is a new short story by Jay Bell, the author of Something Like Summer.

Jay Bell can capture the hopelessly hopeful dreams of a celebrity crush really, really well. Believe me, I was Mrs. ‘Insert Famous Crush Here’ on many occasions and I had a totally plausible scenario in my pea brain that would make each of those crushes realities. In Like and Subscribe Evan has it bad for YouTube golden boy Tony and he’s actually got it worse because he went to school with Tony and lives in the same town as his Prince Charming. It’s an actual possibility he could meet the man of his dreams. When his dream becomes a reality the big meet up is not all that Evan hoped. Seems Tony has a boyfriend, Orlando who is none too keen on having Evan sniffing around Tony, no matter what Tony says about their “open” relationship.

Tony really does seem like a nice enough guy at the party where he and Evan meet and Orlando puts Evan in his place pretty quickly. Man, that was an awkward moment for Evan and I just felt so bad for him and while I was not too terribly impressed with Orlando at that point, I couldn’t really blame him either. But, at the same time, I’m thinking, “Hey, you took Evan to meet Tony to begin with, don’t be a dick!” I was feeling little protective of Evan, I liked him.

Evan gets together with Tony away from the party and even with the open relationship status between Tony and Orlando, Evan can’t help but feel uncomfortable with the setup, no matter that Tony is his ultimate and I loved that about Evan. He’s the first to admit he’s an old fashioned guy and I could see that through the whole story. He was so charming and humble, even when he spent some time with Tony and started to see that Prince Charming in real life, may not be the Prince Charming of YouTube fame.

Evan’s best friend Julie is a great character and I liked the evolution of their relationship. I couldn’t help but feel that there was more than one turning point/growing up moment in a few relationships in the story here and it started with Evan and Julie’s. They had leaned on each other for a long time and got to the codependent stage of friendship and good for them for figuring it out while still remaining best friends and giving each other a kick in the ass when needed.

So, the evolution of Evan and Tony’s relationship leads Evan down a totally different path than what he expected and it was a sweet journey to read. The video that Evan ends up posting on YouTube is about the most romantic gesture ever and his sole subscriber is one lucky man. Like and Subscribe is a highly recommended short story with substance about old fashioned romance in the age of technology.

Author Visit & Giveaway: An Interview with Jay Bell, April's Author of the Month!

Happy Earth Day!

As BMBR's author of the month, Jay Bell has been the talk of the clubhouse this month, beginning with our infamous April Happy Hour Chat about Kamikaze Boys in which we might have discussed more things than simply the book *coughs "weenies" coughs*. =)

We were lucky enough to have the lovely and fabulous Jay Bell visit recently. *cheers* He chatted with us about books, angst, romance, and wieners, so check out the interview below and then look for the details on how to enter the giveaway!

BMBR: How easy/difficult was it to write about the bullying in Kamikaze Boys? It was very difficult to read at times and we wondered if you ever experienced anything like David had to deal with?
JB: I’m afraid it was all too easy to write about bullying because I’ve experienced both sides of the coin. Around the time I was twelve years old, I was living in small town Missouri. For whatever reason, I was pretty full of myself, and I’m not proud to admit that I bullied other kids. Not many of them, and certainly not the entire time I was growing up, but those last few years in Missouri brought out an ugly side of me. Fortunately we soon moved to Texas where I got a healthy dose of my own medicine. A little too much of that medicine actually, because I felt like I was overdosing. I might have pushed a few kids around in my past, but at least those were one-on-one encounters. In Houston, an entire group of guys gave me shit on a daily basis. Every morning I woke up with dread in my stomach, knowing that even if I fought back, I was greatly outnumbered. A scrawny trembling lion can’t do much against the entire pride. As upsetting as these experiences were, I’m glad I didn’t make it through my youth unscathed. I hate to think of the person I would have become had I stayed in that small town. While I’ll never thank the bullies who made years of my life so difficult, I’m relieved that I suffered enough to never be one of them again.

BMBR: What was your favorite moment between David and Connor from Kamikaze Boys?
JB: Probably when they take a road trip down to Florida and end up dancing on the beach at night. The scene is relatively small and unimportant, but they’ve finally left all their problems behind, even if only temporarily. That’s a feeling I know well, and the reason I look forward to every vacation I take with my husband. Not that our lives are filled with so much drama, but it still feels good to get away, to find a little moment just for us alone.

BMBR: At the end of Spring you said you were going to write more in the "Something Like..." series but it wouldn't be what we expect. Can you give up any more clues as to what's coming next? And what does that mean for Caesar?
JB: The trouble with telling people that you’re doing the unexpected is that they start expecting all sorts of amazing things. Many have already speculated that I’m writing Emma’s story, which is more outside the box than what I’m aiming for at the moment. Mostly I just meant that the next couple of books wouldn’t focus on the major characters we met in Something Like Spring. Previously we met Benjamin Bentley, and then got a book for each of his love interests. If I was following that same formula, I would now do the same for Jason Grant, but I don’t intend to. So no book from William or Caesar’s point of view. That having been said, the next two books have quite a lot to do with William and Caesar, in a roundabout sort of way. We will see more of their stories, and if there are enough unanswered questions at the end, maybe they will get their own books eventually. Or maybe I really will write Emma’s story, just to see what happens. At the very least, that would allow us to spend more time with Ben and Tim.   

BMBR: Can we expect anything else from the Loka Legends series? In other words, will there be any more of Kio in the future?

JB: I’d love to complete the Loka Legends series with the third and final book. I already have the plot worked out in my mind. It’s just a matter of finding the time. Sadly, the market for gay fantasy is pretty flimsy. I get the impression that most fantasy fans are content to read mainstream authors. When those same readers crave a story with gay characters, they turn to a genre which focuses on the relationship itself, which is what romance is so good for. I try to do both in the Loka Legends series, since romance and relationships are still a major part of the plot. I won’t pretend it’s not a tough sell though. Regardless, the next time I need a break from writing contemporary romance, I’ll happily escape back into a world full of talking cats, lovesick boys, and rainbow powered magic.

BMBR: Your books can be pretty angsty (that might be an understatement :D). Do you enjoy reading angsty books yourself?
JB: Oh god yes! I’m an angst junky, especially when it comes to stories with younger characters. The entire time I was growing up, I had people telling me I was oversensitive. I never understood that really. Did they mean I feel too much? Is that even possible? If so, perhaps that’s why young characters work so well for me, because the teen years and early twenties are full of so many conflicting emotions and desires. The confusion of figuring out one’s identity, those first clumsy steps into the realm of love, the intensity of those early relationships… The tide isn’t just high—it’s a wave so huge that it’s blocking out the sun! So yeah, I dig that angsty energy. Older people still feel these things too, but our reactions are a lot less interesting. By the time someone is forty, we shouldn’t be throwing pebbles at someone’s window in the middle of the night, just because we feel desperate to see them. … Or should we?

BMBR: Your Seasons books like to steal all the Jay Bell spotlight. Are there any other books on your backlist that you especially love and think deserve some of the spotlight?
JB: Kamikaze Boys, since it could so easily be a part of the Something Like… series. Heck, maybe someday I’ll find a way of merging the two continuities. I also wish more people would give Hell’s Pawn a try, since it’s probably the most original story I’ve ever written. I worry the concept scares most people away, sounding like it’s about armies and Hell, when really it’s the story of a man trying to find his place in the world. It just happens to be the world after this one, but at heart, I feel it’s still a very relatable situation.

 BMBR: Frankfurters or Sausages?
JB: Soy wieners. I’ve had a not-so-successful flirtation with vegetarianism for years now. I never gave up fish completely, and there’s a Chinese buffet not far from us that has irresistible sweet and spicy chicken. I haven’t intentionally eaten beef or pork for well over a decade, but if I’m on a flight and they serve me something with pig or cow in it, I’ll happily consume it rather than let it go to waste. So I’m not sure what I am exactly, but I try to keep my meat consumption minimal. Sadly, this means living in a country famous for its sausages without ever having tried one. My husband Andreas is the same way, although I never asked him to be. Neither of us are preachy about what we or anyone chooses as their diet. We’re simply very fond of animals and thus try to eat them as little as possible, despite them being extremely delicious.

BMBR: What's your most romantic memory?
JB: That’s a tough one. In my experience, those events considered to be the most romantic—weddings, anniversaries, and Valentine’s Day—usually aren’t. They can be nice and memorable, but rarely are they spontaneous enough to be romantic. Instead, Cupid’s magic seems to appear at random. Maybe Andreas and I will be sharing a bottle of wine or two while watching old music videos. Or we’ll head out to the city to shop but end up strolling leisurely through a park. There are times you simply connect with that other person, and the circumstances and surroundings don’t matter much. I’m kind of avoiding the real answer though, because two things instantly popped into mind. One is a little too private and naughty to share. As for the other… here goes:
For the past couple of years, whenever I fly home to the United States to see my family and friends, I cry. I’m not the kind of guy that gets weepy, especially when I’m sad. I’m more likely to do that weird happy-cry thing, but that’s pretty rare too. Even when I’m heartbroken with sorrow, it usually takes a drink or two to squeeze manly tears out of my eyes. But these days, when I know I’ll be saying goodbye to my husband for a few weeks, I usually cry when it comes time for us to part. Actually, I hold it in until he turns away, making sure he doesn’t see. Just the idea of being apart from him hurts me enough that I realize just how lucky I am. Andreas is one of the best people I’ve met in the world, if not the best, and sometimes it takes stepping away from him to remember that. So while it might not sound traditionally romantic, there’s a guy in my life so wonderful that being away from him brings me to my knees and well… that seems pretty amazing to me. And so I cry.

*brushes tear away*

That was simply beautiful. Thank you for sharing that memory with us, Jay. It's not hard to imagine where you get the inspiration for the romance and emotions found in your books. =)

The incomparable Jay Bell has brought with him a goodie that he's chosen just for you. Yay! He's toted along a copy of Hell's Pawn (winner's choice of ebook or paperback!) to give to one lucky reader.

How to enter: Please leave a comment on this BMBR post with a means of contacting you (e.g., email, Twitter name, Goodreads account, etc.). Also, if you feel like sharing, let us you enjoy angsty reads?

The contest closes at 10PM (Pacific time) on April 30, 2014, and a winner will be contacted shortly thereafter through the contact info provided in the comment. Please respond within 48 hours or else another winner will be selected.

Thanks for visiting us, Jay, and happy reading to all!

P.S. As Author of the Month, Jay Bell is an honorary unicorn here in the BMBR clubhouse. Please welcome his unicornian alter ego, Hemlock Fair Mister!

Hemlock is often very naughty and is always being told off.

He is handsome to look upon, and he makes wishes come true.

Review: Royce Ree Omnibus by Aldous Mercer

Royce needs to pull off the biggest heist the Universe has ever seen, or it's bye-bye cushy government job, hello cleaning toilets in a dive-bar on Baga-V. To succeed, he will need help from the last person he'd ever ask. And maybe, along the way, he'll get another shot at a love he thought he'd lost forever...

This Omnibus Edition collects Parts #1 - #5 in one volume.

What an intro!  I knew immediately that Royce and I were going to get along great. Aldous Mercer picked exactly the right words to pique my interest.  I was delighted by all the showing, and with such an economy of words that each one was important to the story.  I was giddy and fervently hoping this was going to continue.

Sci-fi isn't my normal genre, but what I've read, I enjoyed.  Probably comes from a childhood watching reruns of the original Star Trek TV series with my father, quizzing him on characters.  It's easy for me to get confused, though, so I was happy when I was able to follow the story without a problem.

The characters:
Royce had integrity, but was also willing to walk the edges and play in the gray areas. He played the long game well, and was able to adjust quickly to changing circumstances.  He was also a master of avoidance,  sidestepping questions, misdirecting attention and doing whatever else he could to avoid sharing information.  A tough agent, but vulnerable when it came to Les.

Les was earnest, loyal, and honorable. He was softhearted, but willing to do what needed to be done. A bit naive, sometimes, but smart, and it didn't take him too long to figure things out.

Watching them interact?  The dancing they did around each other? The tension? Priceless.

The story:
Unexpected, original, funny, exciting, sweet, intense, suspenseful...brilliant.
And so many surprise after another.  Towards the end, I was in a constant state of shock, or awe.  I still have questions, though, so I'll be anxiously waiting for the next installment :)
Warning: This was definitely more sci-fi than romance.  There was plenty of sweet longing, and UST, but don't expect any steamy bedroom scenes.  It didn't bother me because the story and characters were so interesting and entertaining...okay, maybe it bothered me a little ;)
Also, I'm usually not a fan of disrupted timelines...jumps forward or back, but it worked here.  Just be sure to pay attention to where the story is on the timeline or it can get confusing.

The writing:
I already mentioned the wonderful word choices and the author's talent for showing us what was happening.  There was so much more, though.  I loved how we were given information in bits and pieces, like watching a puzzle slowly being put together.  Some of that information was in the smallest of details, stunning details that left such an impression on me. Oh, yes, I was giddy as I read this. And the humor! Thoughts and comments interjected with such perfect timing, I read them over and over in appreciation, never failing to laugh or grin.  It was more than funny one liners, though.  There was an overall sense of tongue in cheek humor embedded throughout this intriguing spy thriller and I loved it.

Aldous Mercer...I love your words.

This story...I will be thinking of this story for a long time.

Side notes:
I loved the introduction of Les' dimple, and I wish we'd seen more of it.

Sci-fi terms were introduced naturally and I easily discerned their meaning through context. There were some typos and other small editing errors, but they didn't distract.

Note: A copy of this book was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Find more info on BookLikes and Goodreads